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HomeOpinionThe Sidama Referendum and its Aftermath in Awassa

The Sidama Referendum and its Aftermath in Awassa

Ethiopian authorities _ Hawassa _ sidama

By Damo Gotamo
January 29, 2020

The Sidama referendum created a new Kelil. Many were appalled by the process, which was utterly disorganized and marred by illegal activities. People in charge of conducting the referendum were the same ethnic extremist who used to organize and send unemployed youth to disturb the peace of Awassa. The National Election Board of Ethiopia (NEBE) did not prevent the vote-rigging and was as inept as ever. Those who were brought to Awassa to observe the referendum, and paid 10 thousand birrs each for their services from the government, easily failed to the charms and corrupt practices of the Sidama extremists. According to residents of the city, the observers were bribed by Sidama extremists to turn the other way when massive voter fraud was taking place at polling stations.

Even before the vote for the Sidama statehood took place, the Sidam Kelil was a fait accompli. After what had transpired before and during the vote, it was clear to many people that Sidama would be the tenth Kelil. Before the vote, PM Abiy watched when the ethnic extremists were wreaking havoc in the second largest city of the country. He refrained from taking decisive action against the thugs who were engaged in a year-long lawlessness, resulting in the collapse of the city’s economy. Many people believed the government left the thugs free to do whatever they wanted. No government would have tolerated the anarchy perpetrated by the Sidama extremists in Awassa.

During the vote, the government did not take appropriate actions when the Sidama ethnic entrepreneurs engaged in illegal activities, which helped them alter the result overwhelmingly in their favor. Ethnic thugs in charge of the process literally twisted the hands of many voters to cast their votes in favor of Kelil. They were not questioned when they issued millions of illegal IDs and brought thousands of people from the villages in the Sidama zone to cast ballots in Awassa.

After the result of the referendum was announced, things have not gone well for the Sidama ethnic entrepreneurs. To say they are confused and in disarray is an understatement.

By virtue of their illegal position in Awassa, the thugs are holding the residents of Awassa hostages. They refuse to provide government services unless they receive bribes, attack the non-Sidama residents using their government positions. Awassa has become a city where a few racist thugs do whatever they want with impunity.

In the post Sidama referendum, things are not as rosy as they seemed for Sidama extremists. The ethnic entrepreneurs expected a smooth ride after the referendum. They expected money to flow from the federal government, in millions, if not in the billions. They thought everything in Awassa would be under their control. Their urge to celebrate in front of the people whom they consider as the enemy was barred by the government, rightfully so. According to my sources, bickering and backstabbing have been going between the different groups, each claiming responsibility for the outcome of the vote.

The Sidama ethnic entrepreneurs made many empty and embarrassing promises to the gullible Sidama youth to achieve their wicked objective. They told Ejjeetos that they would be as rich as Croesus once Sidama became a Kelil. The youth was told the properties in Awassa would be taken from the rightful owners and given to them. It was also promised that an astronomical amount of rent would be charged on federal buildings in Awassa, and the money would be diverted to the Sidama youth. The yokels who are congesting the bureaucracy in Awassa even went as far as promising the youth to provide them with government housing by evicting the non-Sidamas. To achieve their flagitious objective, the Sidama ethnic entrepreneurs secretly prepared a proposal to raise the rent on government-owned houses intended to discourage the current occupants from staying in the properties. Furthermore, unpleasant happenings unforeseen before the referendum are compounding the misery of the Sidama ethnic entrepreneurs.

Since the announcement of the result of the referendum, infighting has become rampant between various Sidama groups, who claim they alone represent the interest of the Sidama people. Different groups are taking credit for the outcome of the referendum and jockeying for a special privilege and position in the new state. A source tells me that some groups have even been arming themselves for protection against the other groups. The dwindling of illegal income is compounding the misery of the ethnic thugs in Awassa.

Sources of money are rapidly drying for ethnic entrepreneurs, who have been sucking the blood of Awassa residents for years. Because of their reckless behaviors and illegal activities that hurt the economy of the city, getting illegal monies have become exceedingly difficult. Besides, the government has tightened up the budget, which prevented the scammers from receiving per diem as many times as before. My sources are telling me that the Sidama ethnic entrepreneurs have been investigated by outside financial auditors.

The investigators are unearthing deeply shocking mismanagement and waste of the government’s money. For example, last year alone, many individuals received up to one hundred thousand birrs in per diem payment. The same sources are telling me that four billons of birr are missing, which were supposedly used for micro-financing of small businesses in the region.

