State of emergency declared in Ethiopia amid political unrest

Ex-Ethiopia PM gives real reasons he quit, as authorities declare state of emergency

Addis Ababa - Ethiopian Defense Minister Siraj Fegessa on Saturday said a state of emergency imposed by Ethiopia after the prime minister resigned will last six months. Authorities say the measure is necessary to "protect the constitutional system".

"There are still pockets of areas where violence is prevalent".

Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn remains in the post for now after making the surprise announcement Thursday that he had submitted a resignation letter to help planned political reforms in one of Africa's best-performing economies succeed. "The (ruling EPRDF coalition's) council were unanimous in their decision", Fegessa told newsmen.

"The government has previously made several efforts to curtail violence, but lives have continued to be lost, many have been displaced and economic infrastructure has been damaged", he said.

"We strongly disagree with the Ethiopian government's decision to impose a state of emergency that includes restrictions on fundamental rights such as assembly and expression", it said in a statement.

Similar protests have taken place across Ethiopia since late 2015, leading the government to declare a state of emergency in October 2016 after hundreds of people reportedly had been killed.

A communique read out on national television justified the move by alluding to "ethnic-based clashes" and "chaos and unruliness".

Desalegn said in a televised address to the country, "I see my resignation as vital in the bid to carry out reforms that would lead to sustainable peace and democracy".

His resignation will be confirmed once the full EPRDF council meets.

More than 6,000 political prisoners have been freed since January as the government struggles to placate simmering anger among the two largest ethnic groups, the Oromo and Amharic, who complain they are under-represented in the corridors of power. During that time, curfews were in place, movement was restricted and about 29,000 people were detained.

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