The Ethiopian Government /EPRDF Manifesto to Uproot the Sidama People from their Land of Hawassa

22 Jun


The Ethiopian government /EPRDF recently circulated a manifesto declaring that the Hawassa town in Sidama be placed under the control of the central government and be administered nationally. The objective of the manifesto written in Amharic is to undermine and permanently silence the age-old demand of the Sidama people for regional autonomy.  Since EPRDF’s advent to power in 1991, the Sidama people have consistently demanded that because of their population size (which government puts at 3 million and independent estimates put at 5 million) and their high economic contributions (Sidama is a major producer of coffee that earns  about 60% of foreign  exchange for the country) they be granted regional autonomy in Ethiopia.  This is a fundamental human, economic and political right that is enshrined in the very constitution promulgated by the EPRDF government itself.  However, the Ethiopian government repeatedly rejected the constitutional demand of the Sidama people and in a number of occasions crushed peaceful protests with brute forces.  In 2002, when the Government announced that it was going to place Hawassa town under national administration, the Sidama people rose up and rejected the proposed measures and pressed with their demand for regional autonomy.  People carried out peaceful rallies to underscore their dissatisfaction with the Government’s proposal in various towns and villages across Sidama.   However, peaceful marches by Sidama elders, high school students and children from Hawassa and its surroundings were brutally crushed by the armed forces and security police who used live ammunition and massacred over 100 people of whom the bodies of about 70 have been recovered and buried. 

The ensuing crack down on the Sidama people saw further atrocities in the form of extrajudicial arrests, torture, and forced removal from employment positions and forced exile of educated and skilled Sidama nationals. However, such brutal repression did not dampen the spirit of the Sidama people who have fought four successive regimes in protracted liberation struggles at times fully liberating half of the province from the oppressive regimes in spite of suffering recurring setbacks. The struggle for basic rights of regional self-determination continued covertly and overtly until today.

Notwithstanding this fact, the regime that is hell-bent to impose its will on the people to protect the interests of the few in the land recently produced a new manifesto to up root the Sidama people from their home land of Hawassa.

The manifesto is written in Amharic and has four sections: an introduction, why the Hawassa administration is key to the national government, principles to follow to restructure Hawassa town administration, and a conclusion.   

We provide below a rough summary translation of the manifesto while providing clarifications to readers about glaring policy inconsistencies contained in the illegal document under each paragraph. 

Title of the manifesto:

How to administer our metropolitan cities

  1. Introduction

When the South Ethiopian Peoples’ Democratic Movement (a branch of EPRDF in South Ethiopia) conducted its revolutionary renewal meeting recently, it passed decisions to enhance the capacity of the administration in Hawassa town and other towns that are included in the government’s reform programme and that have shown weaknesses in spearheading political and economic transformation.  

The regional EPRDF meeting decided that due to its importance as one of the “metropolitan” cities in the country, the capacity of the administration of the Hawassa town be enhanced by appointing  “capable individuals” in leadership positions.

Comments from Sidama: Hawassa with a population of 162000 in 2011 is not a metropolitan city by any standard; although there are few high rise buildings and few kilometers of tar marked roads the town is still one of the less developed towns by any global standard as the entire country is.  Housing and other basic social and economic services are inadequate. However,  the town remains one of the fastest growing towns in the country due to two factors: (a) it is the centre of cash crop –coffee (Sidama produces most of specialty Arabica coffee highly demanded in the world market alongside with significant amount of ordinary Arabica coffee), and (b) geographical beauty due to the location of the city along lake Hawassa. The town developed faster under the Sidama administration in the past 20 years than during any time in its history. The term metropolitan area refers to a region consisting of a densely populated urban core and its less-populated surrounding territories, sharing socioeconomic infrastructure with its surroundings. A metropolitan area usually comprises multiple jurisdictions, and municipalities, smaller towns, other cities; districts and so on.  Which other jurisdictions in Sidama does a Hawassa “metropolitan” area encompass? Is even Tuula which is 4 kilometers from Hawassa part of Hawassa “metropolitan” area? Is there any industrial infrastructure, housing and metropolitan transport networks that link Hawassa with its surroundings?  Who is fooling whom? The main objective of the manifesto is to uproot the Sidama people from their land because they are not politically loyal to the current regime, and thereby ensure that the rents collected smoothly flow to  the offshore accounts where billions of the country’s meager hard currency  has been transferred during the past decade or to central government for developments in other priority regions.

