Ethiopia: Six Ethnicities in the South Decide to Form One Region

Five zonal administrations and one special woreda have decided to form their own region named South West Ethiopia Region by breaking away from Ethiopia's troubled Southern Nations Nationalities and Peoples' Region (SNNPR).

The administrations that joined hands to form a regional government are Kaffa, Sheka, Bench Sheko, Dawuro, West Omo zones and Konta special woreda.

This decision was unanimously endorsed by the respective zonal and special woreda councils in a meeting held on Tuesday, September 29, 2020.

It is to be recalled that zonal administrations in the SNNPR requested the regional council to facilitate referendums so that they can decide on establishing their own regional state. Accordingly, a dozen of zonal administrations in the South filed their request to the regional council.

The question of statehood that sprouted since 2018, began by the formal filing of a request, by the then Sidama Zone, to the regional council and was accepted without much ado. Subsequently, Sidama became the first regional state formed since the enactment of the 1991 constitution. It then officially became the 10th regional state becoming a member of the federation with an official power transfer from the mother state made on June 19, 2020.

However, the Sidama statehood was not a smooth process and there have been protests and violent attacks on minorities at various times claiming lives, injuring many and destroying property.

The question of statehood in the South has been a contentious process since its inception and both the regional and federal governments have been engaged in studying the matter and prescribing recommendations that would solve the quagmire.

The structuring of the South region from the outset was a debatable issue and a subject of study in the fields of federalism and constitutional law. And after the Sidama became a regional state by separating from the South, many have said that this has opened the Pandora's Box in the country.

First the South regional government commissioned a study to find solutions to the growing question of statehood. The study came up with a recommendation that the region be maintained as it is, if the zones agree to do so. The second recommendation was to establish the Sidama as a separate state and maintain the others as they were (the Sidama was still under the South region at this time). The third was to stratify the region into a maximum of five regions because it would be difficult to govern, if all get their own regional states.

Accepting the last recommendation, after failed attempts to go for the second one, the federal government established a committee to discuss with zonal administrations and organized neighboring administrations into one regional government.

In this regard, the South Western Region is progressing into realization with the approval of the formation, by the respective six administrations.

However, the matter in the south still remains to be far from solved as other zonal administrations who had requested to establish regional states have referred their matters to the House of the Federation (HoF) for a solution. The HoF is the body that decides on issues of identity and statehood.

The question of statehood in the South was raised on the grounds of article 47 (2) of the constitution which allows any requesting ethnic group to establish a regional state of their own. Nevertheless, the government said that allowing every zonal administration become a region would be difficult to administer and went for solutions to overcome the perceived challenges.

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