Ethiopia youth activists to declare new federal state

A group of youth activists and opposition politicians in Ethiopia have agreed to go ahead and declare the southern region of Sidama as a separate federal state within the country.

The declaration is due to happen on Wednesday.

Sidama is currently part of the multi-ethnic Southern Nations, Nationalities, and People’s Region (SNNPR).

The activists’ move could aggravate regional tensions within Ethiopia which are threatening the unity of the country. Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed has said there would be military action if it goes ahead.

The Sidama activists met with with elders in Hawasa on Sunday.

SNNPR’s governing party – which is part of Ethiopia’s ruling coalition – is currently meeting to decide what it should do about the Sidama declaration.

Wednesday marks a year since SNNPR’s parliament accepted that there should be a referendum on Sidama’s future. According to the constitution, the vote should have happened within the last 12 months.

But Mr Abiy has urged people to be patient saying that changes in the election board need to happen before the referendum can take place.