This discussion paper   (manifesto) is prepared to guide the South Ethiopia EPRDF executive committee to implement the stated reform in “consultation” with different layers of administrations in the region and in line with a revolutionary, developmental , and democratic  principles without causing unnecessary misunderstanding  of our courses of action.  

Comments from Sidama: Changes of administrators to be implemented in consultation with the Sidama people? 99.9% of the Sidama people have rejected the current regional arrangement in South Ethiopia and continued to demand regional autonomy for the past 20 years. South Ethiopian regional state is illegal and remains to be illegal based on EPRDF’s own constitution. No one was consulted when the five independent regions were merged into one in 1993. And any proposals to uproot the Sidama people from their land have been fully rejected by the people. As we speak, all Sidama people are protesting against this very document in all 19 districts. 

The South Ethiopia EPRDF executive committee underscored the importance of “consultation” and reiterated that there was a need to rectify the misconception that  town administrations are there to collect rents instead of promoting economic development by building the  revolutionary democratic social basis that will enhance  participation in and beneficiation of citizens from development.

Comments from Sidama: The statements that allege that the Sidama administrators in Hawassa were corrupt rent collectors makes mockery of the corruption in Ethiopia. Who owns the Ethiopian economy?  The Heritage Center states:  “Ethiopia’s economic freedom score is 52.0, making its economy the 134th freest in the 2012 Index. Its overall score is 1.5 points higher than last year, reflecting improvements in four of the 10 economic freedoms including investment freedom and monetary freedom. Ethiopia is ranked 28th out of 46 countries in the Sub-Saharan Africa region, and its overall score is slightly below the regional average.

Progress toward greater economic freedom has been very uneven, and Ethiopia underperforms in many critical policy areas. The absence of an independent and fair judiciary weakens the rule of law  and undermines prospects for long-term sustainable economic development. Corruption is pervasive, and the efficiency of government services is poor.” Is the above due to corruption in Hawassa? Come on EPRDF.

According to a report published by Global Financial Integrity in 2011, Ethiopia has lost $11.7-billion to outflows of illicit funds in the last decade. In 2009 alone, the figure was $3.26-billion, exceeding both the value of its total annual exports and the total development aid it received that year. And it is on the increase. The candid finding: “The people of Ethiopia are being bled dry. No matter how hard they try to fight their way out of absolute destitution and poverty, they will be swimming upstream against the current of illicit capital leakage.” Is this due to corruption in Hawassa? “

The manifesto outlines the reasons why the administration of Hawassa is a pivotal question and suggests measures required to implement the proposed changes of leadership.   The main objective is to replace the existing structures with competent transitional administration that will ensure the total elimination of rent seeking and promote developmental political economy that will maximize the benefits to the people.

  1. Why  the Hawassa administration is a fundamental challenge  

 2.1  The need to ensure that the system based on  rent collection is abolished and  competition , which is a foundation for development  is instilled

Comments from Hawassa: The Ethiopian economy is not competitive at all: it is dominated by few endowment companies owned by EPRDF: “In practice, Ethiopia’s ruling EPRDF government retains control of a large proportion of available sources of rents and economic levers, including large state-owned enterprises and so-called ‘endowment-owned’ businesses.” (Africa power and politics).

The importance of our towns is measured by their potential to generate profit to investors.  At the same time our towns also attract those who are bent on profiteering illegally.  The fact that these towns are the focus of both genuine investors and those who intend to amass wealth through fraudulent mechanisms obviously complicates our struggle. 

It is clear that except our capital city, Addis Ababa , and Oromia regional towns in the surroundings of Addis Ababa, no other towns in Ethiopia compete with “our Hawassa.”

Comments from Sidama: What a shame EPRDF: did not this happen under Sidama administration during the past 20 years? then why are you so determined to change it?

The main factors that make “our town Hawassa” the most attract place are:

1)      Her natural beauty and attractions,

2)      The People of Sidama are a cash crop (major Coffee) producers and Hawassa is the biggest market for the product;

3)      The center for towns in Southern region up to the Kenyan boarder,

4)      The entrepreneurial skills of its dwellers, among others;

These factors create opportunities to foster faster economic development in the area if the government is able to mobilize resources effectively, allocate them properly to the development collectively and ensure “competition”. 

