A day after Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn of Ethiopia abruptly resigned, the country declared a state of emergency on Friday. The second such decree in less than two years, martial law was reimposed amid reports of a bitter succession struggle, a worrying development for a country buckling under years of political unrest.
Mr. Hailemariam came to power in 2012 after the death of Meles Zenawi, who had presided over the country since 1991 with an iron fist. Mr. Hailemariam was largely seen as an ineffective placeholder and from the outset, he faced difficulties, lacking a political base of his own. Hailing from a small minority group in the south of the country, the Wolayta, he quickly fell out with Ethiopia’s three dominant ethnic groups — the Oromo, the Amhara and the Tigrayans.
Neither the grass roots nor the leaders of the ruling Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front were particularly enamored of him, but they couldn’t agree on an alternative. In theory, the party, in power for nearly 27 years, is a coalition of four ethnic-based parties. In reality, it is dominated by ethnic Tigrayans, who, despite making up only 7 percent of the country’s population, control the economy, the military and the security sectors.
Mr. Hailemariam eventually became a man without allies; his resignation was hardly a surprise, it just came earlier than anticipated. He was widely expected to be replaced later this year when the E.P.R.D.F. holds its congress.
At least one million people in Ethiopia were internally displaced in 2017, according to the United Nations, amid widespread unrest and an economy in free-fall. In a December meeting, the party’s executive committee blamed Mr. Hailemariam’s poor leadership for the country’s and the party’s woes — thereby sealing his fate. As the humanitarian, political and security crisis turned into calamity, he took personal responsibility for failing to stabilize the country rocked by stubborn protests from Oromo and Amhara ethnic groups, who together make up two-thirds of the population.Continue reading the main story