While not rejecting Abiy Ahmed’s reform measures, hundreds of thousands of ethnic Sidama demand for a quick referendum to determine statehood status for their ethnic community, one of the largest language speaking groups in Ethiopia’s Southern People’s Nations and Nationalities state.
Hundreds of thousands of ethnic Sidama people have staged a massive demonstration in Hawassa on Thursday to push for demands for statehood for which Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed explicitly stated his support a few months ago during question and answer in the parliament.
Government pledged to organize referendum to resolve the demand and protesters are demanding that they need it sooner rather than later.
Ethnic Sidama are currently within “Southern Nations, Nationalities, and Peoples’ Regional State,” one of the nine ethnic based Federal regional states. Unlike the rest of the regions, that one composed of more than 50 language speaking groups of various sizes. Ethnic Sidama are said to be well over 3.2 million in 2017, according to information published on Wikipedia.
Demonstrators started to march to Hawassa Stadium as early as 4 a.m. local time according to reports from local Ethiopian news sources.
“We support the reform”, “respect the constitution”, and “hasten the referendum” are some of the slogans that demonstrators where shouting.
Southern Ethiopian People’s Democratic Movement (SEPDM), a party that is governing the regional state accepted ethnic Sidama People’s demand for a statehood during the 10th congress of the party and forwarded the demand to National Electoral Board, now under the leadership of Birtukan Mideksa, to organize the referendum.
Demonstrators want a fixed date for the referendum and they want the referendum to be organized as quickly as possible.
Ethic Sidama’s demand for ethnic based statehood has triggered similar demands from other ethnic groups in the region. Gurage, Hadya, Wolaita, among others, are also pushing for status of statehood.
However, unlike Sidama, the demands of the rest of the ethnic groups for the status of statehood are not given clear cut response.
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