Ethiopia Declares State of Emergency After Premier Resigns

(Bloomberg) -- Ethiopia declared a state of emergency, a day after Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn resigned following months of protests by opponents of his government.

The decision was announced by the Council of Ministers, after it convened a meeting to discuss “safeguards to protect the constitution” amid insecurity in various parts of the country, according to a statement published on the state-owned Ethiopian Broadcasting Corp.’s website.

Ethiopia Declares State of Emergency After Premier Resigns

The declaration cited Article 93 of the constitution, which grants the council “the power to decree a state of emergency, should an external invasion, a breakdown of law and order which endangers the constitutional order and which cannot be controlled by the regular law enforcement agencies and personnel, a natural disaster, or an epidemic occur.”

The ruling Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front has faced sporadic, often deadly demonstrations since late 2015. A state of emergency the following year failed to curb the turmoil mainly in the Oromia and Amhara regions -- home to the biggest ethnic groups who say they’re excluded from political and economic power.

Changed Approach

Last month, the government changed tack, announcing the release of hundreds of political prisoners and promising further reforms. Those measures have failed to quell the protests, culminating in Hailemariam’s resignation on Thursday.

Ethiopia, Africa’s fastest-growing economy over the past decade, is a key U.S. ally in its battle against al-Qaeda in the Horn of Africa. Home to more than 100 million people, the $72 billion economy has drawn investors including General Electric Co., Johannesburg-based Standard Bank Group and hundreds of Chinese companies.

Yields on Ethiopia’s $1 billion Eurobonds due in 2024 fell four basis points on Friday to 6.38 percent, ending six straight days of increases.

The EBC statement didn’t provide further details nor a time frame for the state of emergency. Similar measures in 2016 prescribed restrictions on freedom of speech and association, while codifying many abusive tactics by the security forces, including arbitrary detention, according to Human Rights Watch.

“The last state of emergency in Ethiopia did not stop unrest -- just convinced more people that peaceful protest is futile,” Bronwyn Bruton, deputy director of the Africa Center at the Washington-based Atlantic Council, said on her Twitter account. “Now EPRDF is doubling down on its tragic mistake: choosing repression over reform.”

Ethiopian Information Minister Negeri Lencho and Zadig Abraha, public relations director in the prime minister’s office, didn’t respond to text messages and phone calls seeking comment.

Under the EPRDF, a former rebel movement that took power in 1991 after overthrowing a military regime, Ethiopia is a federal state designed to give autonomy to ethnic groups. The Oromo and Amhara communities together make up more than half of Ethiopia’s population, Africa’s second-largest after Nigeria. Activists from both groups claim that minority ethnic Tigrayans, represented by the Tigrayan People’s Liberation Front, dominate an authoritarian government.

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