ADDIS ABABA – The Ethiopian prime minister on Thursday announced in a televised address that he was stepping down from his ministerial role, as well as the presidency of the governing party, amid widespread protests.
Hailemariam Desalegn, the outgoing leader of the Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front, took control of the country in August 2012, when he succeeded Meles Zenawi, who had died after 12 years in office.
Desalegn said in his speech broadcast by the state-owned FBC that he wanted to be part of the solution to the worrying situation his country was going through.
However, he added that he would remain in office until his party elected a new president and the parliament named a new prime minister.
Protests erupted in Ethiopia’s restive Oromia and Amhara regions in 2015 over alleged political and ethnic marginalization as well as allegations of human right abuses, and have continued on and off for several years.
Regional government officials said Thursday that at least 10 people had been killed in the last three days in clashes with security forces during a strike.
Several hundred political prisoners were pardoned and freed throughout the strike, including a journalist and an opposition leader, as authorities said they were trying to increase democracy in a country where thousands of politicians, journalists and activists have been incarcerated.
The Ethiopian constitution stipulates that Desalegn should be replaced by deputy prime minister Demeke Mekonnen until elections are held in May 2020, but there is still no official confirmation on who is to actually hold the position.