The National Electoral Board of Ethiopia (NEBE) announced on Thursday ethnic Sidama’s will have a referendum on 13 November 2019.
The board announced it would make arrangements for the referendum till then. Provisions include 1,692 polling stations and recruitment of 8,460 election officials.
Sidama, a zone in South Nations and Nationalities regional state have been rocked with mass demonstrations in an application for statehood for the past couple of months. Administration council of Sidama zone had requested the electoral board on 20 December 2019 to arrange a referendum.
The board doesn’t respond fast causing anger from Sidama ethnic-nationalists who threaten to declare Sidama’s statehood by themselves on 18 July 2019. One day earlier the electoral board released a statement: “[the board] implements the constitution article 47/3/B which states the deadline for arrangement process of a referendum after an appeal, which is one year.” at the time, seven months have passed since the appeal was made. The board promised to finish its preparation within the rest five months.
Later July 18, at least 17 (some reports say 60) people were killed in a clash between security forces and Sidama ethnic-nationalists. After that, a command post, lead by Federal security forces was imposed in Sidama and Southern region as well, which is being active until now.
Ethiopia’s electoral board said the referendum, on Nov. 13, would address “ethnic Sidama’s demand for regional statehood,” state-affiliated Fana said on its website.
Furthermore, the board requested the Southern region to allocate 75,645,000 ETB for the referendum process.
Ethiopia has nine regional states which enjoy a degree of autonomy under which they can choose their official language and have limited powers over taxation, education, health, and land administration.
In related news, South Nations Nationalities and People’s region has removed its president Million Matewos this week. The ethnic Sidama president administered the region for a year, and he will be expected to be replaced with the new president soon.