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Expression of will
On Wednesday, voting begun as early as 6:00 AM, with many voters already in queues in several polling stations in Hawassa and other parts of the Sidama Zone

Expression of will

NEBE set to release preliminary report

Sidama official’s eye new ruling party

Ahead of the most awaited preliminary result of the Sidama referendum to be released today by the National Electoral Board of Ethiopia (NEBE),and provided that the plebiscite goes their way, officials of the Sidama Zone anticipates joining the newly restructuring ruling party which isto be re-established as the Ethiopian Prosperity Party (EPP).

The referendum to decide on Sidama’s statehood has concluded peacefully on Wednesday with the NEBE set to release its first preliminary polling results today.

The voting comes five months after the deadly violence that broke out after the Sidama community demanded an earlier referendum in July of this year.

On Wednesday, voting begun as early as 6:00 AM,with many voters already in queues in several polling stations in Hawassa and other parts of the Zone.

Assessing the voting process,The Reporter was present in few polling stations where it recognized that in most parts of the town, voting has concluded before 1:00 PM, though the official closing time is 6:00 PM in the evening.

According to NEBE, 1,692 polling stations were organized for the voting process across all the Woredas and kebeles of the SidamaZone, while over 2.3 million voters were registered for the referendum.

The status of Hawassa, a city that has served as the seat of the Southern Nations, Nationalities People’s Regional State (SNNPR) for over 27 years, and a city that has changed very much in those years due to private and public investment, could potentially remain a controversial question, should the outcome of the referendum goes in favor of new region.

Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed (PhD), who was apparently supportive of the “Sidama question,” from the get go, has hailed it in a positive light before it was even completed.

“The Sidama referendum is an expression of the democratization path Ethiopia has set out on,” Abiy said.

A day after the voting,Sidam Zone top officials mainly Sidama Zone Administrator, Desta Lendamo and Hawassa’s City Deputy Mayor, Tiratu Beyene separately gave a press conference, whereby both praised the peaceful completion of the voting process, without any security incidents.

Speaking on the press conference held at Haile Resorts, Desta said that the peaceful completion of the voting proves the society’s peace lovingness while the referendum paves a very important way for the country’s democratic process.And at the same time,it will serve as a great experience for the upcoming General election that would be held at national level.

Going a step forward Desta told the press stating: “Provided that the plebiscite is favorable,we are going to adjust ourselves to harmonize into the newly re-established ruling party the Ethiopian Prosperity Party.”

Provided that the referendum is favorable,he also pledged that in the would be regional state the residing people both the Sidama ethnic group and the non-Sidama ethnic residents will be treated equally to share all the blessings that the new region offering both in development activities as well as in political administration.

He also thanked Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed (PhD) for his immense contribution in responding to the long awaited public demand of the Sidama people.

“If the final result is in favor of regional autonomy, the Sidama people are ready to work with all the states in the country, under the auspice of the medemer principle,” he said.

“We are ready to participate in the development efforts of the country and contribute our part in collaboration with all nationalities of the country with the spirit of unity,” the administrator affirmed.

Similarly, Deputy Mayor of Hawassa, Tiratu Beyene said that the referendum champions all nations and nationalities of Ethiopia beyond the Sidama people.

He pointed out that the municipality will work towards strengthening unity of the people more than ever before, in order to ensure peaceful coexistence and sustain developmental efforts underway in the city.

If the referendum goes in favor of independent state, it means that Sidama, currently a zone within Southern Nations, Nationalities, and People’s Region, will have its own separate regional-state status, and will become the 10th regional state in Ethiopia.

However, based on the NEBE’s direction, the wealth of Hawassa city is to be divided between Sidama and the more than fifty ethnic groups that have been, to date, under the administration of SNNPR. And is something that is to be determined in consultation with the regional state that has served as the seat of SNNPR. This means that the region’s entire resources have been invested in the city.

The process leading to the Sidama referendum has been a bloody one. In July 2019, radical youth believed to be agitated by ethnic activists, announced an ultimatum calling for Ethiopia’s electoral board to organize a referendum by July 18, 2019.