Ethiopia: Sidama people vote on forming new regional state

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Ethiopia: Sidama people vote on forming new regional state
Polls open in a referendum on whether to create a semi-autonomous state in the restive Sidama region.

People formed long queues at polling stations at dawn, with some 2.3 million people registered to vote [Tiksa Negeri/Reuters]

People in southern Ethiopia‘s Sidama region are voting in a referendum on whether to create a new regional state along ethnic lines.

Polls opened at 6am (03:00 GMT) on Wednesday and will close at 6pm (15:00 GMT). Preliminary results are expected on Thursday.

The Sidama drive for statehood, which goes back decades, triggered days of deadly clashes in July between activists and security forces after the activists threatened to unilaterally declare a new regional state. The unrest prompted the government to place Ethiopia’s Southern Nations, Nationalities, and Peoples’ Region (SNNPR) under the control of soldiers and federal police.

If the referendum passes as expected, the Sidama will control local taxes, education, security and laws in a new self-governing region.

Several other groups in the south of the country have already launched plans for self-determination similar to that of the Sidama, who make up about four percent of Ethiopia’s more than 100 million people. Some analysts fear the vote could embolden groups with similar demands and unleash further ethnic violence.

“The Sidama referendum will be a big test for Ethiopia’s multinational federalism, on how it can accommodate various self-determination rights and, crucially, what comes after the referendum,” Abebe Aynete, a senior researcher at Ethiopian Foreign Relations Strategic Studies, a local think-tank, told Al Jazeera.

Federal system

On Wednesday morning, the mood in the regional capital, Hawassa, appeared calm as people formed long queues at polling stations at dawn. Overall, some 2.3 million people have registered to vote.

Away from the polling stations, the streets of Hawassa were much quieter than usual, with Wednesday declared a holiday for the vote. Heavily armed police and soldiers patrolled the streets.

“The voting process is inclusive, smooth, transparent and exciting,” Fantahun Hatiso told AFP news agency after casting his ballot.

“I voted for a decision that I believe will work towards development, peace and personal wellbeing.”

The referendum on autonomy springs from a federal system designed to provide widespread ethnic self-rule in a hugely diverse country, Africa’s second-most populous.

At present, Ethiopia is partitioned into nine semi-autonomous regional states – with the Sidama voting for a potential tenth.

The constitution requires the government to organise a referendum for any ethnic group that wants to form a new entity.

The dormant Sidama campaign gained fresh momentum after Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, winner of this year’s Nobel Peace Prize, took office in 2018 and began introducing a series of political reforms.

“I consider witnessing this day as if I was borne again,” Yerusalem Kabiso, who lost her 24-year-old brother in the July clashes, told Reuters news agency.

“We lived our whole life under oppression, as a child I remember chopped heads of Sidama people displayed at the market, I will never forget the head of my brother in law.”

SOURCE: AL JAZEERA AND NEWS AGENCIES


#Sidama_Votes: “Filaano sidaama guyyaa haraa gahee Qeerroo fi Qarree keenya.”

Tsegaye Ararssa

#Sidama_National_Regional_State….loading


OMN: ቆይታ-ከወ.ህ.ድ.ግ አባላትና አክቲቪስት ጋር በፌዴራሊዝም ና የወላይታ ህዝበ ዉሳኔ ላይ (Nov 20, 2019)


Ethiopia’s Sidama people vote on regional state

Hawassa (Ethiopia) (AFP) – Polls opened on Wednesday in Ethiopia’s ethnic Sidama region in a referendum for a new federal state, a critical vote in a tense region that could embolden others to follow.

The Sidama push for statehood already triggered days of unrest in July that left dozens dead and prompted the government to place Ethiopia’s southern region under the control of soldiers and federal police.

But the mood on Wednesday morning in the regional capital Hawassa appeared calm.

People formed long queues at polling stations at dawn, with some 2.3 million people registered to vote.

Away from the polling stations, the streets of Hawassa were much quieter than usual, with Wednesday declared a holiday for the vote. Heavily armed police and soldiers patrolled the streets.

“The voting process is inclusive, smooth, transparent and exciting,” said 27-year old Fantahun Hatiso, after casting his ballot.

“I voted for a decision that I believe will work towards development, peace and personal well-being.”

The referendum on autonomy springs from a federal system designed to provide widespread ethnic self-rule in a hugely diverse country, Africa’s second most populous, with more than 100 million people.

At present, Ethiopia is partitioned into nine semi-autonomous regional states — with the Sidama voting for a potential tenth.

The constitution requires the government to organise a referendum for any ethnic group that wants to form a new entity.

The Sidama — who number more than three million — have agitated for years to leave the diverse Southern Nations, Nationalities, and Peoples’ Region.

The dream gained fresh momentum after Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, winner of this year’s Nobel Peace Prize, took office last year.

“I stayed up until late in the night,” Hatiso added. “The excitement of waiting for this day, which will bring liberty and peace to my people, kept me awake.”