Awassa is still in the grips of incompetent and corrupt ethnic extremists who are holding the city residents hostage. The rubes occupying government offices are refusing to provide government services to citizens unless they receive hefty bribes. People who want to take part in investment projects in Awassa are turned away because of the huge amount of bribes they are required to pay to the thugs masquerading as government officials.

The ethnic entrepreneurs have engaged in several schemes to make up for the lack of money, causing severe distress on the residents of Awassa. For example, they have been forcing the city residents to pay property taxes before the due date. They would prepare letters and take it to the homes and business places to force the owners to pay taxes. I witnessed residents being harassed at coffee shops and streets.

After residents are forced to pay their taxes early, they still would not receive the government services they have requested. They waste their valuable time wondering from one government office to another, and must pay bribes to receive them. Ethnic ticks, who have congested the government’s bureaucracy are breaching the country’s law, not only by forcing people to pay taxes early, but also demanding bribes for every little government services. They receive their salaries from the government to abuse people and deny services. Nothing gets done in the city unless the residents pay bribes.

Awassa is relived from the type of lawlessness people used to see before the infamous 11-11-11. The government has effectively punished the Ejjeetos criminals and brought a semblance of order in the city. According to my sources, no single theft was reported during this year’s Kulubi Gabriel celebration. However, the city is still run by the Ejjeetto sympathizers and corrupt ethnic thugs, addicted to bribes and per diem payments.

The new mayor of Awassa has done little to restore the confidence of city residents in the government and spur economic activities of the city. Other than conducting meetings and making empty promises, he has not taken decisive actions against notoriously venal individuals, who are still occupying key positions in the city. Arbitrary arrests and harassment are still common, and the non-Sidamas are abused and extorted under the mayor’s watch.

The attack on non-Sidama who are working in Awassa has continued unabated. This time around the abuse is very subtle, the police, the illiterate bureaucrats and judges, who are hailing from a single ethnic group, working in concert to force out non-Sidamas from government employment and housing. Falsely accusing and jailing the non-Sidama is common. The government has done nothing to address the problem.

Economic activities in Awassa have not improved in the post-referendum Awassa. The real estate market is still stagnant, affecting property owners and the government. Ethnic thugs have chased home buyers and investors away from the city. People are still wary about the security of Awassa and thugs who have become impediments to the economic growth of the city.

Construction of new homes has slowed down, affecting many people who used to make a living from the sector. Hotel occupancy has only been 10 percent. Many hotels have laid off their workers and are struggling to pay property taxes being imposed beyond their incomes.

Tourists are not visiting Awassa as before, and the city looks like a ghost city. In the recently celebrated annual Kulubi Gabriel holiday, the city entertained far fewer people than expected. Many chose not to show up, and those who showed up booked hotels in Shashamane and left Awassa hurriedly.

In conclusion, the Sidama referendum for statehood was a messy process, tainted by massive fraudulent activities that took place before and during the vote. The Sidama extremists got way with a serious crime, thanks to the government of PM Abiy. However, the honeymoon is over, and the thugs are holding the residents of Awassa hostage in their own city, undermining the economic development of the city.

Awassa, the home of the largest Industrial Park in Africa and the second biggest city in Ethiopia, is in a state of dysfunction after the result of the Sidama referendum was announced. The Sidama extremists are sabotaging the economic development of the city by preventing services to citizens and discouraging investors. Their addiction to bribes and their racist attitude toward non-Sidama is chasing away investors from the city. They force people to pay bribes for every little service they require. Many homeowners are under tremendous distress because of the decrease in the value of their properties.

Incompetent thugs who are occupying the government bureaucracy and police force are engaged in abusing and harassing citizens who live and work in Awassa.

The new mayor in the city so far has done very little to relive people from corrupt thugs. The people of the city are still being harassed by the sympathizers of the Ejjeettos.

The federal government needs to stop babysitting the Sidama extremists and tend to the people’s interest in Awassa. It is unacceptable in a country where there is a functioning government, the largest city in the country is run by illiterates addicted to kickbacks. People with a third degree education and forged diploma, and right out of small villages must not be allowed to destroy one of the largest cities in Ethiopia.

Awassa needs to be under the control of the federal government before things get out of hand. The city cannot afford to be run by people who do not know what they are doing except collecting bribes and chasing investors from the city.

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