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South prepares for Sidama referendum

After accepting a request by the Sidama Zonal Administration for self-administration and establishment of a separate regional state, the Southern Nations Nationalities and Peoples' Regional State and its Council are preparing to hold a referendum to determine the zonal administration’s demand.

The request was officially accepted by the regional Council on Friday November 2, 2018 during the Council’s session which is held twice a year.

According to the regional state president Million Matewos, who spoke to The Reporter over the phone, the request was submitted to the regional Council in the month of July. But, because of the security issues in the region, the council could not congregate and deliberate on the issue until Friday.

Article 47 of the FDRE Constitution which provides for the establishment of a new regional state requires the requesting nation, nationality or people’s Council to pass the decision by a two third majority which the Sidama request has already fulfilled. The next step is to present the request to the existing regional administration council which it accepts without vote and proceeds to organize a referendum. If the referendum finds out that the majority of the requesting nationality supports the request, it will transfer its duties and responsibilities to the newly established region.

The regional council has now set up a committee to proceed with the referendum that requires the intervention of the National Electoral Board of Ethiopia (NEBE) as it is the one mandated to administer elections and referendums.

“This is not something that we give time to implement. We will soon request the NEBE for the referendum as we have taken the direction from our previous party meeting to give quick replies to demands of the people in the region,” Million told The Reporter.

But, as it is indicated in article 14 of the regional Constitution, the process also includes division of assets between the new region and the existing one. But, as this has never been experienced in the country since the establishment of the federal system, no law has been put in place until now.

Speaking on the issue to The Reporter, Million said that, “as there are no legal frameworks regarding the division of assets, the region will establish a new commission to carry out the task as it has been doing so far while entertaining zonal and woreda administrations' requests within the region.”

But legal experts have reservation over this saying that a task carried out within one region and between regions is different which eventually requires the intervention of the federal government, without a legal framework guiding such tasks.