By Etenesh Abera @EteneshAb
Addis Abeba – Residents in Wolkite city, the capital of Gurage zone in Southern Nations, Nationalities and People’s (SNNP) regional state, staged protests today by boycotting routine activities including civil service works and business activities in opposition against the ongoing cluster restructuring new regional states in SNNP.
Mohammed Abrar of the Gurage People Regional Quest Peaceful Struggle Committee, told Addis Standard that today’s boycott was centered in Wolkite alone, but it may expand to other woreda towns. Mohammed added that various groups, including the one he is a member, called for the boycott together. A group of youth also staged protests in parts of the city chanting slogans saying “no to cluster.”
This follows in the heels of the submission on 04 August by Kiflu Wanna, deputy speaker of the SNNP regional state Council, to the House of Federation (HoF) a cluster of ten zones and six woredas in the region requesting to be restructured in two additional regional states out of the existing SNNP region. The respective Councils of zones and Special Woredas approved the request over the weekend of 31 July.
The new restructuring will merge a total of 16 zones and special woredas in SNNP region into two additional regional states. Accordingly, the six zones: Gamo, Gedeo, Gofa, Konso, South Omo, and Wolayta zones, as well as the five Special Woredas: Ale, Amaro, Burji, Basketo, Derashe Special Woredas will form one regional state after the HoF approved the request. Similarly, four zones: Hadiya, Halaba, Kembata Tembaro and Silte zones, and Yem Special Woreda will be organized in one regional state. Kiflu has asked the HoF to respond to the requests “immediately based on the constitution.”
However, although authorities initially wanted to include the the Gurage zone, the zonal administration objected from being a part of the clustering stating that it has not yet discussed on issue of restructuring to join the other zones and special Woredas. Earlier Alemyirga Woldie, head of economic sector of the Gurage Zone Council, said that the Gurage zone administration was instead waiting for the response from the House of Federation on its earlier request for a regional state status which was submitted on 26 November 2018.
According to Mohammed, on Saturday 06 August, local elders from the Gurage community were trying to hold a traditional ritual called “Feterat,” which is normally presided by elders and is followed by a time of silence and meditation for all those involved. The event was disrupted by security forces, leading the elders to call off all events where public gatherings take place until the situation calmed. However, local administration officials convened a meeting today with residents including government employees and civil servants. The officials wanted to discuss and convince participants about the government’s plans for the structuring of the regional state to pave ways for the two new regional states, in which the Gurage zone would become a part of against the zonal council’s 2018 request for a separate regional state status. Participants however protested against the meeting and left the meeting saying that any gathering was called off by local elders as of Saturday. The boycott and protests began taking place soon after that.
Mohammed said that there is a widespread rejection from communities against the decision by the local government on the future of the zone without taking into consideration the zonal request for its own regional state status.
civil servants, banks, private companies, and transport service providers took part in today’s boycott, according to him. The major objective is to make clear to the local administration that the community is opposed to the new cluster system.
Currently, there is a huge security presence in Wolkite city even if the boycott is very peaceful. “The boycott is very peaceful but I can confirm that a number of people were detained,” he added.
Addis standard’s repeated attempt to speak with the Zonal communication bureau were unsuccessful. AS
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