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The Sidama Quest for Self-Rule: The Referendum on Regional Statehood Under the Ethiopian Federation

In: International Journal on Minority and Group Rights
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  • 1 Department of Political Science and International Relations, Bjørknes University College, Oslo, Norway, Kjetil.tronvoll@bhioslo.no
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Abstract

The Sidama of southern Ethiopia has a long history of struggle to reclaim self-rule, which was lost with the forceful incorporation of their territory into the Ethiopian empire in 1893. With the fall of the military junta in 1991, the new government reconfigured the country into a multinational (ethnic) federation. Years of protests and turmoil led to the consolidation of a nationalist movement demanding the constitutional right to conduct a referendum on the establishment of a separate Sidama regional state under the federation. The process was marred by demonstrations and incidents of violence, but the vote itself was conducted peacefully with an overwhelming 97.7 per cent ‘yes’ vote. Sidama regional state was eventually formed, but the political leadership initially advocating for its establishment was marginalised due to the centralising policies of the federal government party restricting the principles of the constitutional multinational federalism.

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