The Quest of the Sidama Nation for Self-Determination and the Plot of Die-Hard Unionist Ethiopians As State-Terrorism in Sidama Intensifies
By Denboba Natie, July 24, 2109
The Sidama nation lives in the horn of Africa, notably in the southern Ethiopia. Sidama is one of Cushitic language speaking nations such as the Oromo, Afar, Somali and numerous others- all indigenous to northeast Africa for several millennia. According to the Central Statistical Agency of Ethiopia, the Sidama nation had a total population of 4.2 million in 2017 making it the fifth largest nation in Ethiopia after Oromia, 35.4 million; Amhara, 21.1 million; Somali, 5.6 million; and Tigray, 5.2 million. An independent estimate puts the Sidama between 6.5 and 7 million. Besides, notwithstanding the ancient history of Abyssinia dating back to three millennia, the Sidama nation and other Cushitic language speaking nations of the Horn of Africa were indigenous nations to this region dating as far back as 15, 000 years. The Sidama nation was annexed into the Ethiopian Empire by the Abyssinian King Minelik II in 1891, who sought to expand his territory to fend off the threat of the European colonial expansion following the Berlin scramble for Africa Conference of 1884 to divide Africa among the then major powers.
Ever since the Sidama nation has been conquered and incorporated into King Menelik II’s Ethiopian Imperial Empire in 1891, the nation has lived under slavery and made to lose its traditional democratic and egalitarian ways of life and culture. The Sidama as a nation has been relegated to send citizenship in its own land as they became the subjects of the conquering army whose soldiers established dozens of garrison towns in Sidama land from where they employ Sidama enslaving projects until the Derg overthrew the monarch system in 1974.
1.2. Background on Sidama Resistances for Freedom and Self-Rule
Since 1891 the Sidama nation has been conquered and incorporated into Abyssinian imperial empire, the Sidama has been relentlessly demanding its rights to a regional self-administration within Ethiopia restored. There has been no time the Sidama nation kept silent without questioning the invading agents to allow the nation to exercise its fundamental rights to a national self-rule. To achieve this, the Sidama nation employed various methods. Some the methods include fighting the enemy by organising themselves in various districts led by the prominent community leaders (Gadana) and individuals determined not to live under slavery for several decades leading up to the downfall of the monarch system. A glimmer of hope for a democratic system of governance and respect for human and people’s rights following the 1974 revolution that has toppled the monarchy was dashed when the military usurped the political power and clung to authoritarian socialist ideology with disastrous economic and social policies.
The Sidama nation has once again organised itself for struggle when it has formalised the struggle that has been informally operating for the period of over 50 years. Failing to be listened to and brutalised by the occupying colonisers, the nation has started Sidama Liberation Movement (SLM) to peruse its just cause through an armed struggle. For this reason, SLM has formally trained more than 15,000 soldiers in Somalia with the support of Western countries; notably the USA and UK who detested the Derg’s socialist ideology in Ethiopia. Additionally, more than double of the indicated size has been also trained within Sidama land that eventually fought in unison the Derg’s barbaric regime to liberate three largest districts of the Sidama high land few years before the Derg’s final demise. During the 7 year intensive war between the Sidama’s liberation army and the Derg national defence, between 20 and 25,000 Sidama were martyred (both civilians and guerrilla fighters) between 1974 and 1991. The Sidama nation during the indicated sacrifices was seeking nothing else, but its rights to a national regional self-rule and equality within Ethiopia. Besides, the Sidama’s role in incapacitating Derg’s capability and its final downfall has been often downgraded by the unionist group and their supporters, although the nation’s contribution remains one of the significant.
