All parties need a stake in Ethiopia's future, says opposition leader

Reuters , Friday 16 Feb 2018

Ethiopia's ruling coalition has lost its authority and all parties should be involved in mapping the country's future, an opposition leader said on Friday, a day after the Prime Minister resigned.

Mulatu Gemechu, deputy secretary of the opposition Oromo Federalist Congress, said the Horn of Africa country needed a completely new political system.

"Ethiopians now need a government that respects their rights, not one that keeps beating and killing them," he told Reuters.

Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn unexpectedly resigned on Thursday in what he described as a bid to smooth reforms. Africa's second most populous nation has been plagued by years of unrest.

A wave of strikes and demonstrations hit towns near the capital this week as protesters successfully pressed demands for jailed opposition leaders to be released.

More than 6,000 political prisoners have been freed since January as the government has struggled to placate simmering anger among the two largest ethnic groups, the Oromo and Amharic, who complain they are under-represented in the country's corridors of power.

The Oromo Federalist Congress is one of seven parties that make up the biggest opposition coalition, MEDREK.

Mulatu's views were echoed in the Oromo heartlands of central Ethiopia, the site of a series of violent protests against Hailemariam's government in 2015 and 2016.

"Our land can't continue being taken from us. Oromos should not be jailed for exercising their rights," said Dinkissa, a university student in Ambo, a town in the region.

"Oromos have been always mistreated. His (the prime minister's) resignation will not mean anything unless our rights are respected. Whoever comes to power should know that. Otherwise, we will not stop protesting."

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