Sidama declares state of impatience

There may be a unilateral self-declaration of a new Sidama regional state due to government inaction

Three weeks ago, crowds of mostly Sidama women held a protest to demand Sidama’s constitutional right for a state and expressed dissatisfaction with the delay in organizing the referendum. Unless the regional and federal governments act in little more than two months, more radical action may be taken.

While the Sidama people await a response, the implication of Gaado Furra demonstration and two previous Gaados—at Hawassa International Stadium, and Gaado II which was a three days stay-home protest—are that this issue must be swiftly addressed. If the referendum is not held before July 19, Sidama people may push for unilateral self-declaration, a position that was backed by Sidama Zone’s government.

The July 18, 2018 decision was made after all 19 woredas and 2 city administrations in the zone voted to push the case for a Sidama state.  Through the demonstrations, Sidama people have shown its peaceful opposition to the government failure to undertake referendum.

The protest was named Gaado Furra after the ancient Sidama queen. The message on April 9 was that the government must listen to the people and Sidama expect their sacrifices to be finally rewarded with self-rule of their own state.

Placards said: “We love Ethiopia but we ask Sidama people’s right”, and “We Sidama support federalism and oppose unitarianism”. The young, mothers, and even grandmothers carried signs stating: “We will not forget the loss of our children, husband and brothers life while marching for referendum”. The march showed women can go to the streets and fight for the community’s right. This latest protest is expected to be the final signal to the government to respect its constitution.

The Sidama people have been repeatedly demanding their own region for last 27 years since EPDRF came to power. The latest response has been silence, although the constitution says a referendum should be conducted within a year. Youth movement Ejjeetto is driving the campaign.

The April 9 demonstration in Hawassa; submitted

Under the federation’s founding document, to achieve statehood, two-thirds of the legislature of the relevant district must vote for the move, and then the next tier of government, in this case the SNNPRS administration, must organize a “referendum” within one year of receiving the request.

Sidama is Ethiopia’s most populous zone and the autonomy demand goes back many generations. The Sidama are a Cushitic people whose territory was conquered during Shewan military campaigns in late 1800s. A large majority are Christian and they make-up around half of the population of Hawassa, which is the capital of SNNPRS and Sidama Zone.

SNNPRS, which amalgamated five provinces of the Derg military regime overthrown in 1991, has 56 ethnic communities that comprise around one-fifth of Ethiopia’s 100 million people. The country’s smallest region, Harari, has less than 200,000 people, compared to the approximately four-million strong Sidama, according to a 2015 estimate.

There are nine regions listed in Article 47 of the Constitution, which also details the process for forming a new regional state. The federal government is responsible for all laws governing elections and the National Electoral Board of Ethiopia (NEBE) for conducting all national and regional elections.

NEBE has not yet decided a date

During discussions with Sidama elders, academics, and others, the Prime Minister showed his government’s commitment to address the question. Yet NEBE has not yet decided a date nor responded to a letter requesting assistance from SNNPRS Council office. NEBE spokesperson Soleyana Shimeles said on April 23 that the Sidama question requires further preparation because it is the first referendum on statehood.

The Council could have decided the date it was going to organize the referendum and notified NEBE, asking only for logistical support. Chief of Sidama Zone Administration, Karre Chawicha and the Council representatives pressed NEBE, but they came back empty handed. The delay is apparently partly as the board is in the process of being reestablished.

But there is no formal need for negotiation with or recognition from the central government. The Ethiopian constitutional arrangement, unlike many, does not give any power to the federal authority to decide on the formation of new regions. So ultimately, Sidama people could unilaterally declare their own state because of the unjustified delay in providing assistance for a referendum.

Query or correction? Email us

This is the author’s Viewpoint. However, Ethiopia Insight will correct clear factual errors.

Main photo: The April 9 demonstration in Hawassa; submitted

Published under Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International licence. Cite Ethiopia Insight and link to this page if republished. 

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About the author

Yohanan Yokamo

Yohanan is a law lecturer at Hawassa University


  • Great Idea.
    For Constitutional Quest, Constitutional Response!
    The struggle of Sidama bears fruit!
    God Bless Ethiopia!

  • very nice and i would like say you are great man and you documented the all things. thank you very much!

    • Thanks. We all have a duty to tell the truth to world. Sidama is peaceful people demanding constitutional right for long years ago.

  • Whatever the day is long and dark for Sidama, i hope one day the sun will shine upon the people of Sidama!!!
    Government have been burying Sidama due to his quest of being statehood. Asking and reflecting your right in constitutional way is not ethical in Ethiopia. Because of our government hears a people or team who holds stone and closes the road. But it is not right beside Sidama even traditionally.

  • Sidama people have legitimate birth right for self administration, including for statehood. Only fans of Amhara empire builders oppose to Sidama’s right. Easier to see dismantled Ethiopia than to see the hungry empire builders coming back. Keep moving on our Sidama brothers and sisters.

  • This is one-sided foolish view which doesn’t consider remaining 55 nation’s of south that together built thier capital. Such observations are mostly not expected from the likes working in the mentioned position.

