High Hopes for Referendum to Resolve the Sidama People’s Quest for Regional Statehood Despite the Surprising Silence of the National Election Board of Ethiopia.(By Tunsisa Tafe (PhD)
The Sidama people persistent struggle for political and economic equality in Ethiopia has been around for a long time. Unlike the other times, however, this is a critical time and the Sidama people are in the verge of writing a new chapter in their history book. About half-a-year ago (in July 2018), members of the Sidama zone council approved unanimously (for the second time – the first one being in 2005) a request by the Sidama people for regional statehood.
The issue was an agenda item in a subsequent “SNNPR” council’s meeting as well. After brief deliberation, the SNNPR council endorsed the decision taken by the Sidama zone. Some members of the SNNPR council even pointed out that this issue has been dragging on for many years and, therefore, deserve an expedited resolution per constitutional guidelines.
At this point, it does not seem a question of if or whether (the Sidama zone will be restructured or regain its pre-1995 status as regional statehood within the FDRE government). Rather it seems a question of how quickly this legit demand will be formalized.
The case is being forwarded to the federal government – namely the National Election Board (NEB) – to formally set a date for referendum. According to article 47(3a) of FDRE’s constitution, referendum should be held within one-year from the time the request has been approved by people’s representatives (in this case the Sidama zone council). Six months have passed since this happened. And yet, no official pronouncements from NEB – which, surprisingly, has chosen to remain silent on an issue of this magnitude. We know reform is taking place at NEB, including installment of a new chairperson, but not to be able to announce at least a tentative date for referendum? Come on. This is simply not acceptable.
As a side note:
1. Few anti-democratic elements that are blindly opposed to this legit question have been heard trying to make preposterous arguments. A case in point is an argument being made by those who flat-out state that restructuring the so-called SNNPR by granting regional statehood to the Sidama people somehow opens a flood-gate for other groups in the SNNPR to make similar demands — which, if in case happens, makes Ethiopia the only country in the world with the largest number of regional statehood. This is such a nonsensical argument that cannot even pass a simple logic test. First of all, the formation of “SNNPR” is inconsistent with FDRE’s constitution, as there is no basis whatsoever to lump the Sidama people together with 55 or so very different ethnic groups and collectively refer to all of them as “southern people”. This is downright wrong and must be corrected.
2. Last but by no means least, the Sidama people are fully aware that any attempt to harass the Sidama people, including the biased report published by Ethiopian Human Rights Watch ("ኢሰመጉ"), for standing their ground for the cause they deeply care about is nothing more than politically motivated tactic to shift the focus of our people away from their legit question.