The Sidama Civilians Released by Court on Bail Rearrested by South Ethiopia Region and Federal Police
By The Sidama Observer, 16 August 2019
Ethiopians were hoodwinked about swift democratic reforms when the current regime of prime minister Abiy Ahmed took power following the forced resignation of his predecessor in March 2018. The revolution ignited in 2015 by the Oromo youth Qerrroo against economic and political marginalisation by the TPLF dominated regime successfully toppled the ceremonial prime minister who hailed from the marginalised small southern tribe. Few reform measures were undertaken notably liberalising media and opening limited political space.
Nonetheless, the attempted reforms were abruptly aborted as two historic ideological battles were reignited among the ardent supporters of a unitary form of state and multinational federalism nominally at work since 1991. This ideological battle between the Amhara ruling elites reconstituted under a new brand national citizenship party (Ezema) and the mainstream adherents of multinational federation stirred tensions and conflicts the chief amongst which is the Sidama question to establish their own regional state.
The Sidama nation the 5th largest in Ethiopia and the single largest in the southern region with the official population of 4.8 million in 2019, demanded to establish its own regional state in 2005 and again in July 2018 in accordance with the provisions of the 1995 constitution of FDRE which grant in articles 39 and 47(2) and (3) unlimited right to self determination and the right to establish ethnic regional state at any time respectively. The Sidama nation followed the constitutional process to the letter. The Sidama administrative council unanimously decided to establish the Sidama regional state on 18 July 2018 and communicated the decision in writing to the council of the Southern Region SNNPRS the same day. Within few months the SNNPRS council endorsed the decision of the Sidama council and requested the Ethiopian Election Board to conduct a referendum within 12 months of receipt of the Sidama request.
Contempt of constitution by the Election Board
The Ethiopian Election Board which is a constitutional chapter institution proved to be vehemently opposed to implement the constitutional order to conduct the Sidama referendum. Unfortunately for Sidama, both the prime minister and his hand picked chairwoman of the Election Board proved to be inherently anti multinational federation and the constitution of FDRE that spouse it. The Sidama nation battled for 12 months to convince them to fix a date for the referendum. Both the prime minister and Birtukan Mideksa wilfully ignored and violated the constitution.
The Sidama peaceful campaign was relentless
The Sidama civilian movement spearheaded by the youth professionals who branded their civilian mass movement Ejjeetto (hero in Sidama language), carried out three massive peaceful rallies in early 2019 to remind the federal government and the Election Board about the referendum. In February 2019 over a million Sidama civilians marched in Hawassa, the capital of Sidama demanding the date of the referendum to be fixed. In March 2019 an entirely peaceful three day strike was carried out across Sidama. In April 2019 over a million Sidama women organized what they dubbed Furra Gaado an exclusive women only peaceful rally demanding that the date of the referendum be fixed. Both the federal government and the election board ignored all these peaceful demands and did not even acknowledge these rallies had taken place. The voice of 5 million Sidama people was ignored with a contempt.
The Sidama warned the government as the referendum deadline loomed
The Sidama administrative council wrote three letters to the Ethiopian Election Board to fix the date of the referendum before the July 18 2019 deadline. Again the Ethiopian Election Board ignored the plea of the Sidama administrative council. Two days before the deadline of the referendum the political party ruling the southern region sent a conflicting message on the Sidama question causing anxiety. One and a half day before the end of the deadline the Election board released a statement proposing to conduct a referendum within five months after the 12 month deadline if certain unconstitutional requirements which were beyond its mandates were met. One month after their statement neither those preconditions were met nor the date of the referendum was ever fixed.
It never occurred to the Sidama people that the prime minister, the Election Board and a newly created party which is a pro unitary form of state were plotting to massacre the Sidama people to take revenge on their strong stance on multinational federalism. The Sidama nation became the first victim of the hijacked Oromo revolution which ignited a glimmer of hope for stronger national self determination that was not to be.
The Sidama massacre of 18-20 July 2019
On 16 and 17 July 2019 the Sidama people held consultative meetings in their sacred meeting place called Gudumaale in Hawassa seeking clarifications on the dehden and election board statements. The Sidama officials failed to provide adequate explanations to the two vague statements from the two institutions. The meeting was postponed to 18 July 2019.
Nonetheless on the morning of 18 July 2019 the Sidama civilians were blocked from entering their Gudumaale meeting venue in Hawassa and were shot at by the mitary and federal police who were deployed in Hawassa overnight.
The government did not give any warning before attacking those who were travelling to the meeting venue.
As the massacre ensued in Hawassa, private properties in Leku, Yirgalem, Aleta Wondo and Hula were looted by non-Sidama infiltrators who were bussed from Hawassa prison and other regions. Sidama was set up to go in flames to justify the massacre.
The grand objective was to dismantle the Sidama civilian youth movement ejjeetto and rebuild the weakened political party dehden (SEPDM) that lost ground in Sidama for the past year.
The plan against Sidama was successfully executed. Over 85 confirmed civilians were massacred. Over 400 were wounded and over 2000 are imprisoned. Hundreds of youth professionals were displaced.
Prisoners released on bail by Hawassa High Court are rearrested by southern region and federal police immediately.
On 16 August 2019 about nine Sidama prisoners in jail for past one month without any charge were released on bail by the Hawassa high court. Nonetheless, to the shock and consternation of the Sidama society, the inherently anti Sidama southern police commissioner and federal police forces refused to release these prisoners. These prisobers were
- Tariku W. Lemma
- Getahun Dagooye
- Fasika Legesse
- Belay Balguda
- Melese Agaro
- Legesse Hankarsso
- Asnake Assefa
- Ganale Garamo and
- Girma Karre
Prisoners number 1, 2 and 3 are managers of the independent private Sidama Media Network the first ever media outlet owned by the Sidama people.
It is a travesty of justice to massacre people who demanded a right enshrined in the constitution of the country. But it is abhorrent to jail thousands who did not commit any crime and refuse to release them even when the court orders their release.
Ethiopia is being led by a tyranny that proved to be more vicious than the regime the Oromo revolution toppled. It is high time the multinational federal forces wake up and smell the coffee. Today is Sidama. Tomorrow is your turn !!