Shrugging off the Sidama’s Quest by the Ethiopian Government Must Come to an End by Urgently Fixing the Date for Referendum

Shrugging off the Sidama’s Quest by the Ethiopian Government Must Come to an End by Urgently Fixing the Date for Referendum

Press Statement by Peoples Alliance for Freedom and Democracy (PAFD)

May 09, 2019

One of the PAFD’s founding members and staunch supporter of the national causes of various nations and peoples in Ethiopia is the Sidama nation. However, the Sidama is also one of the nations whose demands for self-rule were repeatedly turned down by EPRDF for the past 28 years. Evidences show that, the Sidama in the south of Ethiopia has been at loggerheads with EPRDF and its agent- the SNNPRS. The Sidama remains in the forefront of discontents and attack of numerous interest groups in addition to the consorted negative campaigns of those who oppose to the concept of ethnic federalism. As the rest of our members including the Oromo, Gambela, Benshangul, Shakacho (Mocha) and various other nations; the Sidama nation has been persistently targeted by EPRDF for a simple reasons of economic exploitation and socio-political marginalisation; the unlawful action that has crippled and socio-culturally subjugated the nation by placing it on precarious and undignifying position.

As the FDRE’s constitution guarantees, the Sidama nation has repeatedly demanded to manage its own affairs in order for it to develop its economy, culture; language and ways of life thereby restore its rights and privileges by becoming a national regional state. For this reason, among others, nearly 13 years ago it has unanimously decided to be a regional state although this has been reversed by the decision of late PM and deliberate ploys of then internal and external interest groups. Furthermore, during the previous attempts of the Sidama nation whilst the former PM Hailemariam Desalegn was the president of SNNPRS, the nation staged on a peaceful demonstration; yet peaceful demonstrators were responded with live bullets. The unarmed over 69 civilians were gunned down in broad day light in Looqee village in the outskirt of Hawassa, on May 24, 2002. We noted that the Sidama civilians were carrying the leaves of green trees and country’s flags to show their peacefulness and civility.

We have also noted that the Sidama nation has been forcibly amalgamated into the amorphous regional state of the Southern Ethiopia Nations, Nationalities and Peoples Regional State (SNNPRS) that has been created by merging the former five regional states by the sole decision of late PM Meles Zenawi. We believe that the Sidama nation must be free and has got every right to demand for the mandate to manage its own affairs for the nation to be able to lift its people from poverty and indignity systematically masterminded by EPRDF. We also noted that the EPRDF’s government has dismantled the Sidama’s Rural Development Initiatives such as SDP/SDC- incepted and run by the Sidama professionals and supported by the international donors to leave the nation in such debilitating poverty.

Due to this, we are aware of that, the Sidama nation is in the process of pushing forward with its quest for self-rule; cognizant of the political and economic marginalisation of the nation by the regime for the last 28 years. This is the reason why the Sidama Zone has renewed nation’s over 130 years old search for genuine self-rule by unanimously endorsing the demand for its national regional statehood during its July 18, 2018 emergency summit of Hawassa. We strongly believe that the only way forward for assuring the future of the Sidama is honouring the constitution. Following the unanimous agreement of the Sidama Zone council; the SNNPRS’s council has been notified as the constitution mandates it on ‘Article 47, sub article 3 a-d’. The SNNPRS’s council has endorsed the demand and sent it to the Ethiopian election board by asking it to fix the date for referendum and run it on its behalf as soon as it can. We noted that the Sidama nation to date is patiently waiting for the responses of the federal and regional governments to fix the date for its referendum.

However, we are aware of that the Ethiopian election board to date remains oblivious by totally disregarding the demand of the SNNPRS, instead using riffraff excuses incompatible with constitutional rights of the demanding nation and endorsing region. To date there is no sign of government’s inclination to addressing such extremely serious issue by respecting the country’s constitution despite the Sidama nation has demonstrated loyalty to and full support of the reformed government. We have also noted that due to the delay of the response in fixing the date; the Sidama nation is using all peaceful approaches with its repeated peaceful demonstrations including the Sidama elders’ summit in its Hawassa ‘Guduumale where the elders unanimously demanded the government to respond to the Sidama’s quest for self-rule. Additionally, we have noted that the following peaceful demonstrations have taken place in Sidama land for the same purpose including on February 21, 2019 entitled ‘Gaado I’ led by the Sidama Ejjeetto where between 0.8 and 1 million Sidama people of all walks of life staged on a peaceful demonstration; on March 13, 2019, three (3) days stay-in call (Gaado II) for the entire Sidama region that has been successfully conducted; and the most and an historic followed on the 9th of April 2019 by only Sidama women and girls led peaceful demonstration.

During an historic woman only run demonstration; grandmothers and mothers, lactating mothers and university and high school girls have attended and strongly denounced the delay and demanded the Ethiopian government to urgently fix the date and run the referendum. This demonstration was the first in its kind not only in Ethiopia but also in the entire Africa- similar to the anti-Trump march by only women in the USA (2017) and Women’s suffrage of the UK (1918). As the new PM has repeatedly vowed to make sure that women’s voices are heard and has also claimed of filling up his cabinet with 50% women; the PAFD finds it extremely hard to believe thus notes inconsistence when the PM ignores the voices of over 1 million Sidama women and girls.

Tragically, we have also noted that the Ethiopian government neither uttered a single word about the women’s demands nor officially or unofficially responded to the demands of the nation during all the three demonstrations whose objective was the same. To date our partner believes that, the Ethiopian government remains oblivious of its cause and disrespectful of the nation despite the PM’s promises to honour the constitution. We the PAFD member political organisations unanimously condemn the repeated denial of the government to the Sidama people’s quest for self- rule and see it as a totally disrespectful act of the whole Sidama nation. Therefore, we urge the Ethiopian government to abide with the rule of law by honouring the country’s supreme law.

Furthermore, we strongly advise the Ethiopian government to carefully handle such sensitive quests at this fluid politico-social and economic atmosphere by only honouring the constitution. Besides, the Sidama is peacefully pushing with its demand in a highly organised and civilised manner in the face of coordinated campaigns that are attempting to portray the nation’s legitimate struggle for self-rule in a negative manner. Contrary to the indicated, however, we fully endorse the Sidama’s move toward its national regional statehood that has been granted to various nations in Ethiopia whose population is 18 times smaller than Sidama. Thus, we urge the Ethiopian government to urgently fix and date, legally and constitutionally respond to the Sidama’s quest for its belated national regional self-rule during the remaining ‘72’ days before the end of its deadline on July 18, 2019.

Finally, the PAFD would like to make it unambiguously clear that, failing to respond to the Sidama’s constitutionally guaranteed peaceful demands will be costly to the federal and regional governments, to our partner Sidama, the wider country and the region at large. For any eventualities, both the federal and SNNPRS’s politicians remain sole responsible in front of the Ethiopia’s and international law for repeatedly failing to honour its constitution. We reiterate that, our partner the Sidama nation is entitled to and continues with its rightful struggle until it asserts its national regional statehood. Therefore, we stand by the Sidama and the other subjugated nations of the country until the rule of law is consistently, equally and fairly applied to all in Ethiopia.

Freedom and Justice for All Peoples in Ethiopia!
Issued by PAFD on May 09, 2019