On the other hand, if rents collected are allowed to continue to be embezzled, the few individuals will shine temporarily but economic development will be short lived because it is not based on” hard work and competition”.

Hawassa has been plagued by the second challenge and as result it has failed to achieve its full development potential. 

Comments from Sidama: this contradicts the very statement above that Hawassa is the fastest growing city not rivaled by any other regional cities except a few in Oromia, but it failed to achieve its full development potential. Which city achieved its full development potential in Ethiopia? What a contradiction! Why not change administrators of those regional cities that have failed to perform as good as Hawassa did first and then come to Hawassa if it is overtaken by them. Would not that be a logical policy sequencing for any policy maker in his right mind?

Since recently we have taken measures to ensure that everything we do is based on the fundamental principles of competition, and openness, and conducted with justice, challenges still remain. We are therefore committed to replace the existing Hawassa leaders with leaders that transcend the rent collection and abuse culture and are capable and committed to work based on the principle of “competition”.  

If we do not carry out the proposed reform, we will undermine our people particularly those living in Hawassa city. This would allow the culture of rent collection and abuse and corruption to spread among our general public thereby by endangering our political system. This will lead to societal decay and ultimately to underdevelopment, disunity, and conflicts amongst our peoples.

Comments from Sidama: remember the Sidama people have lived in Hawassa for the past 1000 years. Hawassa means large in Sidama language. Hawassa town was found only in 1957, 55 years ago.  The majority of the people, living in Hawassa today are Sidama. Whom does the EPRDF proposal of uprooting the majority of the people make happy? The Sidama people are naturally respectful to anyone who comes to their land and lives with them in peace. But if they are to be uprooted to give their lands to others they will never accept it as they have demonstrated during the past 10 centuries.

After South Ethiopia EPRDF renewal, we have realized that this is not a hypothetical scenario or fear; we have witnessed this route of disaster in reality and if it is allowed to continue in this manner the route of disaster will be emboldened and will repeat itself soon.

Comments from Sidama: Is the route of disaster in Hawassa  due to its fast development under the Sidama administration? Your argument does not hold any water, please.

2.2 The need to inculcate revolutionary, open and developmental attitude

China’s rise to power as the second largest economy in the World was driven by the 1978 reform of opening-up by the then president Deng Xioppeng;

China’s decision to open up to the external world and global completion enabled the country to achieve rapid economic growth during the past thirty years.

Comments from Sidama: Oh, come on: China’s opening up under Deng Xiaoping (he is not Xioppeng) and the country’s rapid economic transformation compared with changing leadership in Hawassa.  Obviously, the EPRDF cadre who wrote this manifesto has no clue what he is talking about.  China’s opening -up was a historic shift in the development strategy of the whole country from closed socialist to more capitalist, market oriented  system based on true competition.  It could not be reduced to a little land grabbing strategies here and there. And who is Deng Xiaoping in the case of Hawassa land grab? Let me quote Ezra Vogel on Xiaoping: 

“Deng was the pragmatic yet disciplined driving force behind China’s radical transformation in the late twentieth century. He confronted the damage wrought by the Cultural Revolution, dissolved Mao’s cult of personality, and loosened the economic and social policies that had stunted China’s growth. Obsessed with modernization and technology, Deng opened trade relations with the West, which lifted hundreds of millions of his countrymen out of poverty.” Is Ethiopia going to apply a radical policy shift only in Hawassa while the rest of the country continues to languish under poverty? What a mother of all jokes?

We always reiterate that Hawassa is becoming a metropolitan town. We would like “our beautiful town”  to become the tourist center.  We would like our city to become the leading industrial center in the country.  We know that Hawassa has the potential to become trade and distribution center.

As some countries in the world have one city designated as global conference centers such as Sharm el Sheik in Egypt; Banglore in India, Durban in South Africa; Camp David in United States,  Hawassa also has the potential  to become the Hawassa conference centre of Ethiopia. The city has the potential to become the centre of scientific and technological research and development. It has the potential to become the second city in Ethiopia.

Comments from Sidama: Is the objective to transform Hawassa to a place like a resort town of Sharm el Sheik in Egypt to reduce it to a recreational facility for the new ruling elites by chasing away poor Sidamas from their town.

Our opening-up policy is meant to make Hawassa becomes a city admired by the Sidama people; different peoples living in South Ethiopia; all Ethiopians and the global community. On top of this we would like to ensure that it will become the city loved by its dwellers.

