ETHIOPIAN prime minister Hailemariam Desalegn has submitted a resignation letter after the worst anti-government protests in a quarter of a century, saying he hoped the surprise decision would help planned reforms succeed and create a “lasting peace”.

“I want to be part of the solution,” he said. “I believe that the public’s demands and questions should be met and answered.”

It was not immediately clear whether politicians had accepted the resignation.

Ethiopia has been rocked by months of protests demanding wider freedoms that have left hundreds dead and tens of thousands detained. The government in recent weeks released more than 6,500 detained opposition figures, journalists and others after the prime minister in an unexpected announcement in January said he wanted to “widen the democratic space for all”.

The protests have disrupted life and business in one of Africa’s fastest-growing economies.

The 53-year-old prime minister said he will continue in his role until the “power transition is completed”. He also seeks to unseat himself from the ruling Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front.

A favourite to replace the prime minister is the head of Ethiopia’s Oromia region, Lemma Megerssa. Many see him, the president of the largest federal state, as politically assertive and having the acceptance of many in the younger generation.