November 23, 2019 (Ezega.com) — The Sidama zone has become the 10th Ethiopian regional state after its people won a landslide victory in the recent referendum.
Out of the total voters, 98.51 percent, numbering 2, 227,063, voted in favor of self-rule of the Sidama zone and the remaining 1.48 percent or 33,463 voted against the self-rule of the zone, according to preliminary results of the referendum announced by the National Electoral Board of Ethiopia (NEBE) on Saturday, November 23, 2019.
The board disclosed that there was high voter turnout and out the total 2,280,147 registered voters, 99.86 percent numbering 2,277,063 casted ballots.
“Despite the compressed time period for the elections and the tense political environment in the country, the Sidama referendum, which was held on 20 November 2019, across the Sidama zone was peaceful and no major critical incident was reported on polling day,” the election board said.
The referendum has taken place as planned and in several polling stations, people patiently waited for long hours to participate in a historic vote to decide whether Sidama should become the newest regional state (represented by the “Shaffetta” symbol) or remain as part of the Southern regional state (represented by the “Gojo” symbol), the board added.
According to the board, 6,843 election officials drawn from Addis Ababa and Oromia regional states were deployed after the necessary training and manual were given.
The statehood drive by the Sidama, who makes up approximately about four percent of Ethiopia’s more than 100 million people, goes back decades but gained fresh impetus after Abiy Ahmed became prime minister in April 2018.
Currently, about 10 of the 13 zones that make up the South Nations Nationalities Peoples Region SNNPR have been calling for their zones to be upgraded to regional states, potentially leading to the eventual dissolution of Southern regional state.
The constitutional demand by the Sidama people to become a regional state followed deadly ethnic violence in southern Ethiopia and elsewhere in the country during the recent national political transition.
The Ethiopian constitution is unequivocal in granting ethnic groups the right to self-administration up to cessation. It also allows for breakaway states if such demand arises by a certain ethnic group.