Ethiopia ministers OK draft law to lift state of emergency

ADDIS ABABA, ETHIOPIA: Ethiopia's cabinet has approved a draft law aiming to lift the country's state of emergency that was imposed in February after months of widespread anti-government protests. It would be the most significant change so far under the country's young new prime minister, who has spoken openly about the need for reforms.

"The Council of Ministers ... reviewed the security situation of the country. It noted that law and order has been restored," the prime minister's chief of staff, Fitsum Arega, said Saturday on Twitter.

The draft law will be sent to parliament for consideration. It was not immediately clear when that would take place.

This is the second state of emergency imposed in the East African nation, one of Africa's strongest economies and a close security ally of the United States, during more than two years of sometimes deadly protests demanding wider freedoms and the release of political prisoners. Hundreds were killed and about 22,000 were detained.

The current state of emergency was imposed a day after former Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn resigned.

Since new Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed was installed in April, several thousands of prisoners have been released and tensions in restive areas, notably Oromia, have dramatically declined. Some of the high-profile releases include an Ethiopia-born Briton and opposition leader, Andargachew Tsige, and Swedish doctor Fikru Maru.

Merera Gudina, a prominent opposition politician who was arrested under the country's first, nine-month-long state of emergency, said the emergency law shouldn't have existed in the first place.

"The government should have known differences are not solved by the barrel of the gun but through an honest discussion," he told The Associated Press, saying the law created an unprecedented level of confrontation between the public and the government. "But the lifting of the emergency rule and the ongoing release of detainees is a positive gesture from the new leadership."