A state of emergency imposed in Ethiopia a day after the prime minister resigned will last for six months, the defence minister said, as authorities sought to tamp down unrest in Africa’s second most populous nation.
Outbreaks of violence continued in parts of the country and government was banning protests, along with preparation and dissemination of publications “that could incite and sow discord”, Siraj Fegessa told journalists.
“Government previously made several efforts to curtail violence, but lives continue to be lost, many have been displaced and economic infrastructure has been damaged.”
Further measures would be announced later, he said.
Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn announced his surprise resignation in a televised speech on Thursday, the first time in modern Ethiopian history a sitting prime minister has quit. He said he wanted to smooth the way for reforms.
A day later, government imposed a state of emergency. Parliament – where the four-party ruling coalition controls all 547 seats – is expected to ratify it within two weeks.
Ethiopia is East Africa’s biggest and fastest-growing economy and a Western ally in the fight against Islamist militancy. Rights groups criticise government for clamping down on political opponents and the media.
Since January, Ethiopia has released more than 6,000 prisoners charged with taking part in mass protests and, in some cases, offences against the state. It also closed a jail where activists alleged torture took place.
Many prisoners took part in anti-government protests in 2015 and 2016 in the country’s two most populous provinces, whose ethnic Oromo and Amharic communities complain they are under-represented in the corridors of power.
The demonstrations began against a government plan to expand Addis Ababa but morphed into greater demands for civil rights.
The government previously imposed a state of emergency in October 2016, lifted in August 2017. During that time, curfews were in place, there were restrictions on movement and around 29,000 people were detained.