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News: Gurage zone residents stage fresh stay at home protests over unresolved statehood demand as NEBE conducts referendum for new regional state

Voting underway in Gamo Zone, under Arba Minch Center, Doysa Kebele of Doysa Polling Station. Picture: NEBE

Addis Abeba – Residents of Gurage zone including in the capital Wolkite, have staged a fourth round protests by boycotting routine civil service and business activities on the same day the National Electoral Board of Ethiopia (NEBE) is conducting a referendum in six zones and five special districts in the Southern Nations, Nationalities and People’s (SNNP) regional state.

Gurage zone has been put under command post in November last year following similar protests since August, as part of the zone’s push for own statehood. The ongoing day long protest is in defiance of the command post who cautioned against such kind of protests.

Hayider Murad, a resident of Wolkite told Addis Standard that there is no activity in the city except for the movements of the SNNP special forces and some ambulances. He said that the government has failed to respond to the right become a state by themselves of the Gurage people.

Andinet Anulo one of the organizers of the protests also told Addis Standard that people in all districts of the zone are staying at home boycotting their routine activities. He said activities would resume tomorrow but the peaceful struggle continues until the government responds to their demands.

The protest is taking place while NEBE is conducting referendum in Six zones and five special districts of the SNNP region to be restructured into a new regional state, “Southern Ethiopia” region.

According to NEBE more than 3 million people in Gamo, Wolaita, Gofa, Gedeo, Konso and South Omo zones and 5 special districts namely Burji, Amaro, Derashe, Basketo and Ale were registered to cast their votes in today’s referendum.

While NEBE was planning and organizing the referendum, preparations were underway to restructure whats left of the SNNP region; Gurage, Hadia, Silte, Kembata Tambaro and Halaba zones, as well as the Yem special district into ‘Central Ethiopia Region’ “without a referendum”.

On 04 August, 2022 following approvals from respective councils of zones and special districts, the SNNP regional state Council submitted a proposal to the House of Federation (HoF) suggesting that a cluster of ten zones and six special districts in the SNNP region to be restructured into two regional states after Sidama and South-Western Ethiopia regions were formed in a referendum.

But the Gurage Zone Council had rejected the proposal as it was seeking regional state status by its own, which it tabled as far back as November 2018.

Protests in the Gurage zone against the cluster restructuring were previously suppressed by heavy security crackdown including summary detentions and beatings by local police, targeting protests organizers as well as local government officials. AS

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