Ethiopia emergency: How will the political crisis play out?

On Monday, February 19, 2018

Africa’s second most populous nation declares a state of emergency against a backdrop of long-running street protests after sudden resignation of Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn.

Supporters of Bekele Gerba, secretary general of the Oromo Federalist Congress (OFC), chant slogans to celebrate his release from prison, in Adama, Oromia Region, Ethiopia February 14, 2018. REUTERS/Tiksa Negeri

(Al Jazeera)  — It has been a frenetic and unpredictable week in Ethiopian politics. Political prisoners were released, the prime minister suddenly resigned and a state of emergency was then declared.

The speed of events has left many Ethiopians wondering what’s next and political analysts asking whether Africa’s second most populous country is entering a period of long-term instability.

The seeds for the crisis were sown in 2015 when anti-government demonstrations broke out among the Oromo, Ethiopia’s biggest ethnic group, and later spread to the Amhara, the second biggest group.

Though the street protests – which were met with a brutal government response in which hundreds of people were killed – initially began over land rights, they later broadened into calls for more political, economic and cultural rights.

Both the Oromo and Amhara protesters say the ruling EPRDF coalition and the security and intelligence forces are dominated by the Tigrayan ethnic group, which makes up only 6 percent of the population.

What next? Much hinges on who the ruling party chooses to replace Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn and on how opposition parties respond to the state of emergency. On Monday, The Stream talks to a panel of experts from across the political spectrum in an attempt to unpick this complicated story.

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