Kaffa demands statehood, PM Abiy says “it will not solve the problem”

Demand for statehood in Southern Nations, Nationalities, and People’s Region (SNNPR) has caused a serious security problem in Ethiopia, at least in the case of Sidama. Abiy Ahmed’s administration has nodded for Sidama statehood demand and preparation is underway to organize referendum. Ten other administrative zones in the regional state have demanded same autonomous state but they have not got similar response. Kaffa zone is one of them.

Bonga _ Kaffa _
Crowd at Bonda stadium cheering PM Meles Zenawi. Photo credit : OPM

Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed had a working visit to Kaffa- birth place of coffee, a province within Southwest Ethiopia and currently under SNNPR regional state, on Sunday as followers of Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church took to the streets in many cities across Amhara regional state.

Deputy Prime Minister Demeke Mekonnen, the Defense Minister, Lemma Megersa, and the first lady accompanied him. The Defense Minister’s involvement in the local working visit to Bonga, the seat of Kaffa zone administration, has caused a little confusion among Ethiopians who closely follow the country’s politics.

A massive crowd showed up at Bonga’s stadium where Prime Minister made a speech to residents of the city. The welcome ceremony was colorful as the prime minister arrived in the city wearing a traditional Kafficho coat.

Abiy Ahmed – waving to the crowd in Bonga. Photo credit : OPM

He was presented with a horse, a spear and shield – treasured instruments of warriors in the Ethiopian traditions – and with which Ethiopia fought major battles in history including the battle of Adwa where invading colonial army of Italy was totally defeated.

The popular Ethiopian flag, which the Federal government does not use and even outlawed at some point before Abiy Ahmed took office, was hoisted in the stadium.

Later, Abiy Ahmed, his deputy Demeke Mekonnen and Ristu Yirdaw, president of SNNPR region to which Kaffa is a part, had a meeting with community representatives.

And he had to face the inescapable question of statehood.

Kaffa zone council submitted the demand for statehood nearly about a year ago for which it has received neither “yes” or “no” response. 

The existing Federal government in Ethiopia is based on ethnic identity and the country is divided into nine ethnic based regional states and two city administrations, including the capital Addis Ababa.

The office of the prime minister disclosed on Sunday that Bonga, Keffa, community representatives have asked the prime minister to address Kaffa People’s demand in connection with a new administrative arrangement for the zone which aspires to break away from SNNPR regional state.

His response was “regional statehood arrangement does not solve all the questions,” and he advised residents to consider “other related alternatives.” And he was not clear when he meant by “other alternatives” as the only other within the existing administrative arrangement is to continue as a zone within SNRRP region.   

Keffa zone is not alone in its demand. About 10 other administrative zones in the SNNPR region have demanded a similar administrative arrangement.

The National Election Board of Ethiopia has agreed to organize a referendum only, so far, to Sidama Zone and has already disclosed that it will take place on November 19, 2019. 

Representatives from Bonga residents have also raised economic and infrastructure development issues during the meeting with Abiy and his deputy, and the prime minister has promised to address the demands as much as possible.

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