In his speech, Desalegn noted that people were displaced and injured, and property was damaged in the recent unrest. He said he believed that his resignation was necessary to carry out democratic reforms that are underway.
Widespread demonstrations this week by the Oromo ethnic group — the country’s largest, representing more than a third of Ethiopia’s 100 million people — broke out over the perceived slow pace of prisoner releases promised in January.
Young men blocked roads leading out of the capital with rocks and burning tires, disrupting public transportation. Businesses throughout the vast Oromo region were shuttered 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, based largely on state investment in infrastructure. Growth has slowed in recent years amid severe droughts and social unrest.
The question now is whether the new prime minister will continue to pursue rapprochement with the disaffected segments of society or initiate a crackdown.