For the first time in the history of domestic Ethiopian studies, the article analyzes in detail the successful struggle of one of the Ethiopian peoples’, the Sidama, for self-determination. On the 20th of November, 2019 a truly historic event took place in Ethiopia: one of the country’s many ethnic communities, the Sidama, achieved self-government. At a referendum about 98% voted in favor of the creation of the Sidama state. This provoked a chain reaction in the Southern Nations, Nationalities and Peoples’ Region: already 13 ethnic communities – Wolaita, Gamo, Gurage, Kaffa and others – are demanding the creation of their own states. Centrifugal processes in the country have become noticeably more active. The present paper is divided in four sections. The first section, “Who are the Sidama?”, offers a detailed description of the Sidama and emphasizes the vitality of traditional social and cultural institutions, including ethnic stratification and the continued presence of castes of artisans. At the same time, it is noted that globalization and urbanization are introducing significant changes in the life of the Sidama. The second section, “The Sidama under ethnic federalism”, analyzes the positive and negative aspects of ethnic federalism and the reasons for the discontent of the Sidama, as well as the causes of Sidama’s grievances and conflicts over power and resources with other ethnic communities, which ultimately led to their struggle for self-government. The third section, “The Sidama’s struggle for self-government”, provides a detailed account of the Sidama’s struggle against the policy of Amharization during the imperial period, the discrimination in Derg rule (1974–1991) and, since 1991, during the period of ethnic federalism. The fourth section, “Referendum”, is devoted to a detailed description of this important event in the life of the Sidama and their victory: the difficulties and obstacles to organizing the referendum, the attitude of the federal government, the referendum itself and victory. Finally, in the fifth section, “The impact of the creation of the Sidama state on the situation in the region”, the author analyzes the Constitution of the new state. The creation of the new 10th state on the ethnic basis means the strengthening of ethnic federalism in Ethiopia. It is important to stress that the author has conducted several e-mail interviews with Sidama scholars and journalists – active participants in the Sidama movement for self-determination – on the topic of post-referendum events.
Ethiopia, ethnicity, ethnic federalism, ethnic communities, Sidama state, self-determination, Sidama, Wolaita, traditional social institutions, professional castes, Oromo, Amhara, Tigray, youth-eejeettoo, Abiy Ahmed
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