At least ten other groups in the south of the country have already launched plans for self-determination similar to that of the Sidama. Analysts fear it could unleash further ethnic violence.

Polls opened at 6:00 am (0300 GMT) and close at 6:00 pm (1500 GMT). Preliminary results are expected on Thursday.


Ethiopia’s Sidama people vote on regional state

HAWASSA, ETHIOPIA – (saudigazette)—People in Ethiopia’s ethnic Sidama region voted on Wednesday in a referendum that could carve out a new federal state in a nation already struggling with community tensions.

With heavy security on the streets, the mood on Wednesday in the regional capital Hawassa appeared calm.

But the Sidama push for autonomy already triggered days of unrest in July that left dozens dead, and prompted the government to place Ethiopia’s southern region under the control of soldiers and federal police.

Long queues at polling stations began gathering during the night, with some 2.3 million people registered to vote.

“This is a special day for me,” said Fitsum Anbese, 32, a laboratory technician, who started queueing to vote two hours before daybreak, when polls opened. “I will be recognized for my identity, so I’m happy.”

Away from the polling stations, the streets of Hawassa were much quieter than usual, with Wednesday declared a holiday for the vote.

With apparently overwhelming support among Sidamas to form their own state, people said they were keen to see a peaceful vote.

Many fear the harder test will come once final results are announced.

“I want all of us to respect each other and avoid divisions,” said Hagersew Haso, a 30-year-old worker at the national telecommunications company.

“I want us to have and live in a peaceful, one Ethiopia.”

The referendum on autonomy springs from a federal system designed to provide widespread ethnic self-rule in a hugely diverse country, Africa’s second most populous, with more than 100 million people.

At present, Ethiopia is partitioned into nine semi-autonomous regional states — with the Sidama voting for a potential tenth.

The constitution requires the government to organize a referendum for any ethnic group that wants to form a new entity. -AFP


Ethiopia awaits 10th regional state as Sidama referendum holds

(africanews)—Polls opened on Wednesday for Ethiopia’s Sidama people to vote on self-determination in a referendum closely watched by other ethnic groups also seeking more autonomy since reforms by Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed shook up the national power balance.

The special vote for the Sidama, mostly based in the south and comprising about 4% of Ethiopia’s 105 million people, comes ahead of a general election next year and has brought fears of renewed violence.

At least 17 people died in clashes in July between security forces and Sidama activists after the government delayed the poll by five months.

Many waived their voting cards in celebration as they waited to cast their ballots when polling stations opened at 6 a.m. (0300 GMT).

“I arrived early to vote as I want my own region,” said Emnet Telahun, 22, holding her one-year-old daughter Mirtinesh.

For Yerusalem Kabiso, 48, who lost her 24-year-old brother in the July clashes, the vote meant the end of decades of struggle.

“I consider witnessing this day as if I was borne again,” said Kabisao, who was wrapped in a pink bathrobe.

“We lived our whole life under oppression, as a child I remember chopped heads of Sidama people displayed at the market, I will never forget the head of my brother in law,” she said.

If the referendum passes as expected, the Sidama will control local taxes, education, security and laws in a new self-governing region that would be Ethiopia’s tenth.

The Horn of Africa nation’s regions are emboldened by a more open political climate – and a weaker ruling coalition – since Abiy took office in 2018 and eased the iron rule of his predecessors.

However, that has also brought a surge of long-repressed rivalries between Ethiopia’s more than 80 ethnic groups, forcing more than 2 million people out of their homes and killing hundreds, according to the United Nations and monitoring groups.

‘DANGER FOR ETHIOPIA’

“Should there be irregularities and should autonomy not be declared, that would be a danger for Ethiopia itself because of course there will be violence,” said Dukale Lamiso, head of the Sidama Liberation Front, an activist group.

About 2.3 million voters are registered at nearly 1,700 polling stations, the national electoral board said.

Polling stations close at 6 p.m. (1500 GMT). Preliminary results are due on Thursday.

More than a dozen other ethnic groups are considering or already campaigning for region status.

The vote will also be closely watched for its tone in the run-up to next year’s general election, which Abiy has promised will be free and fair.

Previous elections going back to 2005 were marred by irregularities, violence and clampdowns by security forces.

A potential Sidama homeland would be carved out of the Southern Nations, Nationalities, and Peoples (SNNP) region, the most ethnically diverse part of Ethiopia, a rural region of about 20 million people that borders Kenya and South Sudan.

The Sidama people want the multi-ethnic Hawassa, 275 km (170 miles) from Addis Ababa, to be their capital.

The city, on a lake and surrounded by farmland, is home to the country’s first industrial park, opened in 2017, where Western and Asian companies are producing clothes for export as part of Ethiopia’s ambitious industrialisation drive.

REUTERS


Gabaasa Aljaziiraa waa’ee Riifirandamii Saba Sidaamaa ilaalchisee

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