On Wednesday the 20th of November, a staggering 98,5% voted in favor of a self-governing Sidama. This means that Sidama breaks free from the Southern Nations, Nationalities and Peoples’ Region (SNNPR) and becomes Ethiopia’s 10th Federal State.
Besides having their own borders, the Sidama will have control over taxation, language, healthcare, security forces, and land administration. Hawassa will become Sidama’s capital and leaves the SNNPR in need of an alternative capital city.
With the votes cast, the Sidama people can celebrate the end of a decades-long struggle for independence. A great moment in history for the Sidama, but also for all Ethiopians. This is because the Ethiopian people can finally witness the power of their constitution.
The constitution, formed in 1995, states that ethnic groups can opt for ethnic rule if the majority of a region is in favor. The Sidama vote is the first of its kind since the introduction of the constitution: another grand reform within Ethiopia since Abiy Ahmed took office in April 2018.
The Sidama success of Saturday may inspire other ethnicities (more than 80) in Ethiopia to explore their independence. Either way, Ethiopians can find hope in the fact that the current government is not afraid to act upon the appeals of its people.
However, with Ethiopia’s history of ethnic tensions, these reform initiatives can be another instigator for violence and discrimination against minorities. For president Abiy, who strives for national unity in Ethiopia, this will be yet another challenge in a rapidly changing Ethiopia.
We hope that changes like the one in Sidama only bring peace and understanding among all Ethiopians.