The election board wants SPNNR council to prepare legal and administrative arrangement on how to share Hawassa and on the protection of the rights of non-Sidama Ethiopians in the zone.
August 29, 2019
In a statement shared on social media, National Election Board of Ethiopia disclosed on Thursday that voting day for Sidama zone referendum is on November 19, 2019.
The referendum will determine if the zone, which is currently under Southern Nations, Nationalities, and Peoples’ Regional State(SNNPR), will be the tenth ethnic-based regional state in Ethiopia or not.
On July 16, 2018, just two days before radical ethnic-Sidama nationalists launched an extensive ethnic-based attack targeting non-Sidama communities, Ethiopia’s election board issued a statement expressing its commitment to organizing a referendum within five months. It also recommended a plan of actions for SNNPR state council and other relevant bodies as part of the preparation for the referendum.
The status of Hawassa city, which is the seat of SNNPR regional state and also seat of Sidama zone administration, was one of the issues that the election board raised as part of the preparation for the referendum. The Board requested Sidama Zone and SNNPR regional authorities to disclose about the kind of arrangement they will have regarding the city and division of “wealth” should the outcome of the election favor the formation of ethnic Sidama statehood – which some ethnic-nationalists argued, back then, that the issue is not within the election board turf.
Rights protection of non-Sidama ethnic and language groups residing in Sidama was another matter that the election board raised, and the board requested for the preparation of legal and administrative arrangements to protect rights.
In a statement that the board released on Thursday this week, it said that SNNPR council wrote a letter to the election board on July 26, 2019, mentioning its inability to prepare an administrative and legal framework regarding Hawassa city and the rights of non-Sidama citizens residing in Sidama Zone due to workload and existing security arrangement following security crisis (the region is under Command Post currently), and asked for an alternate day to complete the works.
The Board did so, based on the letter is released today, and demanded the SNNPR council to notify the election board by August 21.
The council reached out to the election board on August 22, from NEBE letter, that it could not prepare the required administrative and legal arrangement for it needs ample time but it expressed its commitment to finalize them before the referendum.
The election board apparently considered the situation of SNNPR council and gave a new date, as indicated in the letter released on Thursday, August 29, 2019, to complete the task of preparing a legal and administrative arrangement on the status of Hawassa and the rights of non-Sidama ethnic communities. The council has now until October 3, 2019, to finalize the work.
At least seven other zones in SNNPR have are pushing for statehood and demanding referendum after Sidama Zone was allowed to have one but it remains unclear if the Federal government has a stand to respond to those questions affirmatively as it did to Sidama zone.
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