This revolutionary thinking rejects the mentality of rent collection and embezzlement, and antirevolutionary attitude.

Among the investors in China’s about 70% come from the west and the remaining originate in the country’s arch foe, Japan.  This indicates that in the interest of economic development, countries put their historic rivalries aside and invite investors from their former enemies.  To ensure people benefit from development, we need take such revolutionary actions.  We should ask ourselves why it is important to make such critical decisions in the interest of the people.  Those who made these decisions have implemented free market economies and benefited their people and enhanced their roles in the world.

Comments from Sidama: Invite investors from former enemies in the interest of the people?  are we talking about inviting investors from Wolayita or Gamo?  But Wolayita and Gamo are not enemies of Sidama. The fact of the matter is that they do not have more resources than  Sidama. All Ethiopians from any corner of the country are investing in Hawassa under Sidama administration. Did the Sidama people block Haile Gebre Sellasie from investing in Hawassa? No one is the enemy of the Sidama people and the Sidama administration in Hawassa will continue to attract investors from the country as well as the rest of the world. What a Walayita and Gamo, or Shakicho can do, any Sidama can. If  the intention is to bring in the Tigre nationals as the leaders of Hawassa city let it be clear. 

At present we are at a time when we have to lead our Hawassa “metropolitan” town based on the same principle. If we do not take the proposed measures, Hawassa will lag behind leading to under development and conflicts.

Comments from Sidama: you stated above clearly that the Sidama administration ensured that Hawassa performed better than any other towns in the country for the past 20 years. What a fallacy!!

 2.3  The need to understand rights of nations, nationalities and peoples in light of revolutionary democratic principles.

Both federal and regional constitutions ensure the rights of nations, nationalities and people to regional self-administration and allow them to develop their languages and culture while ensuring that nations and nationalities will have fair representations in institutions that belong to all.

Comments from Sidama: Regional self-determination does not apply in South Ethiopia. Ethiopia has two systems of administration (a) unitary in South Ethiopia and (b) ethnic based federal arrangements in the rest of the country. Do not underestimate people in the South, particularly the Sidama people.  We are not stupid. Either follow a unitary administration throughout the country or ethnic based federalism throughout the country. We know it is not possible to have 45 regions in the South. The demand of the people is to return to the previous 5 regions with likeminded peoples together in one region. This is the root cause of the problem of Hawassa. Without addressing it, EPRDF will never be able to address the questions of the rights of nations and nationalities to self-administration in the country.

The representation of nations and nationalities and representation of the elite groups from these nations and nationalities has often led to contradictory interpretations.

Comments from Sidama: How do you separate educated Sidamas you labeled here as “elite groups” from the Sidama people: a third system of dividing people and societies.

Nations and nationalities are represented by officials in various structures of government that people elect whether these officials are educated or uneducated. 

Individuals elected to the various councils have the power to promulgate laws and identify areas to be administered by these laws and conduct various other functions and as such are the true representatives of the people.

However, at present representatives in most councils have lost touch with the people  and fail to carry out their tasks of guiding and supervising the  executives while the role of the executive has become inflated and accountable to those who work with them instead of the people thereby undermining the revolutionary ethos.

We understand that in executives branches there are positions that are performed exclusively by those elected by the people.  These are constitutional provisions and laws that emanate from it. 

Notwithstanding the above, executive positions should be filled by those who have the capacity to implement the tasks they are assigned to do.  The first criterion of capacity is the capacity of revolutionary development and democracy; while leadership skills and academic qualifications that are commensurate to the positions can also be considered as additional criteria. Those to be assigned in executive positions should be able to understand the developmental and democratic polices and strategies in their localities, urban or rural. This will enable them to understand the policies and strategies and implementation methods and inculcate them into others.

Comments from Sidama: in Sidama people’s representation should be divided into two. The Sidama people will keep the legislative positions, but EPRDF will take away the executive positions.   While in the rest of the country people’s representation means full representation in the legislative, the executive and the judiciary since regions are demarcated based on ethnic identities. Who is dumb; you or the Sidama people? 

In Sidama the benefit to the people should not be measured by the number of people assigned but by the good administration that emanates from full understanding of  the revolutionary development.  That is why we in our renewal article of 1993 EC, stated that we would uproot narrow nationalism and chauvinism!!

