Ethiopia has always been a country teetering on the brink of a massive breakdown of human rights and free expression. The country has been teeming with tension that is very delicate in ways frightening. A bit of despondency has crept all the while, with the state responding with the typical heavy-handedness of a repressive regime.
The term “state of emergency” is now seriously synonymous with Ethiopia. The unexpected resignation of Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegne seems to be a rallying cry for a drastic action to be taken in order to address the tensions. Ongoing "unrest and a political crisis" in the country have been cited as the major reasons for the Prime Minister’s resignation. He described his reasons as "vital in the bid to carry out reforms that would lead to sustainable peace and democracy".
In Ethiopia, the Oromo and Amhara people bemoan the issue of exclusion they are subjected to. They make up 61% of the total population in Ethiopia, yet they assert they have been excluded from the political arena and are subjected to human rights violations. They have staged mass demonstrations since 2015 demanding greater political inclusion and an end to human rights abuses.
Street protests have been continuing in the country, and have made the situation more volatile. In response, Ethiopia’s government has introduced a ban on protests and publications that incite violence as part of a six-month state of emergency to quell almost three years of anti-government protests in one of sub-Saharan Africa’s fastest-growing economies. It is an apparent bid by the regime to contain the unrest.
Tsedale Lemma, editor-in-chief of Addis Standard, said there has been a political struggle within the ruling party since the death of former prime minister, Meles Zenawi, in 2012. Appointing a new prime minister from within the Oromo community would be "a conciliatory gesture", Lemma said.
Ethiopia is faced with a structural dysfunction, and seems to need a symbolic political gesture to reduce the fracturing of the state. The judiciary is in urgent need of reform and for it to be more independent. Repressive laws need to be done away with. Even with the freeing of political prisoners, the repressive hand in Ethiopia still prevails.
There are fundamental questions that a state of emergency cannot address but only a strong political will. A state of emergency will not address demands for greater democracy.