Addis Abeba, November 23/2019 – The National Electoral Board of Ethiopia (NEBE) announced today that the preliminary results of Sidama referendum showed of the votes counted so far, voters have voted in favor of a future Sidama regional state based on the votes tallied as of yet. There were more than 2.3 million registered voters, 1,692 polling stations and more than 6000 election officials all facilitated by the reforming NEBE.
The referendum, held on Wednesday November 20, is the first of its kind in Ethiopia ever since the current constitution was adopted in 1995, and long sought by the Sidama people.
The choices on the ballot paper were for Sidama to be organized in its own regional state, which was represented by the election symbol of “Shafeta” and for Sidama to stay in the Southern People’s Nations, Nationalities and Peoples regional state (SNNPR), represented by the “Gojo” (traditional Sidama hut) symbol. The latter choice got a measly of votes, an expected result given the popularity of the statehood quest among the Sidama and the lackluster campaigning by the SNNPR.
The result means Sidama will become Ethiopia’s 10th semi-autonomous regional state, with its own regional constitution and regional council, enjoying a degree of sovereignty enshrined in Ethiopia’s multinational constitution.
The Sidama regional state, the 10th regional state, will border Guji and West Arsi zones of the Oromia regional state and Wolayta and Kembata (both of which have approved statehood quests at zonal levels) as well as Gedeo zones of the SNNPR.
The question of what to do about the city of Hawassa in Sidama zone, which is also the capital city of the SNNPR but would be outside of the region when the Sidama state is officially declared, was a sticking point for sometime, but was addressed when regional council decided that the SNNPR government would stay in Hawassa for two consecutive election terms during which it would facilitate its own future capital city.
The November 20 referendum came five months after it was constitutionally mandated to have been held, an anomaly that was met with a bout of violence resulting in dozens of deaths back in July 2019.
It is to be recalled that 10 other zonal councils have already approved statehood quests, raising the possibility of more regional states.