Ethiopia on verge of political crisis as region’s declaration of independence looms

Sidama youth leader carrying a flag addresses people as they gather for a meeting to declare their own region in Hawassa. File photo: REUTERS/Tiksa Negeri.

JOHANNESBURG – Ethiopia is facing a new political crisis with the Sidama people stating that they are on the brink of declaring a new state and breaking away from the rest of the country.

A deadline for the government of Prime Minister Ahmed Abiy to respond to the request for a referendum on the matter expires on Thursday.

The city of Hawassa, in southern Ethiopia, is where Sidama activists plan the capital of their new federal state to be.

Currently the green, blue and red flag of the Sidama people is flying above government buildings in defiance of Addis Ababa, the East African reported.

However, there are fears that the unilateral declaration of independence could inflame the Horn of Africa’s already fragile political situation and lead to bloodshed as it touches on the sensitive issue of autonomy.

Ethiopia comprises nine semi-autonomous regions and is ruled by a federal system aimed at providing ethnic self-rule in the hugely diverse country.

The Sidama have been pushing for years for their own state and this desire gained impetus after Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed came to office in 2018 promising many reforms.

Should the Ethiopian authorities attempt to prevent the formation of this new state this could spark violence, but if they green light it unrest between minorities in the region could be triggered, according to the International Crisis Group (ICG).

But as the deadline for making a decision either way approaches some Sidama activists are becoming increasingly defiant – another possible spark to impending unrest.

Previous attempts to break away by the Sidama led to ethnic clashes with the Wolayta ethnic group in June last year.

African News Agency (ANA)