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Ethiopia's Sidama statehood crisis triggers new displacement

Ethiopia's Sidama statehood crisis triggers new displacement

Ethiopia

<p>Ethiopia’s latest displacement is in the southern regional town of Yirgalem, a town that was hit by deadly unrest related to the autonomy push by the Sidama people.</p> <p>The <span class="caps">BBC</span> quotes an official who said over 450 people were sheltering in a church having fled their homes for fear of attacks. </p> <p>Sidama is located in Ethiopia’s multi-ethnic Southern Nations, Nationalities and Peoples’ region, <span class="caps">SNNPR</span>. The displaced are said to have fled into a district in the neighbouring Oromio Regional State.</p> <p>An Oromia security official confirmed that most of the people had fled because of ethnic-based targeting. A state of emergency was imposed on <span class="caps">SNNPR</span> following the clashes that claimed over 20 lives.</p> <p>Ethiopia’s displacement crisis has seen it top global figures of internally displaced persons arising from violence. </p> <p>The government has since worked to ensure the return of over a million of these persons despite calls for a cautious process especially to places where security remained volatile. Some groups accused the state of using force in the process.</p> <p>Emboldened by political reforms introduced by Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed since he took power in 2018, Sidama activists were vigorously pushing to unilaterally declare a new regional state last Thursday.</p> <p>The threat of large-scale violence in the regional capital Hawassa was largely averted after a Sidama opposition party agreed to delay the declaration and accept a government offer to hold a referendum in five months, not all Sidama people accepted the delay.</p> <p>Ethiopia has nine ethnic-based regional states, which are overseen by the federal government in Addis Ababa but have autonomy over revenues and security forces.</p> <p>The Sidama threat to declare a new region posed a direct challenge to the authority of the federal government in the Horn of Africa country of 105 million people.</p> <p>The Sidama demanded a referendum a year ago on the question of a new regional state – a right enshrined by the constitution – and said they would declare their own region if the ballot was not held within the stipulated time.</p> <p>The federal system in Africa’s second most populous nation is designed to allow larger ethnic groups a measure of autonomy but smaller communities such as the Sidama say they have been sidelined and some are demanding their own regions.</p>
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