  • Thank you lawyer yohanan yokamo for your continous support and update on sidama national regional state formation. We expect more from you!!

  • “That’s the current discourse in the country….Backwardness by excellence.” Kibur Gena

  • Who will be next to declare Ethnic Statehood (Killil) from the south? Will it be .Wolayita, Gammo, Goffa, Hadeya, Kembata, etc…. One thing is clear, if Sidama becomes killil, all other ethnic groups except Sidama in the city of Hawasa (capital of the south) will either be systematically pushed out; if not forcefully displaced to make room for “native” Sidama people like we have seen at other KILLER killils. Who will blame them for doing that given that is the norm and the law of the land in Ethiopia !!!

    Sidamas got a point too. If regions which are much more smaller and never on a map before the evil Woyane era can be created to form a statehood (kilil); why wasn’t Sidama allowed to be killil in the first place? We grew up learning “Sidama province” as being one of the largest Kifle Hager in the country; then it was erased from the state / killil map altogether by Woyanes.

    Where do you draw the line and will there be an end to this ethnic killil madness in the country is the question ? Why don’t they just ABOLISH ETHNIC FEDERALISM & ETHNIC POLITICS which is the root of all theses problems and face the consequences?

    This is where Korate leader can make a big difference than the wait and see, will deal with it later, mess up and apologize later kind of leader we now have in Ethiopia. If Sidama becomes a state (killil), I will bet there will be another Ethnic group fighting & killing for the next so many years demanding another statehood. Cancer never stops from spreading unless it is cutoff from the source, Ethnic Federalism & Ethnic politics are just that !!!

  • Ethnic Federalism experiment for the last one year has brought 3 million displacement thousands death mainly due ti Oromo expansion.

    This expansion is threatening Addis Ababa using the TPLF/OLF imposed so called constitution.

    The writer is arguing based on this undemocratic constitution which we all know Is the root cause of the mess we are all in.

    Sidama Kilil with its capital Awassa is opening South Ethiopia to unending conflict and should be stopped.

    Sidamo historically one of Ethiopia’s provinces and should return as it were like the rest of the provinces.

    On a free and fair election estabilshed parliament the future of our administrative regions should be decided.

    Neither TPLF led EPRDF nor Oromo party led EPRDF has a mandate to create or dissolved Kilils.

    Sidama Kilil supporters are mainly ethnic propaganda machines like OMN that are looking for an ally to create their future republics.

    Declaring Sidama Republic is declaring war on people of Ethiopia is easier said than done.

  • Sidama people you have sold your land to the gurages & welayitas you better learn to work & accumulate wealth.that is the way to control hawassa otherwise hawassa should be a federal city like diredawa.sidama can become a region having another capital city

  • This is a greedy move to own awassa that has been developed by the rest of Ethiopia . the so called kero would like to make Addis ababa the sole property of the oromos despite the city being developed by Ethiopians from generation to generation. These fools named ejeto or what ever is their name and kero would like to share the rest of Ethiopia while keeping awassa and Addis ababa for themselves. The government should declare cities such as Addis ababa , awassa, diredewa, adama, and bahirdar as federal cities with the states having no jurisdiction over them. This kegna and ejeto’s claim will disappear. Dr. Abye should stop this lawlessness and foolishness.

    • My brother I won’t to tell you about self government or rule. Formerly, the Ethiopian people was asking about own right dignity of ones self and freedom. In that time also the sida people asking question about self rule depending on constitution. But, the government was responded with a harsh measure by killing people with a great confiscation. Firstly, If sidma asking not legitimate question according to constitution, your thoughts and insulting will be acceptable. The second thing is asking self rule doe’s not mean that other people don’t have right to live with them. But, you perceive wrongly and consider as eliminate other people.
      Thirdly, if you inquire the truly correct information you would see the constitution before concluding with in wrongly. Finally, I recommended to you before arriving to the final point asks about the constitution. Sida people forwarding his query regrading to constitution. Otherwise the sida not willing to get answers differently rather than constitutional base. Please, if the question is not applicable dot blames people, you can blame constitution. Thank you for your thought.

    • Hey, Helefom first of all we don’t know what you are talking about . No one is talking about Hawassa not awassa and The quest of people of Sidama (EJJEETTO) is question of rule them themselves . Hawassa is not in question , it is our homland ”Adaare”

    • Poor man, i thaought your defence was free from discrimnation but you have listed hawassa,finfine and baherdar to be under control of the federal gov’t but not mekele the town built by money stolen from 100million Ethiopians. Oncee weyane always weyane!!

  • People need to rule themselves, not others to rule them. The ara we are in is not the era to be ruled by someone else.

    Abegu!to do right for them

  • If we can not say A, we say B. In a system that is established with the highest form of unreasonableness, ethnic clusters with no region that is exclusively occupied by one ethnic group, the quest to seek a space of one ethnic group is as absurd as trying to fly with no knowledge of gravity. This I digging a hole dipper in which coming out of the hole is more difficult.

  • There are 72 ethnic groups in Ethiopia all of them need own goverments because EDPR was teach them for 27 years that makes me sad! If Sidama needs own governments Gedeo need own governments

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