Ethiopian Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn on Thursday submitted his resignation amid growing political turmoil in the country.
Desalegn’s resignation came just days after the government released hundreds of political prisoners, including some of the most prominent opposition members in the country in a bid to ease tensions.
According to the state Ethiopian News Agency, Desalegn resigned both as prime minister and chair of the ruling party “to be part of the efforts to provide lasting solution to the current situation.” He added he would stay on in a caretaker capacity until a successor was chosen, Washington Post writes.
“Unrest and a political crisis have led to the loss of lives and displacement of many,” Hailemariam said in a televised address to the nation, according to Reuters.
“I see my resignation as vital in the bid to carry out reforms that would lead to sustainable peace and democracy.”
The second-most populous country in Africa after Nigeria, Ethiopia is a regional powerhouse with grand economic ambitions but it has been mired in social unrest for the past few years that has killed hundreds and left thousands in prison.
Earlier in the week, there had been widespread demonstrations by the country’s Oromo people, the largest ethnic group, over the perceived slow pace of prisoner releases promised in January. This led to a total shuttering of businesses throughout the vast Oromo region as part of a strike.
Desalegn became prime minister in 2012, succeeding Meles Zenawi, the architect of Ethiopia’s recent economic boom. The country saw a decade of double digit growth, though this has slowed in recent years under pressure from severe droughts and social unrest.
Ostensibly a democracy, the ruling Ethiopia People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front – dominated by the Tigrayan minority – controls 100 percent of the parliament, leading to feelings of economic marginalization among the Oromo majority.