Although serfdom was abolished following the revolution of 1974 that saw the monarch systems off, in the annexed territories of the south, east and west, including Sidama, the political and economic marginalisation of our people continued pervasive. In spite of rich natural resources, the Sidama nation remained one of the most underdeveloped regions within a least developed country. Tens of thousands of Sidama civilians sacrificed their lives in the past 128 years demanding regional self-administration, justice, and respect for human and people’s rights to be able to develop its economy, culture and languages. Meanwhile, the Loqqee massacre of 70 peaceful civilian protestors by the federal government security forces in Hawassa, Sidama, on May 24, 2002 represented the largest single loss of lives in the past 28 years. Over 30 civilians were also massacred in Hawassa and its environs in June 2018 as the nation was also preparing to welcome its Fichchee (Sidama New Year 2018).
1.3. 1991’s Temporary Respite Turned to Old Style Subjugation
The military Derg’s regime has been removed from power in May 1991 by the popular struggle and replaced by the Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Front (EPRDF) predominately controlled by the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) that ascribes all victory to itself; albeit the Derg has been removed by the struggle of all peoples of Ethiopian including the Sidama nation. However, following the downfall of the Derg, EPRDF has drafted a comprehensive legal instrument known as constitution that theoretically addresses the wishes and aspiration of the historically subjugated nations of political south by guaranteeing unconditional rights self-determination including rights to cessation. Tragically, after its heydays have passed, the hope and aspirations of the nations and peoples of Ethiopian amounting over 80 dashed to be replaced with the despair and disappointments when the EPRDF/TPLF’s regime embarked on a full scale looting, massacring of civilians, stifling freedom of expression, movement and assembly to turn the country into humongous prison of nations and peoples of over 104 million.
Meanwhile, the Sidama nation has peacefully continued with its search for a genuine self-rule and echoed its voices in various forms since 1991 following Derg’s downfall. The SLM’s leadership was part of the constitution drafting committee in Ethiopia although it was chased out of the country in 1994/5. This was the time the EPRDF/TPLF’s regime has massacred over 70 Sidama civilians who have peacefully demanded the government to honour its constitution by allowing Sidama to be a regionally self-administrative in broad day lights in Loqqee village (outskirt of Hawassa, the Sidama capital). Peaceful Sidama civilian protestors were met with brute force of federal government’s army in the indicated village on May 24, 2002 to represent the largest single loss of lives in the past 28 years until the current leader (PM) puts his name in the list of Ethiopian rulers who have dehumanised Sidama people. To date the Sidama nation is paying heavy price with the precious lives of its sons and daughters. Over 145 Sidama civilians were executed in Sidama land since the 18th of July 20019 under the command of the current Ethiopian Prime Minister who has officially threatened with military attack on his July 01, 209 report in his 100% EPRDF dominated parliament. Such recklessness action of the current leader to the Sidama nation is not only potentially threatening peace and security of the Sidama, but also that of the entire country and the wider horn; if this PM and his cadres continue with their criminalities.
2. The Sidama Nation And Its Struggle For Self-Rule Post April 02, 2018 Promises
Following the downfall of the EPRDF/TPLF’s brutal regime in late 2017 resulted from the popular struggle that has occurred mainly in Oromia region where over 5000 Oromo civilians were massacred; the new force known as Team Lema from within EPRDF has emerged as a progressive force promising freedom, fairness democracy and justice for all peoples in Ethiopia. The new leadership has indeed recorded sizable progresses including the release of thousands of political prisoners, allowing freedom of movement and expression/Media, revoking brutal legislation of state of emergency that has been in place when the new PM took over power, allowing the opposition political parties and their leaders operating from the outside to enter into country to take part in a country rebuilding process; and fostering the approach of reconciliation with the Eritrean government that has been at logger heads with Ethiopia since 1998’s border war that has claimed the lives over 90,000 from both sides. The current leader however has taken U-turn in the case of the Sidama nation as he imposes State of emergency to stifle the Sidama’s freedom, aspiration and rights to self-determination. Currently his national army is terrorising the Sidama people in their own soil; doing so is deplorable by any standard.
