By Medihane Ekubamichael
Addis Abeba, August 02/2020 – Two weeks after popular protests in Wolayta Zone, in Southern Nations, nationalities and People’s Regional State (SNNPRS) were met with heavy crackdown by the federal and regional security forces, the region’s branch of the incumbent Prosperity Party (PP) has ousted Dagato Kumbe as chief administrator of Wolaita zone on August 28.
Protestors took to the streets for days starting on August 09 after federal security forces stormed at a meeting chaired by Dagato Kumbe and arrested at least 28 participants including Dagato and Muluneh Woldetsadik, deputy president of the Wolaita Zone high court. Dagato is widely known for advocating the 2018 Wolayta zone’s request for self-rule and regional state status. All the detainees were since released on bail.
However, on August 28 the Wolaita zone council was summoned for an emergency meeting chaired by the Council’s Speaker Abebech Erasho and removed Dagato, replacing him Dr. Endrias Geta.
Amsalu Mesene, Head of the Regional state’s information secretariat bureau, told Addis Standard that the approval procedure has been performed following usual formality and Dr. Endrias Geta was presented by the presiding regional Prosperity Party office to the assembled Zonal Council members for approval and won majority vote.
According to various sources more than a dozen members of the council were absent from the meeting when Dr. Endrias was sworn in at the at Gutera Hall in Sodo city, the capital of Wolaita zone.
Amsalu admitted there were inconsistencies regarding the way the meeting was called. “Normally meetings are called through formal outgoing letters signed by the Speaker of the council, yet the said meeting was not called accordingly and led to absence of some members.” says Amsalu.
The new appointee has been serving as the Director-General of the SNNP Regional State Agricultural Research Institute. Prior to his transfer to the regional institute, Dr. Endrias served as Dean of Wolaita Sodo Agricultural College and Director of the Areka Agricultural Research Center.
In his acceptance speech regarding Wolaita Zone’s pending request Dr. Endrias said he would work on the ongoing works in consultation with the public. He also said “The new administration vows to restore peace and stability in the zone and boost the stagnant economy.”
The existing request for regional organization of the Wolaita zone will continue through the constitutional steps that has already been undergoing, Amsalu affirms on his part, adding “Wolaita’s request [for self-rule and regional state status] won’t be changed by the fact that the leadership is changed now as long as it proceeds in accordance with the framework dictated in the constitution.”
Addis Standard repeated attempt to get further explanation from the xone’s speaker Abebech Erasho were to no avail.
In a statement issued last week, the Southern Region Prosperity Party Coordinating Committee announced that a decision was reached to remove the arrested officials from their respected posts as of August 22, 2020. They include Wolaita Zone’s Prosperity Party office head Tibebu Yohannes.
The incumbent also accused the ousted zonal leaders of “devising various tactics to reverse the reform by force, intending to complicate the process of organizing the statehood request, and causing instability and loss of life in the zone”, among others.
Following the committee’s statement, Wolaita officials from the federal and southern states had various meetings with Woreda leaders in the zone, but neither the zonal administration nor the Southern Region Prosperity Party have made clear the outcome of the meetings. Sources disclose to Addis Standard said that one of the topics raised by the participants was the dismissal of the arrested Wolaita zone leaders and other individuals, who despite being released on bail, continue to appear in zonal court.
Tensions began to simmer between Wolaita zone officials and the SNNPRS Council after June 15, when all the 38 members of Wolaita zone withdrew themselves from the regional council in protests against a move to reorganize the southern region into four separate states. Wolayta zone representatives said the move didn’t consider their request for separate statehood.
Abebech Erasho, said then that the zonal council members accused the regional council of failing to address their request for statehood although a referendum needed to take place within one year, leading the representatives to lose trust in the Council. AS