State of Emergency declared in Ethiopia

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Ethiopia has announced a six-month state of emergency after prime minister Hailemariam Desalegn, announced his intention to step down from his position amid a political crisis in the country last week.

Following the prime minister’s announcement, the ruling EPRDF coalition’s council decided to impose emergency rule, which at first was said was for an unspecified period.

According to the state-run Ethiopian Broadcasting Corporation the council “came to the conclusion that imposing emergency rule would be vital to safeguarding the constitutional order of the country”.

A statement by the state broadcaster said the move was necessary to stem a wave of anti-government protests.

Hundreds of people have died in three years of unrest in the country.

A 10-month state of emergency that ended last year failed to stop the protests, as did the release from jail of thousands of opposition supporters.

Mulatu Gemechu, deputy secretary of the opposition Oromo Federalist Congress, said Ethiopia needed a completely new political system after years of unrest. “Ethiopians now need a government that respects their rights, not one that keeps beating and killing them,” he said.

Rights advocates have frequently criticised Ethiopia’s government for mass arrests and long jail terms handed to political opponents and journalists. But more than 6,000 political prisoners have been freed since January as the government has struggled to quell discontent.

The prime minister’s resignation followed a wave of strikes and demonstrations demanding the release of more opposition leaders.