July 23, 2019 (Ezega.com) -- The Ethiopian federal government has placed the Southern Nations, Nationalities, and Peoples’ (SNNP) regional state under federal security effective today July 23, 2019, according to FBC report.
The move covers all zones, including Hawassa city administration and special woredas. The region is placed under a temporary federal security force-led command post.
The Ethiopian government said the move followed request from the SNNP regional state to overcome security challenges that pose serious threat to the well being of the residents.
The southern Ethiopia region has been rocked by violence following demand by the Sidma ethnic group for seperate statehood. The Sidam ethnic group says it requested for a referendum about a year ago, which the central government did not acknowledge until recently. The National Electoral Board of Ethiopia however said it received the Sidama zone administration council’s demand through the Southern Nations, Nationalities, and Peoples’ (SNNP) regional state on November 20, 2019.
The Sidama who represent about 5% of Ethiopia’s 100 million plus people, say they have been sidelined due to not having separate identity. In addition to the Sidama, at least eight more ethnic groups are campaigning to have their own regions.
The region saw huge rallies in the last year or so, increasingly escalating in the last few weeks. Some have turned deadly, according to latest reports.
According to Addis Standard and DW Amharic service, the number of civilians killed in Sidama zone in southern Ethiopia since July 18 has risen to more than 35 -- more than 14 of them in Hagere Selam town. “Hundreds of people are also displaced after their properties were vandalized,” one individua was quoted as saying. Further, “on Friday and Saturday at least three churches were burned to the ground in Hagere Selam by angry mobs who went out to the streets to protest the killings by security forces.”
In the last last couple of years, the Southern Ethiopian state has seen large-scale ethnic-related internal people displacement, especially since the current Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed assumed power. Millions of people were forced to flee their homes due to fear of attacks by other ethnic groups. Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, who many critics say did not acknowledge the problem early on, has been severely criticized for failing to protect these people.
Lately, the Prime Minister has been warning local opposition forces to refrain from escalating the situation in the name of referendum.
Some political forces are also calling for change to the constitution to discourage such demands. The Ethiopian Citizens for Social Justice party on Tuesday demanded a constitutional amendment, saying the constitution is partly responsible for all the mayhem happening in a southern ethnically based regional state since last Thursday.