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Demands for Regional Status Rock Ethiopia’s South Region


Muluneh Gebre - 7Dnews Addis Ababa

Sun, 02 Dec 2018 15:21 GMT

The Southern Ethiopian Peoples’ Democratic Movement (SEPDM), a member of Ethiopia’s ruling coalition, recently warned that requests for regional autonomy now flaring up in various parts of the state and under consideration by zonal councils need to be seriously considered.

The warning came following an extraordinary meeting by the SEPDM on November 25th and 26th, 2018. 

Ethiopia’s Southern Regional State, the third most populous in the Federal Republic, is being rocked by rising demands from zones for a regional status. 

Though long-standing, demands for regional status have always been suppressed by the previous administration; the ruling coalition typically described such requests as “narrow nationalism” and “rent seeking.” 

The requests for regional status have resurfaced in the wake of the decision on Saturday December 1st by the Council of Southern Nations region to accept Sidama Zone’s request to become a state. 

As feared by many, requests have multiplied, with the Wolayta already demanding statehood, as are the Kaffa, Gurage, Hadiya and Kembata Zones.

Secretary of the SEPDM, Moges Balcha, disclosed that a detailed study to map out new administrative divisions is underway.

“Thus, all those quests for autonomy will be entertained in a coordinated and legal manner,” he said. 

Moges said that a committee of experts has been formed to examine the issue of when and how quests for regional autonomy should be entertained.

“We need to be extra-careful while dealing with quests for regional status. We’ll be putting forward clear-cut criteria on how a district could become a zonal capital or a zone can stand on its own as a regional state,” he told the state broadcaster, ETV.

Some disruptive tendencies aimed at putting pressure on the government for regional autonomy are unacceptable and will not be tolerated, said Moges. 

Girum Alemayehu, a political commentator in Addis Ababa, says the decision by the Council of the Southern Region is very surprising. “The Wolayta are already demanding statehood. This will create more disputes about borders and budgets in the future,” he said. “Unless this is meant to show the absurdity of the federative arrangements by a kind of reductio ad absurdum and to slowly, but surely, dissolve the federation into the smallest possible ethnic-based political units, I am not sure what the purpose is.”

The Southern Nations, Nationalities, and Peoples' Region (SNNP) Council restructured the region of around 20 million people and more than 80 groups, adding three zones and 44 woredas (third-level administrative divisions of Ethiopia). Konso was made a zone in a split from Segen Zone, which was itself a 2011 amalgamation of three woredas.

Awassa, the regional capital, is bearing the brunt of rapid demographic and economic growth. The city, located 275km from Addis Ababa, is also the location of a flagship industrial park.

Muferiat Kamil has held the top most position within the SEPDM since recently. She is also heading the newly created Ministry of Peace, in charge of the nation’s security apparatus. The position of South Regional President is held by Million Mathewos, himself a former Sidama Zone Chief Administrator.