Ethiopian Election Board disclosed Sidama referendum result

Sidama referendum result known. Ethiopia’s election board says less than 4 percent of voters voted for existing administrative arrangement. Some consider the result as a win for radical ethnic Oromo nationalists including within the government

Ethiopian election board _ Sidama referendum
Symbols used in Sidama referendum. Shafeta (left), Gojo (right)

November 23, 2019

National Election Board of Ethiopia (NEBE) disclosed on Saturday the preliminary results of the Sidama referendum. It was organized to determine Sidama zone demand for a separate ethnic Sidama statehood, and to end zone level administration within the Southern Nations, Nationalities, and People’s Region.

The referendum was administered on November 20, 2019. 

According to NEBE, the result shows that ethnic Sidama communities in Sidema zone voted for creating a separate ethnic Sidama state. 

A statistic released by the board shows that 2,225,249 people voted “shafeta” – a traditional food for ethnic Sidama – a symbol used to represent a separate ethnic Sidama statehood. 

Sidama referendum result
Result chart released by Ethiopian election board

33,463   people voted Gojo ( cottage ) – and this symbol was used to represent remaining part of Southern Nations, Nationalities, and People’s Region.

In percentages, 98.51 % of voters voted in favor of separate ethnic Sideman statehood while 1.48 % voted to remain part of the existing regional state.

The election board also said that 18,351 votes are void. 

As in any other parts of Ethiopia, Sidama zone has minority ethnic communities. And their number is believed to surpass the number of people who voted for “no” in the referendum. What is suggests, assuming that there are no irregularities, a considerable number of ethnic minorities from different ethnic backgrounds either have boycotted the election or they have voted for a separate ethnic Sidama  state. 

Ethiopia has currently 9 ethnic based regional state and Sidama state is going to be the the 10 regional state based on the result from the national election board.

On the other hand, there are voices from the region that the election, especially in Hawassa city, is marred by irregularities. 

Hawassa city has been the seat of  Southern Nations, Nationalities, and People’s Regional state for nearly three decades. During these years, the city has changed very much as it has attracted both public and private investments. It has become Ethiopia’s resort city.

For political pundits, Sidama statehood question has been a strategic issue for ethnic Oromo radical nationalists both in opposition and government. Ejeto, radical ethnic Sidama youth, itself is modeled after radicalized ethnic Oromo nationalist youth Qeerroo, have demonstrated remarkable resemblance in their political characters.  Violence that took place in the Oromo region of Ethiopia and in Sidama were fueled by similar ethnic nationalist narrative. 

Analysts says Oromo nationalists strategy in Southern Ethiopia is to disintegrate the region in a way to weaken collective Ethiopian values and culture so that the region could be an easy target for Oromization. 

Several other zone level administrations in the region have demanded for separate statehood too.  

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