On February 16, 2018, a day after the resignation of Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn, the Ethiopian government issued its third state of emergency. This declaration comes on the heels of the widespread celebration of the release of prominent political prisoners, including Bekele Gerba of the Oromo Federalist Congress (OFC) who had been jailed since 2015. The release of political prisoners was widely welcomed and regarded by many as a signal to openness to negotiation and change.
The move by the Ethiopian government to once again declare a state of emergency, instead of starting the beginning processes of reform, is disheartening and signals a change in the wrong direction. Many fear that the Ethiopian government may be contemplating a military takeover. The time for reform is now. If meaningful reform does not take place in the aftermath of Desalegn’s resignation, unguided and potentially catastrophic change could likely occur. All stakeholders, particularly the United States, must act urgently to pressure the Ethiopian government to continue dialogue with members of the government as well as opposition parties in order to move in the direction toward implementing inclusive democratic reforms.