The Ethiopian Prime Minister Dr Abiy Ahmed Declares War On Sidama People For Demanding Their Constitutional Rights To A Regional Self-Governance

Press Release By the Sidama National Liberation Front (SNLF)

26 July 2019

The Sidama people of Ethiopia demanded a regional state within Ethiopia for the second time in 20 years on 18 July 2018.  Following the request, the nation has waited peacefully for a referendum to be conducted by the Election Board to decide on their demand for the past 12 months.  The council of south Ethiopia regional state (SNNPRS) where Sidama currently belongs is constitutionally mandated to conduct the referendum. Instead, the council requested the Ethiopian Election Board to conduct the referendum on its behalf as the Board is responsible to manage the polls in the country. However, the Board failed to conduct the referendum in spite of repeated reminders by the Sidama people with their three peaceful demonstrations conducted between February and April 2019. As the government remained obliviously silent, the constitutional deadline to conduct the referendum ended on 18 July 2019.

The Sidama people flocked to the Gudumaale, their sacred cultural meeting place in the Sidama capital, Hawassa on the morning of 18 July 2019 to finalize the discussions they have been holding for the previous two days on their regional question. Meanwhile, the national army soldiers and police forces deployed in Gudumaale blocked them from entering into the venue; subsequently attacking civilians traveling to the arranged meeting across the city killing 5 and wounding a dozen in Hawassa alone. We believe that, no one should be killed for peacefully demanding a right enshrined in the constitution of the country. This is flagrant violations of nation’s constitutional rights.

The government immediately dispatched federal defense forces and federal Special Forces to the entire 38 Sidama districts and towns. The armed forces attacked the Sidama civilians in the indicated districts with live ammunition. Between 18 and 20 July 2019 over 85 civilians have been confirmed massacred across Sidama including over 16 farmers in Wotara Rassa in Malga District; 26 in Hula district; 5 in Hawassa; 6 in Yirgalem; 8 in Wondogenet; 7 in Borricha; 8 in Shabbadino; 2 in Alatta Wondo district; 5 in Dalle district, and 5 in Chukko district.  Over 400 Sidama civilians were wounded, some seriously and were admitted to various hospitals across Sidama. Additionally, over 700 civilians were arrested.

Among the 26 Sidama civilians massacred in Hula district 14 were children, below the age of 14 years. The Government of Dr Abiy Ahmed massacred the Sidama children in broad day light. We appeal to the international community to condemn this senseless massacre (genocide) on the Sidama people that demanded the right to regional self-administration guaranteed in the constitution of the country.

The 700 youth arrested across Sidama include 10 prominent youth civilian coordinators and one journalist. These are (1) Tariku W. Lemma; (2) Getahun Daguye; (3) Fasika Legesse; (4) Belay Balguda; (5) Melesse Agaro; (6) Legesse Hankarsso, (7) Tefera Kenfato. (8) Assistant Professor Tessema Elias Shole; (9) Dr Matte Mengesha; (10) Assistant Professor Alemu Tamiso.

The current and ongoing genocide in Sidama is the third of such violence committed on the people in the past 28 years. The Loqqee massacre of 2002 in which over 70 people were killed, and the Hawassa and Shaammanna massacres of 2018, where over 30 Sidama people were killed, were both related to the demand to establish the Sidama regional state. The government is hunting down the Sidama youth suspected of engaging in a civilian movement to wage war on its unarmed people.

Meanwhile, to make the matter worst, the Ethiopian Government also declared a state of emergency in Sidama effective from 23 July 2019 for unspecified period to keep the Sidama nation under martial law.  This is a clear violation of basic human and democratic rights of the Sidama nation. It is a clear violation of the reform agenda that the prime minister of Ethiopia promised to implement just a year ago.

The Sidama National Liberation Front (SNLF) condemns in the strongest possible terms the massacre of innocent Sidama civilians who demanded the right to regional self-administration guaranteed in the constitution. The SNLF calls upon the Ethiopian government to immediately halt committing genocide on the Sidama people including children. It demands an immediate release of the 700 Sidama youth incarcerated and being tortured in Hawassa Town and other districts. Maintaining state of emergency meant suppressing the constitutional rights of the Sidama people. Therefore, the SNLF holds the government and its various institutions constitutionally mandated for facilitating and conducting the Sidama referendum for regional statehood fully accountable for the massacre of the Sidama civilians.

We urge the government to address without any further delay the Sidama demand for regional self- administration in Ethiopia.  The Sidama nation should press ahead with determination with its peaceful demand for the realization of its constitutional right to managing its own affairs within Ethiopia.

We call upon the international community to condemn the Sidama massacre of 18-20 of July 2019 and exert pressure on the Ethiopian government to release all the prisoners, remove defense and special police forces from all districts. Killing is not remedy and never brings solution. Instead we strongly advise the government to remove its army from the Sidama land and urgently initiate a civilized discussion with the Sidama people. In civilized world, defense forces protect the sovereign country from an external threat; in Ethiopia however the defense forces is used more often than not- by the government to massacre civilians. The SNLF condemns the defense forces for their brutal massacre of the civilians and urge utmost restraint whilst withdrawing from the Sidama land.

Justice, Equality and Freedom for the Sidama Nation and the Rest Nations and Peoples in Ethiopia!

The Sidama National Liberation Front (SNLF)

26 July 2019

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