2.1. Naivety Or Deliberately Misleading Approach
The indicated progressive force had strong but vague approach from its inception. There are countless vague and naïve looking, misleading and confusing approaches whose ramifications are proving to be cause for concern and uncertainty in Sidama and beyond. On one hand the new leadership promises to honour the constitution and work to ascertain its practicality in the country; on the other it yearns to restore old style monarch system that is vehemently detested by the peoples of Ethiopia apart from the historical rulers and their sympathisers. With such vagueness and resultant uncertainty; the peoples of Ethiopia are increasingly becoming disillusioned thereby prone to manipulation of historical rulers and unitary ideology dominated Medias.
Meanwhile, the Sidama nation had revitalised its over century old quest for self-rule when its zone council has unanimously agreed to be a regional state during its emergency meeting of July 18, 2018. Subsequently, the demand after its unanimous decision of the indicated date has been sent to the SNNPRS’s regional government. The SNNPRS’ council has also unanimously agreed and sent it to the Ethiopian Election Board by requesting it to run the Sidama referendum on its behalf within constitutionally guaranteed time frame. The election board obliviously remained silent.
2.1.1. The Sidama Nation HasPeacefully Requested The Ethiopian Government To Honour The Constitution By Conducting Referendum.
In spite of the Sidama’s repeated pleas since it has demanded its rights to a national regional self-rule to be honoured, the government obliviously remained silent. Due to the government’s silence, the Sidama nation has continually pushed with its demand by asking the Ethiopian government to conduct referendum for the nation to decide on its rights to self-determination as per the constitution of the country. No single word has been uttered by the Ethiopian government until July 01, 2019 when the PM responded with military threat where he claimed that, his government it ready to change pen to an AK-47 and Sidama will be treated harshly as his military treated the former Somali regional dictator leader, Abdi Iley’s militia responsible for executing tens of thousands of civilians. The irony is that, the Sidama nation has peacefully perused its cause as per the constitution; but the Ethiopian government likened Sidama with the barbaric Abdi Iley’s militia responsible for various genocides in Ogaden Somali region.
After failing to receive civilised and meaningful response from the Ethiopian government and its election board, the Sidama nation has staged on a three separate peaceful, glorious and extremely disciplined demonstrations of governments’ delay in conducting referendum. On the 21st of February 2019, over 1 million Sidama people staged on a peaceful demonstration demanding the Ethiopian government to honour the constitution. Additionally, between the 13th and 15th of March 2019, three days stay in call has been peacefully and non-violently implemented. More importantly, only Sidama women and girls incepted, planned, coordinated, run and participated demonstration has been conducted on the 9th of April 2019 by more than a million Sidama women and girls. The Sidama mothers including lactating and grandmothers as old as 80 and over, high School and university students participated and begged the Ethiopian government to respect the Sidama people by honouring their constitutional quest by conducting referendum thereby ending the cycle of Sidama executing project.
The Ethiopian government and its PM that boasts for filling its government with 50% female cabinet members totally and utterly ignored the Sidama’s repeated calls including that of the Sidama mothers, grandmothers and girls without uttering a single word. By remaining silent, he has shown utter disrespect of the Sidama nation in general to our mothers, wives, daughters, aunties and sisters in particular. The irony is that, various evidences show that this very Prime Minister goes from place to place to handle minor issues in a smaller regions, zones, districts and towns. Yet he has deliberately employed eerie silence for the demands of over 6.5 million Sidama until his military threat of July 01 2019 in his parliamentary report when only 18 days left before the constitutionally guaranteed stated deadline. For this reason, the Sidama nation has continued to peacefully push with its demand to be honoured before the deadline and otherwise the nation has stated that it will be obliged to unilaterally declare regional self-rule.
2.1.2. The Response Of The Government Has Been Planned To Arrive Too Late
The Ethiopian election board has claimed that it has agreed to conduct the Sidama referendum within 5 month from the issuance of its statement on the 11th of July 2019. The board claims that since it has received a letter from SNNPRS’s council in which the council requested the board to conduct Sidama referendum has been only 8 months; hence according to the board 5 months are still outstanding until one year’s deadline. This calculation is deliberate and misleadingly malicious. Constitutionally, it is neither board’s role nor its mandate. The constitution unambiguously states that the deadline corresponds to the date of decision of the Sidama council. There is nowhere the election Board is mandated to set a dead line stating that since it has received letter from the SNNPRS’s council. It has also deliberately delayed it.
