Sidama embarks on statehood
The Sidama Regional State, the newest member of the Ethiopian Federation, has finally secured transfer of power, on Thursday June 18, 2020, from the South Regional Council, to which it has been a member as Zonal Administration before holding a referendum last November heralding its birth as new Region.
In its fifth year second extraordinary meeting, the Council deliberated on a motion to transfer power to Sidama Regional State and finally endorse it. The motion presented by the speaker of the Council, Helen Debebe, discusses the formation of the Sidama Regional State following up on the referendum held early this year, which resulted in more than 98 percent of voters opting for regional Statehood. Hence, it is pertinent that the regional council transfers power to the newly formed state pursuant to the constitutional provision that demands it.
After the approval of the Sidama Zonal Council of the question of statehood in July 2018, there have been various demonstrations in the regional city Hawassa intended to force the regional council to organize a referendum or request the appropriate bodies to do so. While these demonstrations were largely peaceful, there have been at times violent clashes that claimed lives and property. In this regard, the bloody multi-day demonstration and ethnic strife took place on July, 2019 has seen an elevated level of unrest and loss of life and property.
The South Regional Council, finally, referred the matter to the National Electoral Board of Ethiopia (NEBE) which conducted a referendum for the nationality. The outcome resulted in favor of forming a separate regional state for the Sidama.
The next step in the realization of the Sidama Regional State includes asset division between the existing regional government and the formation of legal framework for the joint administration of Hawassa city.
Hawassa is going to serve as a seat for both the Sidama Regional State and the existing Southern Regional State. Hence, experts suggest that there needs to be a legal framework to govern the horizontal relationship between the two regional governments and the joint administration of the city. Apart from this, border demarcation of the newly formed region along the neighboring zones is pending.
After the finalization of the Sidama statehood, focus has turned towards the other dozen of zones that have also asked to form their respective states. Because of the reluctance from the regional council to organize referendums for the requesting ethnic groups, majority of them have referred the case to the House of the Federation for resolution.
In the midst of this, Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed (PhD) has formed a team of peace ambassadors, comprising of 80 selected people, to assess the situation and come up with a recommendation. The team, which is led by Abadula Gemeda, came up with a recommendation that divides the region into four clustering neighboring zones into one regional government. But, this is also contested by some ethnic groups like the Wolaitta, who say that they have asked for their constitutional right which allows them to form a separate regional government, and for each and every ethnic group.
Previously, the South Regional Council along with the defunct governing party Southern Ethiopia Peoples’ Democratic Movement (SEPDM) commissioned a study to scientifically respond to the spiraling questions to form regional states by subsequent zones. The 20 strong researchers came up with three recommendations – keeping the region as it is, dividing the region into not more than five separate regions and letting the questions of forming regional states simmer down for the time being. But, because of the protest from the requesting ethnic groups, this study was not implemented.
But, the recent initiative is also facing similar opposition from various groups except that there are some ethnic groups that are willing to form regional states in concert with neighboring zonal administrations of various ethnic groups.