Wolaita supports Gurage statehood in Ethiopia (Press release: WCHR)

Press release
November 28,2018

After the Gurage Zone council voted to proceed with Statehood (Kilil) aspiration of the Gurage people, the corrupt Southern Ethiopia Peoples Democratic Movement (SEPDM) Party has suddenly rejected their constitutional demands. This illegal action will trigger more humanitarian crisis in southern Ethiopia. The Wolayta Committee for Human Rights (WCHR) condemns this partial and dictatorial decision by SEPDM to deny Gurage people; after the SEPDM council already approved Sidama statehood less than three weeks ago. This is unjust, favoritism and unconstitutional.

While this action seems odd to outside observers, it is consistent with the Sidama-dominated ruling party’s modus operandi in Hawassa, which has refused justice for the hundreds of Wolaita people burned alive or massacred by mobs in June 2018.

According to the constitution, every nation, nationality and peoples of Ethiopia has a right for self-determination and administration. Instead of continuing the old TPLF tactic of dividing people by inciting Kebena, Silte and other families of Gurage people amongst each other, the SEPDM ruling party must apply the rule of law and grant statehood to all aspiring people and respect the human rights of all Ethiopians in our multiethnic urban centers. Similar to the old TPLF tactic to divide Christian Oromos from Muslim Oromos, the attempt by SEPDM head Muferiat Kamil and pro-TPLF Silte cadres like Siraj Fegessa to exploit the dialect & religious diversity of Gurage speaking people should end as soon as possible. Stoking religious conflict will lead to more humanitarian crisis in Ethiopia.

“Special interests” of Gurage over Addis Ababa

WCHR also supports the reported request for “Special interest” of Gurage over Addis Ababa and Hawassa. This is consistent with the Oromia-Addis precedent and past practice. It will be unjust for the ruling party to deny Gurage people “special interest” over Addis Ababa, after approving Oromia “Special interest” over Addis Ababa. The Wolaita zone council has also referred its “special interests” over Hawassa due to Wolaita people’s historical and economic role in Hawassa as well as its large population in the city. Approving Wolaita “special interests” over Hawassa will mitigate the xenophobic attacks our people have suffered in the city.

Similarly, Gurage people have a multi-dimensional economic, historical, political and social connection with Addis Ababa and its surroundings. In fact, Gurage historical migration patterns in central Ethiopia and their 8th century (Sultanate of Showa) settlement in the area predates the 12th century Amhara migration and 16th century Oromo migration to the region. Over a million Gurages live in Addis Ababa and surroundings today. The recent Burayu massacre is historic lesson for our country to end vilification and dehumanization of minorities in Ethiopia’s urban regions.

In 2018 alone, nearly 2 million Ethiopians have been displaced and hundreds perished due to misunderstandings and disputes with the current federal structure.

It is imperative that the ruling party quickly approve both the regional statehood and special interests of Wolaita and Gurage people as soon as possible.

Whether EPRDF allows Gurage and Wolaita statehood will be a measuring stick on the legitimacy of the current multinational/ethnic federation. As recently indicated by the media in Hawassa, if the Ethiopian government forces Gurage speaking people to break apart based on dialect and religious divisions; then the Amhara and Oromia regions must be broken apart as soon as possible.

If Gurage and Wolaita are not allowed to become independent Regional States (with special interests), then all current regional states in Ethiopia must be disbanded immediately until a new form of federalism is established nationwide.

CC: Office of Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed
SNNP Regional State Adminstration
Amnesty International (AI)
Human Rights Watch (HRW)

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