Ethiopia to hold vote for a new regional state

(Photo: Envato Elements)

Addis Ababa — Ethiopia will stage a referendum next February in several areas of the country’s south to consider forming a 12th regional state, election officials said Wednesday.اضافة اعلان

The vote, green lighted in August by the upper house of parliament, will take place on February 6 in six administrative zones and five special autonomous districts called woreda that currently belong to Ethiopia’s diverse Southern Nations, Nationalities, and Peoples’ region (SNNPR).

Notably concerned is the Wolayta administrative zone, inhabited by the people of the same name, which has for years claimed to have its own region.

The results will be published on February 15, 2023, according to the National Electoral Board of Ethiopia.

Since Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed came to power in 2018, two new regional states have emerged: Sidama in 2019 and SouthWest in 2021, both of which separated from the SNNPR, a mosaic of minority ethnic groups and scene of tension and violence in recent years.

The current constitution adopted in 1995, four years after the fall of the military-marxist Derg regime, had initially divided Ethiopia into nine regional states, cut out along ethno-linguistic criteria and enjoying considerable power in a federal system.

This “ethnic federalism” was supposed to offer a degree of autonomy to the some 80 ethnic communities that make up Ethiopia, the second most populous country in Africa with 120 million people, but was accused by critics of worsening ethnic tensions.

The constitution allows for any group to call for a referendum to form a new region, but during the 27-year rule of a coalition under the iron grip of the TPLF, the party of the Tigrean elite, the federal government put a break on any wishful thinking, sometimes violently.

Numerous reforms undertaken by Abiy upon his ascension to power, following more than two years of popular protests denouncing the Tigrean minority’s grip on the government, unleashed a whole host of territorial and ethnic claims.

Ethiopia has in the last few years been troubled by many sectarian tensions, some deadly, especially those linked to property differences flowing from administrative re-districting.

A major armed conflict since November 2020 has pitted the forces of the federal government against those of the leaders of the Tigray region, linked to the TPLF.

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