Approval granted for creation of new regional state in Ethiopia
In a significant development, the upper house of parliament in Ethiopia has given its approval for the establishment of a 12th regional state.
This decision comes after a recent referendum that sought greater self-rule in the country, which is the second-most populous in Africa.
The referendum, conducted in February, witnessed a strong majority of voters in a portion of the ethnically diverse Southern Nations, Nationalities and Peoples Region (SNNPR) expressing their support for the formation of a separate state.
The upper house unanimously voted in favor of creating the ‘South Ethiopia Region,’ making it the third new state to be established since Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed assumed office in 2018. The official statement released by the upper house stated, “In response to the expressed desire of the six zones and five special districts through a referendum, the House of Federation has decided to organize them into a regional state during today’s regular session.”
This development follows the trend of states breaking away from SNNPR, which is home to various minority ethnic groups and has experienced tensions and violence in recent years. Sidama separated in 2019, and South West followed suit in 2021.
After assuming power in the early 1990s, the Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front coalition government divided the country into nine semi-autonomous regions based on ethnic and linguistic lines.
According to the 1995 constitution, a referendum was required for any ethnic group seeking to form a new region within the federal system.
However, the previous government, led by the minority ethnic elite in Tigray, suppressed such attempts, often resorting to violence, during its 27-year rule.
Abiy’s appointment in 2018, after a series of anti-government protests, revitalized the aspirations for autonomy and identity-based claims.
In recent years, Ethiopia, with its population of 110 million, has faced challenges posed by conflicts, at times deadly, arising from these administrative divisions and territorial disputes.