Since Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed (PhD) came to power in April, the news cycle in Ethiopia surely went three or four times faster than it was. The way too many things happen, both commentators and the public just had time to wrap their heads around what unfolds in front of their eyes. And everything happens at a detachable speed.
The decision adopted last week by the regular meeting of the Council of Nations Nations and the Regional State of Nations (SNNPRS) was rather a monumental political development that did not receive the attention it deserves in public forums. The bold decision of the regional council to accept and process the long-standing search of the Sidama people for an independent (regional) state power is perhaps one of the most important decisions of this decade for the federal state of Ethiopia.
At the initiative of the two-thirds majority at the Zonal level, the Council accepted the proposal submitted to the Sidama peoples for a separate regional administration leaving the SNNPRS. Since the proposal had already fulfilled the required majority at the Zonal Council level, the role of the State Council is indeed to move forward and facilitate a referendum to ascertain the popular support of the proposal.
According to Article 47 of the FDRE Constitution, any nation, nationality or people can form its own regional state, given that the council of the concerned society has approved it by a two-thirds majority. Then, what the nation, nationality or the people did to present their decision together with a request for the Regional Council is to organize a referendum. The regional council, for its part, is expected to hold a referendum within one year of submitting the application to the regional council.
If the result of the referendum is in line with the majority of the society concerned supporting the proposal, then the regional council will begin the process of transferring authority and resources to the newly formed region that eventually becomes a member of the federation.
Notwithstanding this provision of the Constitution, no nation, nationality or people has so far achieved a self-governing regional situation since the formation of the Ethiopian Federation three decades ago. But this is not because of the lack of demand, according to commentators, but a strong political commitment at party and government level that virtually collapses or delays such demands.
And Sidama's people are pioneers in pushing for self-determination and independent statehood. As a result, the Zonal Council, which met in August, unanimously voted for the statehood of Sidama separated from the SNNPRS, which was eventually transferred to the regional council in accordance with the provisions of the Constitution. When it is implemented, Sidama will be the first to form a separate state since the creation of the federation. Despite the almost non-existent reservations about the rights of Sidama's people to form a separate region, many comment on the consequences it could have for the future of the federation. In addition, he brought back the debate about the disadvantages of the kind of federalism in Ethiopia.
Sentences about the federation
The federal system in Ethiopia is peculiar in nature that the federation's members are formed on the basis of ethnic lines highlighted, inter alia, by language and culture. This selected federal settlement model has been and continues to be one of the most controversial issues in Ethiopian politics. While there are strong arguments on the ethnic basis of the federal settlement, on the grounds that the current system has given the various ethnic groups in Ethiopia the right to self-government and has decided on their destiny, there are some who are convinced that this form of federalism leads to ethnic conflicts and the final decay of the nation.
In addition to these generalized criticisms of the form of the federation established by the 1995 Constitution, and in particular the rationale behind the concentration of more than 56 nations, ethnicities and peoples under the Southern Regional State Administration are subject to strict controls by over the years. particularly in comparison with the Harari regional state, which is the smallest region of the federation with regard to the population. In fact, Harari is significantly smaller compared to most of the SNNPRS bands. While most of the regional states in the country are named after the majority of ethnicity residing in the region, SNNPRS is named after a direction that was also a point of dispute between political elites and scholars.
Assefa Fiseha, a well-known expert at the University of Addis Ababa, comments in his teaching material that once regional administrations are formed on the basis of ethnic lines, Ethiopia could have up to 80 and more regional states if the provisions of the Constitution strictly enforced. He also notes that political elites who believe they have been marginalized by political power tend to push for the establishment of a separate regional state.
In addition, Assefa predicts in his 2009 educational material that "The fear is that there is continued competition among some political elites to control regional authority at the expense of others, and this seems to feed those who feel marginalized at the regional level to raise issues of further reconstruction of new areas of administrations, Weredas and even new states, thus bringing the threat of opening the so-called "Pandora's box" with him. with more than 56 ethnic groups, it's hard to tell where it could end. "
The cause of Sidama
The acceptance by the Regional Council of Sidama's question of creating a separate area is not surprising to many as it has been for over 20 years. The question remained largely unanswered and was the cause of ethnically charged conflicts in Hawassa and its environment.
But the question was not put on the council table until last week. To keep the question unanswered, the South Korean Ethiopian People's Democratic Movement (SEPDM), the regional government party and one of the four EPRDF members have played an important role. As with the EPRDF, any decision is taken within the party before it becomes public, ie they say the zonal council commentators, sending the issue for decades.
Despite this, disappointed by rising ethnic conflicts in the region, the regional party in its 10th Congress decided that all public demands must be dealt with in accordance with the Constitution and this gave the green light to Sidama's people to vote Zonal Council.
Although Sidama Zonal Council submitted its request for a referendum to the regional state council in August, the security situation in the region at that time played a role in delaying until last week. According to regional president Million Matewos, the regional constitution foresees that the regional council meets at least twice a year.