The Ethiopian constitution in Article 39(1) ‘Every Nation, Nationality and People in Ethiopia has an unconditional right to self-determination, including the right to secession’, 39(3) Every Nation, Nationality and People in Ethiopia has the right to a full measure of self-government which includes the right to establish institutions of government in the territory that it inhabits and to equitable representation in state and Federal governments’ ; 43(1) ‘The Peoples of Ethiopia as a whole, and each Nation, Nationality and People in Ethiopia in particular have the right to improved living standards and to sustainable development ‘; 47(2) ‘Nations, Nationalities and Peoples within the States enumerated in sub-Article 1 of this article have the right to establish, at any time, their own States’ and 47 (3 a-d) and article 46(2) ‘States shall be delimited on the basis of the settlement patterns, language, identity and consent of the peoples concerned’.
The decision of the board is a pre-planned and well calculated anti-Sidama project of die-hard unionists who are working day and night to deny the Sidama nation of its fundamental rights to self-rule. Moreover, according to the constitution of the country it constitutes miscarriage of justice and deliberate manipulation of the peoples of Ethiopia to have an excuse to occupy the Sidama land and execute Sidama civilians if they fail to respect the late order of the government whilst the Sidama nation was preparing to unilaterally declare its rightful rights to a regional self-rule. Contrary to this, since the 18th of July 2019, the Ethiopia’s national army and federal police in collaboration with the SNNPRS’s Special Forces are dehumanising Sidama people by killing and maiming unarmed civilians.
3. Deliberate, State Orchestrated And Unionist Masterminded Deeping Crisis in Sidama and Its Ramifications
As the Ethiopian PM has officially declared war on Sidama nation during his July 01, 2019 report, the Sidama nation is placed under a military control. The Ethiopia’s national military is fully operating in Sidama land terrorising peaceful civilians mainly for the last 6 days although the operation has been in place for the last three to four weeks; in particular in Hawassa and its environs. There are various reasons behind the planned orchestration of conflict in Sidama. The first and foremost is maintaining the illegal and forced merger of 56 ethnic groups in southern part of Ethiopia in which the Sidama nation is a part of. If the Sidama nation departs from the merger, firstly the nation maintains its regional city for itself by chasing the rest of enslaved 55 nations to their respective regions by leaving huge vacuum in the country, thus, PM’s unionist advisers do all it takes to break the spirit of the Sidama nation, the current war and imprisonment of the Sidama’s vibrant professionals being part such plots. Secondly, it is imperative to assert that die hard unionist prospered with the suffering and subjugation of their subjects. Therefore, these groups are still at large hence, they are working to amend the constitution, and thus they plot to drag the Sidama’s quest for a regional self-rule until then using various excuses.
The denial of the Sidama nation of its constitutionally guaranteed rights to self-determination will have wider national ramifications. Firstly, doing so shakes the tenets of country’s constitution. As indicated above, the Ethiopian constitution guarantees not only right to a regional self-rule, but also it allows any nation to demand for cessation. Denying the right that is guaranteed by the nation’s supreme law increasingly undermines and erodes the credibility of the government and its institutions. Secondly, doing so also allows the traditional rulers to continue with their project of subjugation to undermine the rights of traditionally subjugated nations, such as Sidama and the rest. The Sidama nation however hasn’t envisaged cessation in nation’s history and to date this is not the case. The nation however unequivocally demands to manage its own affairs including its economy, develop its own culture, language and ways of life, lift its people from abject poverty and indignity masterminded by the successive Ethiopian rulers to be become self-reliant and strong stakeholder within Ethiopia. Denying these rights with military power will be counterproductive and will have wide reaching consequences, therefore the Sidama requests for an immediate cessation of government orchestrated hostility in Sidama land. Otherwise, we believe that, there is no evidence that suppressing popular demands with military power has brought about lasting solution in any country. In the contrary, we learnt that, violence only replicates violence to create cycles of instability and concomitant degradation of humanity and society’s cognitive faculty- thereby making the wider people the subject of enslavement.
