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Ethiopians reflect on future after PM Desalegn resigns

Thursday February 15 2018

Ethiopian Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn

Ethiopian Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn. Ethiopians began reflecting on the future of their country following a televised statement on February 15, 2018 of his resignation. PHOTO | CARL DE SOUZA | AFP 

ANDUALEM SISAY
By ANDUALEM SISAY
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Addis Ababa

Ethiopians began reflecting on the future of their country following a televised statement Thursday of the resignation of Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn.

While some say his decision was long overdue, others did not take the statement of intent seriously, suggesting Mr Hailemariam was testing their minds.

Mr Hailemariam explained that he opted to resign because he wanted to be part of the democratisation and reformation of Ethiopia, an initiative that had been set in motion by the ruling Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF).

SOCIAL MEDIA

One of the numerous social media reactions by a Mr Teddy Adu, reads: “I heard two resignation speeches in less than 12 hours. That of Jacob Zuma and Prime Minster Hailemariam Desalegn, South African president and Ethiopian prime minster respectively. It's a pity that the story behind their pull out from politics is too different. Zuma was forced out by his party members. How about this puppet? He is still talking as if he was leading the country. It’s a clear political move by the decayed government and it will appoint someone they think is gonna help them quell the avalanche around the country.”

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“I was not surprised when I heard the news. I don’t think he had power in the first place. He is forced to resign by the people who have been using him as figurehead,” said an internet café owner in Addis Ababa, who declined to be named for personal safety.

"He was just given power because he was in the right position when Meles died."

ARMED STRUGGLE

The Internet Cafe owner believes that EPRDF would have preferred a premier from the Tigray region (one of the dominant parties in EPRDF), which led the armed struggle that overthrew the Derg Regime in May 1991.

Another young man who also did not want to be identified said: “This shows that we are in a critical situation. This shows that the situation is out of the control of his party. With the military shooting at protesters, he is the one who would take the blame at the end of the day.”

Mr Desalegn said Ethiopia is now at a critical point in history.

VIOLENCE

It has witnessed several violent outbursts, including tribal clashes.

"It is important to give responses to the issues being raised by the people,” Desalegn said, indicating that he was concerned about the recent deaths of civilians in different clashes and the destruction of property.

The EPRDF regime has also been criticised for always threatening the lives of opposition party members and those of other critical voices, especially after the introduction of new charity and anti-terrorism laws following the 2005 controversial election.

Mr Desalegn's resignation letter was accepted by his party, the Southern Ethiopian People's Democratic Movement, one of the four EPRDF affiliate members.

MELES ZENAWI

Mr Desalegn took over power in August 2012 from Mr Meles Zenawi who died in office.

He previously served as Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Affairs minister under Mr Zenawi from 2010 to 2012.

The resignation is now being discussed by the EPRDF central committee, which also includes the Oromo Peoples' Democratic Organisation (OPDO), the Amhara National Democratic Movement (ANDM) and the Tigray People Liberation Front (TPLF).

It is finally expected to be approved by parliament, which is 100 percent EPRDF and ethnic-based partner parties.

Mr Desalegn's resignation statement followed the release of hundreds of political prisoners and critical journalists, among others, that followed an EPRDF decision about a month ago.

The PM said that he would remain in office till a replacement is approved.

Two days ago, Ethiopia's major development partner, the US's ambassador in Addis Ababa, Mr Mike Raynor, expressed his concern about the country on Facebook: “People need to be free to express themselves peacefully, and to be confident that they can do so,” he said.

“Lethal force to protect the safety of the public, even in the face of violent protests, must always be a last resort. At the same time, people need to demonstrate their commitment to peaceful expression and dialogue. Political engagement needs to be done constructively – through strengthening institutions rather than destroying them, and never through the destruction of property, livelihoods, and lives,” he added.