Ethiopia declares state of emergency after Prime Minister resigns

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,”

Open this photo in the gallery:Ethiopia’s Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn addresses the 67th United Nations General Assembly in New York on Sept. 28, 2012

KEITH BEDFORD/ REUTERS, ADDIS ABABA

Ethiopia announced a state of emergency on Friday after Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn on Thursday announced his intention to step down amid a political crisis in the Horn of Africa country.

The ruling EPRDF coalition’s council met on Friday and decided to impose emergency rule, the state-run Ethiopian Broadcasting Corporation said. The announcement did not say how long the rule would be in place.

The council “came to the conclusion that imposing emergency rule would be vital to safeguarding the constitutional order of our country”, it said. Further details are expected to be given by the defense minister on Saturday morning.

 An opposition leader said earlier on Friday the ruling coalition had lost its authority and all parties must help map the country’s future.

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 told Reuters.

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 placate discontent.

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

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