Protesters in the Ethiopian city of Hawassa blocked roads and burned tires on Thursday after
security forces thwarted a meeting of activists to declare a new region for their Sidama ethnic
The declaration would be a test of whether Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed’s federal government
can stick to its commitment to peaceful political reforms amid increasing demands from
competing ethno-nationalist groups. Hawassa is the capital of the multi-ethnic Southern
Nations region but some Sidama, who make up the largest group there, want it as the capital
of their own new entity.
Almost all shops were closed and few cars were on the streets in Hawassa on Thursday. There
were no immediate reports of violence. On Tuesday, the National Election Board tried to
defuse the situation at the last minute by promising the Sidama they could hold a referendum
on having their own region within five months.
But some activists said they had already requested a referendum a year ago with no response.