ADDIS ABABA, Ethiopia – Ethiopian Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn has submitted a resignation letter after the worst anti-government protests in a quarter-century, the state-affiliated Fana Broadcasting Corporate reported Thursday.
“The prime minister said he tried his utmost effort to solve the crisis in his country and he is resigning now to be part of a solution to it,” the report said. It was not immediately clear whether lawmakers had accepted the resignation.
Ethiopia has been rocked by months of protests demanding wider freedoms that have left hundreds dead and tens of thousands detained. The government in recent weeks released more than 6,500 detained opposition figures, journalists and others after the prime minister in a surprise announcement in January said he wanted to “widen the democratic space for all.”
The protests have disrupted life and business in one of Africa’s fastest-growing economies.
The 53-year-old prime minister will continue in his role until the “power transition is completed,” the Fana Broadcasting Corporate report said. He also seeks to unseat himself from the ruling Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front, the report said.
Ethiopia’s demonstrations demanding wider freedoms began in late 2015 and engulfed much of the restive Oromia and Amhara regions before spreading into other parts of the country, leading to a months-long state of emergency that has since been lifted.
Ethiopia’s government has long been accused of arresting critical journalists and opposition leaders. Rights organizations and opposition groups have called for their release, saying they were arrested on trumped-up charges and punished for their points of view
The academician-turned-politician has led Ethiopia since 2012 after the death of former strongman Meles Zenawi. He also served as deputy prime minister and foreign minister under the former leader before assuming power. He also was elected chairman of the African Union in 2013.