In recent months, there have been several cases of human rights abuses in the Sidama Zone, including extrajudicial killings, beatings, mass arrest and intimidations – particularly in the city of Hawassa, which is the seat of both the Sidama Zone Administration and SNNPR (Southern Nations Nationalities and Peoples Region). According to eye witnesses, the majority of victims are the Sidama people.
Since the whole of Sidama zone (including Hawassa city) is known for being not only a peaceful place but also one of the favorite destinations for tourists, questions must be asked as to why there has been a sudden spike in such human rights violations against the Sidama people in recent months. It is highly suspected that the violations have to do with the Sidama people’s quest for regional self-determination.
It’s to be recalled that the Sidama Zone Administrative Council have recently approved the Sidama people’s request for regional self-determination. The Sidama people are eagerly waiting for positive responses from government to hold referendum in the next few months.
The innocent Sidama people have been targeted by organized criminals once again on non-stop basis. In some cases, people are targeted in market places with grenades in intent to maximize causalities. In other cases people are beaten to death with their bodies dumped on the streets. As means of intimidation tactics, arrest warranties have been issued for prominent Sidama activists and human rights defenders. Last week alone, people are sharing pictures of slain bodies online via social media platforms that are believed to be the Sidama youths. Although one of the important duties of government is protecting the basic rights of all of its citizens, authorities in the SNNPR are either unwilling or unable to identify and bring suspects to the criminal justice system. So far, it appears that these violations are deliberately overlooked by the law enforcement bodies operating in the area as well as by national media that has failed to report such high-stakes incidents.
While the country’s new prime minister and his administration are working to bring much needed changes, corrupt politicians are hell-bent on disrupting these political reforms, including the Sidama people’s legitimate and constitutional quest for regional self-determination. In particular, elite few politicians in the SEPDM (Southern Ethiopian People Democratic Movement – which is the ruling party of SNNPR) want the Sidama people to stay in the SNNPR against their wish so that they continue to enrich themselves at the expense of the people. Various tactics are being employed by them in attempt to tarnish the image of peaceful and hospitable Sidama people. These include:
1) Fabricated fake news stories spread online via Facebook accounts belonging to groups such as “Wolayta Affair/ የወላይታ ጉዳይ/Wolayitta Alaaliiya” and (Wolayta Nati (የወላይታ ልጆች);
2) Misinformation by government-affiliated media such as FBC (Fana Broadcasting Corporate S.C.);
3) Non-stop broadcasting of ant-Sidama propaganda messages by SNNPRs Government Communication affairs Website and Southern Ethiopian People radio and television; and,
4) Anti-Sidama rhetoric by U.S.-based #ESAT (The Ethiopian Satellite Television and Radio).
Despite such concerted fear-mongering efforts by elite few SEPDM politicians to harass and frustrate the Sidama people, our people are determined more than ever to earn their freedom – including their quest for regional self-determination – peacefully. The Sidama people have been living together with non-Sidama Ethiopians for many years, well before the current regime came to power in 1991. The Sidama people will continue to live together with other non-Sidama Ethiopians for generations to come.
As a ruling party of the SNNPR, SEPDM is fully responsible for all (and any) human rights violations occurring in the Sidama city of Hawassa and its surroundings right now. Once the Sidama people realize their long-awaited quest for regional self-determination, they shall bear full responsibility and greater sense of duty to protect and care for all residents of the Sidama Regional State.
In light of the series human rights violations and full-scale media campaign against peaceful Sidama people, we appeal to the federal government to, first and for most, ensure peace and stability throughout the Sidama Zone, particularly in the city of Hawassa.
If government continues to turn a blind eye to these serious human rights violations, the Sidama people are fully aware of their constitutional rights to peaceful protests. The Sidama people along with Ejjeetto will be forced to exercise their rights to peaceful demonstrations, including a series of boycotts (e.g., business closures, school closures, etc.) in Hawassa city and all across Sidama zone in order to expose government’s failures in human rights issues to the entire world.
September 04, 2018