Ethiopia to lift emergency rule amid improved political, security situations

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People protest against the Ethiopian government during Irreecha, the annual Oromo festival to celebrates the end of the rainy season, in Bishoftu on October 1, 2017. An Ethiopian religious festival transformed into a rare moment of open defiance to the government one year after a stampede started by police killed dozens at the gathering. The Irreecha festival is held annually by the Oromos, Ethiopia's largest ethnic group, which in late 2015 began months of anti-government protests over claims of marginalisation and unfair land seizures. / AFP PHOTO / Zacharias ABUBEKER (Photo credit should read ZACHARIAS ABUBEKER/AFP/Getty Images)

The Ethiopian government on Saturday approved a draft bill to lift the six-month state of emergency rule that was sanctioned in mid February.

The Ethiopian Council of Ministers, in its meeting on Saturday, decided to lift the emergency rule ahead of its deadline, attributing the decision to the East African country’s current stability in political and security spheres.

The six-month martial law, which had a possibility of extension period if security situation had not been improved, was initially sanctioned by the Council of Ministers on February 16, which was later approved by the Ethiopian parliament’s lower house within 15 days of the initial decision.

The bill to lift the emergency rule is now expected to be approved by the Ethiopian House of People’s Representatives (HoPR), the parliament’s lower house. The HoPR is exclusively dominated by the ruling coalition, the Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front.

The Ethiopian government stressed, while sanctioning the law, the necessity to protect the country’s constitution, and the safety of citizens and their property from the dangers that would arise from widespread violent demonstrations that erupted in different parts of the country since the second half of 2016.

The emergency rule prohibited possession of armaments at public areas or transferring firearms to third party as well as providing support to activities which affect the peace and well-being of citizens.

The decree, among other things, prohibited issuing statement on security matters without the permission of the Command Post (a special entity that was established to watch over the implementation of the emergency rule), distributing erroneous information that contradicts the law and the directives issued by the Command Post. It also forbids carrying weapons in unauthorized regions of the country.

The state of emergency also outlined curfews prohibiting movement of individuals around infrastructures, investment areas and other related places.

The Command Post, soon after the institution of the state of emergency rule, had also authorized Ethiopian security officers to take measures against individuals or groups that are found in breach of the curfew.

The current 6-month state of emergency period was the second the East African country imposed since the second half of 2016 due to deteriorated security condition, which at times turned violent.

Ethiopia had witnessed a 10-month long state of emergency period that was effective as of October 2016.

The draft bill to lift the current six-month state of emergency rule on Saturday has been positively welcomed by Ethiopians.

The move also followed recent decision by the Ethiopian government to release prominent opposition figures as well as former Ethiopian government officials who were arrested due to corruption cases from imprisonment.

The amnesty program, which the Ethiopian government said is a means towards national reconciliation and unity, has seen the release of thousands of prisoners and others under investigation since the swearing in of Ethiopia’s new Prime Minister, Abiy Ahmed, on April 2.

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