According to Desalegn, the recent move to release political prisoners, including those under prosecution and those who were convicted, would improve the national consensus and widen the east African country's political platform. Martin Plaut is a journalist specialising in the Horn of Africa and Southern Africa, and senior research fellow at the Institute of Commonwealth Studies.
It's a surprising turnaround for a government that has launched a sweeping crackdown on dissent and had not previously admitted that it is even holding political prisoners.
"Also, the notorious prison cell that was traditionally called Maekelawi, will be closed down and turned into a museum".
Ethiopia has seen large popular protests for more than two years that showed no sign of stopping, despite hundreds killed and thousands of arrests.
It was not immediately clear how many such prisoners were being held across the country, a close US security ally, or when they would be released. "All these pledges need to be implemented immediately".
Rights groups and opposition groups in Ethiopia had been calling for the release of political prisoners, saying they were arrested on trumped-up charges and were being punished for their points of view.
Ethiopia's government has attempted to downplay the prime minister's announcement.
Some of the prominent politicians now in custody include opposition leaders Bekele Gerba and Merara Gudina, and several journalists also remain in detention.
Desalegn, who had promised the general public to reshuffle his government, had also introduced new cabinet members, of which only 9 of the ministers in the 30-member cabinet remained in their previous positions.
The Associated Press and other news organizations interpreted the remark to mean a wider population of people in prison, including opposition figures and journalists, as alleged political prisoners.