September 5, 2020
Sidaama, an old province in par with thirteen others, was unjustifiably reduced to a zone. The Sidaama nation is not only demographically higher than others in southern Ethiopia but also endowed with natural resources and possesses a higher level polity. It is well known in history for the bravery of its warriors. The most fascinating aspect of Sidaama culture is their kindness and accommodative behaviour. It is easy to find ease of mind among the Sidaama folks, young and old, if you care to reciprocate without reservation. When you approach a Sidaama native you hear a phrase which you would love to know the meaning of. You will certainly be humbled by the meaning of the phrase: “Dawoe Bushshu”. The literal meaning is just “Welcome”, but internally it means “let me die before you do”.
There is an almost endless list of things to say about Sidama; but the subject of this opinion piece on Sidaama is about how the new National Regional State (SNRS) handled its new administrative status vis-a-vis its beautiful Capital. Hawassa is a cosmopolitan City. This attribute of the City has given it the advantage over other regional cities to draw a large flow of investment and the in-migration of best talents from all over Ethiopia. Besides the comfortably accommodative host society the fact that Amharic continued to become the City’s medium of communication created ease for the flocking business people to live and work in Hawassa without the obligation to learn Sidaama language for everyday use.
The reason for the decision to elect Amharic as the official language in the City follows the adoption of Amharic as a working language by the SNNPR, a Region which speaks 56 languages in contrast to the single language regions of Somali, Afar, etc. During the tortuous march to Sidaama statehood there were widespread anxieties about the fate of non- Sidaama in a new SNRS. It is expected for Sidaama Regional State to make Sidaama language the official language of the State. As the State includes its Capital Hawassa, the bulk of the population of which is Amharic speaking non-Sidaama, the Regional State fell in a dilemma: Enjoy its right of using Sidaama language as an official working language and respect the right of non-Sidaamas to continue to use Amharic for official purposes. The magic for the expansion and wealth of Hawassa within such a short time is nothing but in- migration from everywhere. Had the Sidaama Region been too rigid to exercise its right about language then the consequences could harm not only the non-Sidaama residents but also the Sidaama Region itself. Investment would decline and unemployment would rise as a result. Non-Sidaama residents could leave the City degrading its economic power and attractiveness.
Sidaama officials became realistic and aware of the merits and demerits of installing Sidaama language as an official working language in Hawassa and made a wise and courageous decision to retain the language status quo in the Sidaama Capital Hawassa. The wisdom of Sidaama could be adopted in similar cities in Oromia in order to avoid the tragic violence that is very easily triggered against non-Oromos.
Join the conversation. Like borkena on Facebook and get Ethiopian News updates regularly. As well, you may get Ethiopia News by following us on twitter @zborkena