"The regional council has accepted the issue to be implemented in accordance with the Constitution, as the issue has remained and the party has decided that all questions by the public should be answered," Million said, adding that "the decision is to organize a referendum in co-operation with the institutions concerned. "
The Sidama Ijeto, that is, youth, which fits with it Qeero of Oromo, has repeatedly raised this question and the question has been repeated over the course of conflicts in and around Hawassa. In a conversation conducted by Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed (Dr.) With the representatives of the Hawassa community after the deadly conflict in the city and its surroundings, the question of forming a separate region was a point of contention in Sidama and the capital of the region. Abiy replied by advising that the pros and cons of such requirements are very difficult.
The prime minister also dealt with the same questions from Wolaitta and Gurage Zones during his trip to visit and discuss conflicting parts of the region in successive days after Hawassa. He gave the same answers in the cases of Wolaitta Sodo, the headquarters of Wolaitta Zone and Wolkite, the headquarters of Gurage.
The effect of Domino
Even through this, only Sidama has formally asked the regional government to form a separate area under the Constitution, this does not mean that there are no similar requirements from other areas of the region. Some also observe that successful completion of Sidama's question could also cause a domino effect that makes questions from other ethnic groups almost inevitable.
For example, a lecturer at Wolaitta Sodo University, who spoke The reporter on condition of anonymity, stated that there is widespread support for Wolaitta forming its own regional state, especially from young people who go by the name Yelagaa. But he wonders why the administration zone has maintained a lot about an issue that has widespread support from the public.
According to sources, the SEPDM conference has also received multiple requests for a separate regional state, including Kaffa, Sheka, Bench Maji, Wolaitta, Guraghe and the like. A Sidama woman also raised the issue of Sidama at the EPRDF conference, sources added.
Due to the fact that these questions stem from the requirement for equal development benefits and would be difficult to manage if everyone has been detained, Regional President Million also noted that the regional government commissioned a study to benefit equally from the developments observed .
"The required result may fail if disruption occurs," added Million.
However, the Constitution explicitly states that every nation and nationality in the country has the right to form a separate regional state. although it is difficult to benefit people from development. Even if the benefits are gained, nothing prevents a nation from consolidating its own region.
The Constitution does not mention anything about the statement of the regional council on the request for an independent state, apart from accepting the issue and holding a referendum. The federal government has no role in the process. As a result, commentators say that nothing can prevent nations from forming their own separate states.
The marks are already out there. which was widely observed during a demonstration in the Bonga city of the Kaffa zone this week was a popular requirement for self-government. Although the protesters went to the streets for two consecutive days to denounce Jimma's recognition by the Cafe and Tchaikou Development Authority for Jima as the birthplace of Cafe, the last place of rest was the question of self-determination.
Hawassa and asset division
Another discussion that comes with Sidama's quest for statehood is the fate of Hawassa – currently serving as both regional and Zonal capital. "It will keep up with Sidama as it is in the Sidama belt or take a different form" is another matter strongly debated. Commentators question whether it is better for Hawassa to be a federal entity. and what will happen to the former and newly established regions by finding a capital city. Both of these ideas have supporters. According to sources, Hawassa has been a point of debate given its exponential growth over the last 20 years with contributions from each area in the region. The city blooms mainly thanks to the investment that flocks to Hawassa with promotions won as SNNPR's headquarters.
However, the regional president ruled out all these speculations by saying that Hawassa will remain part of Sidama as he is in it.
"The question of Hawassa can not be seen in the separation with Sidama," he argued.
Asked if there are candidates who will be the next regional seat, Million said he "has not yet".
While this is still in the air, the question of asset segregation should become Sidama an independent area is another area of challenges. Of course, much of the asset to be distributed between the established and the new region is definitely grown in Hawassa.
Although the federal constitution provides for the division of assets in Article 39 and the regional constitution provides the same, the country does not have a legal framework that could govern these practices. Legal commentators who spoke The reporter predict that the issue could be the only thing that hinders the process of forming the Sidama region.
However, the million are not concerned about the issue. He says that as the regional government has experience in woreda bordering and restructuring, which also requires a division of assets, they will set up a commission and implement it.
However, a high-level lawyer working in the area has reservations about it. He says that the asset related to the restructuring of the woredas and the zones is very small and will not exceed the vehicles and some money for the construction of offices. Since they are also under an administrative area, they are easy to apply. But this is in areas that require the federal government's involvement, which could not do without a legal framework. Hence, either the federal government is making a hasty law or the issue of shaping a regional government for Sidama may be delayed.
The fate of SEPDM
Another question here is also what will be the fate of SEPDM when its regional constituency will be fragmented. Some say that, for the time being, Sidama will set up its own party to run the regional government, and SEPDM will continue to lead the rest of the region.
But, in what form could the Sidama party have, what kind of relationship they have with the EPRDF is something we have to wait and see.
Some also observe that if all areas of administration demand their constitutional rights to form a separate state, it would be the beginning of the SEPDM fee.