Rights groups say that since last year more than 500 people have been killed in protests in the Oromia region surrounding the capital Addis Ababa.
Anger about a development scheme for the capital turned into broader anti-government demonstrations over politics and human rights abuses as the government promotes Ethiopia as one of Africa’s top-performing economies.
The government however says the death toll was inflated.
In a televised address on Sunday, Ethiopia’s prime minister Hailemariam Desalegn said the state of emergency was declared because there has been “enormous” damage to property.
“We put our citizens’ safety first. Besides, we want to put an end to the damage that is being carried out against infrastructure projects, education institutions, health centers, administration and justice buildings,” said Desalegn on the state Ethiopian Broadcasting Corporation.
“The recent developments in Ethiopia have put the integrity of the nation at risk,” he said.
“The state of emergency will not breach basic human rights enshrined under the Ethiopian constitution and won’t also affect diplomatic rights listed under the Vienna Convention,” said Desalegn.
The internet has also been blocked across many parts of Ethiopia, according to citizens.
The government has blocked the internet for more than a week to prevent protesters from using social media to get supporters to attend demonstrations.