Ethiopian Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn Resigns unexpectedly, saying he hoped to end years of unrest and political upheaval.
In a TV speech, he said his resignation was “vital in the bid to carry out reforms that would lead to sustainable peace and democracy”.
Mr Hailemariam has been seen by the political elite as weak and lacking in leadership.
Mr Hailemariam a trained engineer, led the country since 2012 following the death of Meles Zenawi who had ruled since 1991. He also steps down as chairman of the ruling coalition.
Protests first spread across the country in 2015 during calls for political and economic reform and an end to state corruption.
Oromia and Amhara the two largest regions in Ethiopia saw the most unrest, despite a 10-month national state of emergency which failed to stop the protests.
“Unrest and a political crisis have led to the loss of lives and displacement of many,” Mr Hailemariam said. Hundreds of people died in three years of anti-government protests.
Thousands of opposition supporters were released from jail last month.
Ethiopia is now afraid its federal, Soviet-style system could collapse, leaving two possible solutions to crack down harder on dissent or to try political reform.
Mr Hailemariam resignation could be a move by the alliance to find a stronger leader, or it could signal a splitting up among the constituent parties along ethnic lines.
Mostly noticeable is the tension between the Tigrayan People’s Liberation Front, which has seen its authority and influence decrease, and the Oromo People’s Democratic Organisation, which is becoming increasingly more confident.
Replacing Mr Hailemariam might also be one way to meet the demands of Oromo protesters who have accused the authorities of marginalisation.