October 2, 2019
The Wolayta Committee for Human Rights (WCHR) has received multiple reports of illegal ID card distribution by local authorities through out Hawassa city. Accordingly, WCHR asks the National Election Board of Ethiopia (NEBE) to launch a full investigation before proceeding with the November vote for referendum in the metropolitan center. We also encourage civil society, residents of Hawassa and more human rights organizations to send a formal complaint to NEBE on the disputed credibility of the Sidama referendum in Hawassa, which could reignite further violence if done improperly.
The illegal operation to handout fake Hawassa IDs to non-residents is allegedly done systematically by enticing and moving Sidama youth from rural parts of Sidama zone toward Hawassa city, according to witnesses. We fear such illegal tactics will worsen the human rights situation on the ground and damage public trust both on the upcoming referendum and the 2020 election. The NEBE must act quickly to restore credibility of the referendum process.
Proceeding with the scheduled referendum without investigating these widespread fraudulent identification cards activities will have deadly consequences on human life; and it sets a dangerous precedent that the Ethiopian government rewards demographic engineering.
In addition to WCHR sources, various local media outlets, including the Awasa Guardian (AG) have confirmed these allegations of fraud inside the SNNPR capital city. On its September 26 publication, the AG said there are “hundreds of unauthorized identification cards to non-residents from Sidama zone.”
Due to these issues, NEBE must reject and investigate all new IDs handed out to non-residents since 2011 EC. Otherwise, the November referendum must be postponed indefinitely until further investigation.
WCHR has documented the demographic engineering tactics by the local Sidama zone authorities into Hawassa city, as evidenced by comparing the Hawasa wereda 1994 Census to the 2007 Census. But the recent rapid changes last year appear to be UNPRECEDENTED in Hawassa history. Unlike small towns, major Ethiopian cities like Hawassa, Addis Ababa, Adama and Dire Dawa have ethnically balanced diverse populations which contributed to their own economic advancements over century. Instead of keeping this balanced ethnic representation, any new political attempts to suddenly change the demography of such major cities creates the foundation for ethnic conflict and xenophobic violence; especially more attacks on our Wolayta people living in Hawassa.
The WCHR applauds Prime Minister Abiy government’s recent crackdown on the perpetrators of the 2018 Wolayta massacre but more needs to be done. However, WCHR is also concerned with the involvement of corrupt Wolayta zone officials in pushing for Wolayta statehood in order to change their corrupt image. Wolayta residents know the corrupt SEPDM local officials who stole budget money from their own people. Corrupt Wolayta Officials who can not be trusted with properly using small tax money allocated for Wolayta zone can not be expected to properly handle larger tax money allocated directly to a regional state, if Wolayta indeed gains statehood. Therefore, WCHR advises the government of Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed to bring justice against corrupt Wolayta officials, instead of letting them hide under the statehood demand process.
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