Due to government‘s denial and unionists’ well masterminded plots between 145 and 200 Sidama civilians were gunned down since the 18th of July 2019 in Sidama land by the Ethiopian army that is controlling the entire districts of the region. State of emergency has been declared in Sidama under the pretext of ‘Command Post’ since the evening of July 22, 2019 to further terrorise the Sidama nation for the crime masterminded by the agents of unionist. The Sidama’s promising and vibrant professionals including Ejjeetto leadership and the rest are incarcerated in such inhumane conditions; and unionists’ Medias are increasingly engaged in Sidama demonising project as they have done for decades. Over 60 people are incarcerated in a single room with no facilities for elimination in such hot weather condition at they are fumigated together. Doing so tantamount a war crime and crimes against humanity thus the international human rights organisations must agree with us in demanding their unconditional release and freedom.
The imprisoned Sidama professionals are alleged of attempting to overthrow the government by conducting coup d’état. This is a simple fabrication with the objective of quelling the Sidama peaceful move toward self-realisation. In fact, the narrative that unarmed civilians carrying nothing in their hands, arguing based on principle can overthrow a highly organised state apparatuses with its all military and intelligence power is a simple farce that only convinces imbecile minded folks. Such accounts are also cheap fabrications that never break the spirits of the determined Sidama nation to restore its national dignity and pride. PM Dr Abiy’s government has worked to break the spirit of our nation from the day one also the Sidama nation has honoured him time and time again.
Moreover, the detailed evidences are also emerging that, unionist party members are captured red handed looting and burning the properties of non-Sidama people living in Sidama land for decades to put the blame on Sidama people. The objective of doing so is to have an excuse to justify government’s attack on Sidama people and unionists unrestricted access to loot the Sidama resource by impoverishing the nation.
The Sidama nation demands PM Dr Abiy’s government to unconditionally stop its state terrorism in Sidama instead by honouring the constitution of the country by urgently conducting referendum. If the Ethiopian government thinks that military crush brings about lasting solution, they must think twice and refer to the historical account about Ethiopia and how its rulers and the country at large have evolved. The Sidama Ejjeettos are peaceful who had no history of violence. They neither planned to attack nor envisioned to do so to any person living in Sidama land and beyond. The struggle of Ejjeetto and the wider Sidama nation is one and peaceful and remains so in the face of state terrorism. They must be unconditionally exonerated and freed. Instead, we are fully aware that all the criminal activities recently narrated since July 18, 2019 including the burning of houses and businesses, displacing of people and looting their resources are not the work of the Sidama Ejjeetto. Rather they are the work of our enemies and that of poisonous unionist, their agents and supporters yearning to re-enter into Sidama land with the objective of demonising the nation so that they can rule over the subdued and dehumanised subjects. The Sidama won’t be subdued and never be so as it maintains its civil and peaceful resistance until state criminalities are stopped and the rulers abide with the rule of law.
Finally, the Sidama calls upon the Sidama cadres to unconditionally stop their symbiotic relationship with SPDM whose basis is founded on dehumanising of the Sidama nation. The Sidama nation must be free to decide on its own affairs in a military free land by removing Sidama terrorising Ethiopian army and removing the agents of unionists scattered throughout the Sidama land to terrorise and loot. Meanwhile, the Sidama nation must maintain its peaceful approach in the face of State terrorism and never involve itself in any criminal activities. Moreover, we are also aware of that Sidama terrorising army is sharing the Sidama’s scarce budget as the Sidama Zone is ordered by the PM to feed tens of thousands of army on daily basis in all Sidama districts. Whilst over one million Sidama kids and families are on the streets begging for their survival due to EPRDF masterminded poverty and indignation since 2002; feeding Sidama terrorising Ethiopia’s army is a criminality of unprecedented scale that must be immediately stopped.
July 24, 2019
Denboba Natie can be reached on (firstname.lastname@example.org)