The National Electoral Board of Ethiopia (ENEB) announced the end of voters’ registration for the Sidama referendum on Monday. According to Birtukan Mideksa, the chairperson of the board, more than 2.3 million voters registered in all districts of Sidama to the referendum scheduled on Wednesday, Nov 20.
Sidama, one of the 13 zones in South Nations and Nationalities and People’s Regional State (SNNPR), has been rocked with mass demonstrations in an application for statehood last July. The 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 of five months.
Although the Ethiopian government hasn’t given an official number, some reports say that the July violence in Sidama cost the lives of 170 people. After that, a command post, lead by Federal police and National Defence force was imposed in Sidama and Southern region as well, which is being active until now.
According to the statement of ENEB, the voters’ registration for the past ten days was peaceful. Accessories of the election are now being distributed to districts of the zone, Deutsche Welle reports.
A zone that estimated at 4million out of 100 million Ethiopian population will now have a referendum to become the tenth semi-autonomous state of Ethiopia. This number might increase soon since other areas in the southern region are originating a movement of statehood.