 Revolutionary democracy is different from others because of its stand on peoples’ democratic participation.  Revolutionary democracy strongly believes that people should actively participate in all processes at all levels. This is mainly done at kebelle, woreda and town levels. However peoples’ participations should not be limited to these levels, People should fairly participate and be represented at zonal, regional, and at the level of the federal government.  This ensures equitable national participation.

Comments from Sidama: stop nonsense about revolutionary democracy; there is no democracy in Ethiopia at all. The ruling party wins 99.6% of the votes and you keep on lamenting about democracy throughout this illegal crap document.

The executive, which provides the political leadership, has similarities with the council of peoples’ representatives and council of federal representatives.  However, the executive is formed by the party that wins the election and as such the winning party appoints those whom it considers to be capable to deliver. If the party is formed from limited nations and nationalities the executive (cabinet) will also reflect that composition thereby limiting participations by various peoples.  The presence of some regions where EPRDF has no   representations may thus lead to imbalances in the executive representations.  This may also limit the availability of capable individuals that the party would like to appoint in executive positions. As a result of this there would always remain discrepancies between those positions held by elected officials and those held by the executives.

The rights of all Ethiopian people will be respected only if the polices of EPRDF are fully implemented. And this can only be ensured if the executives appointed by the ruling party have the required capacity.  If we continue to appoint people who do not have capacity in order to fulfill the quota of nations and nationalities, this will not benefit the country and negatively impact on all people.  Thus if the national representation does not protect the interest of the people it is not a revolutionary national representation.  We implement the representation of nations and nationalities as long as it does not affect the capacity of the executive to deliver.

Comments from Sidama: the rights of the people will never be respected in one party dictatorship. Is EPRDF living in 12th century? Does this apply to all the country or Sidama only? It does not. Can you appoint a Sidama as a mayor of Mekele? Again, is Ethiopia a unitary or ethnic based federal state?

Few educated individuals from various ethnic groups often do not fully understand the meaning of popular representation and think that they have the right to represent the people simply because they belong to a certain ethnic group. 

Comments from Sidama: Individuals in Ethiopia neither have the rights to represent their ethnic groups nor the country. Why did you chase away political opponents who claimed to represent the whole country, if you are so against claims of ethnic representations? The fact is no one can represent anything in Ethiopia. The political system is akin to that of North Korea. Trying to divide individuals and the societies they belong to EPRDF is making another historic blunder. This is the most bizarre attempt to divide individuals and the society they belong to. It implies that only the Tigres in ERPDF who are the true representatives of all the people in Ethiopia. A Sidama intellectual has no right to represent his own people nor does he have any right to represent the country.

During the discussion the Sidama people have exposed the intentions of the few educated Sidamas stressing that they have been hiding behind the Sidama umbrella to enrich themselves and promote their private benefits not the benefit of society.

Comments from Sidama: let the facts be stated clearly; corruption is rampant in Ethiopia in every corner of the EPRDF led regions. Ethiopia lost US$11 billion during the past ten years in corruption. What the poor EPRDF cadres in Hawassa are being accused of is the tip of the iceberg. Besides, Hawassa has performed better under the Sidama administration than any other regional cities in the country as this manifesto itself admitted in various pages. The most corrupt towns in the country have obviously lagged behind Hawassa in development during the past 20 years. If EPRDF is genuinely concerned about the development of cities it should first address the development challenges of the laggard cities not the city which is performing the best in the country. Do not make a mountain of corruption out of a mole hole in Hawassa while you have real mountains of corruption throughout the country.  Beside, receiving two plots of land can never be compared with receiving direct aid funds meant to the country from international donors in the name of endowments for specific regions, unless of course we are forced to believe that the mighty is always right!   

Therefore, there will be two forms of administrative representation in Sidama: (1) where there is a need to maintain ethnic national representation, the Sidama individuals will be able to represent the Sidama people; (2) in areas that require better capacity to implement development and democratic principles in order to ensure improved governance that will benefit the people, appointments should be based on the ability to deliver not on being Sidama or not.

Comments from Sidama: does this apply to all the regions in Ethiopia?

We will continue to fight the two extreme views of executive representation, i.e. the demand for Sidama national representation in executive positions in Sidama and rejection of leadership capacity as the main criterion for executive appointments.  These two attitudes are antirevolutionary and we will continue to fight them.

2.4  The need to ensure that the metropolitan towns will not be continued to be administered in the previous manner.   

Comments from Sidama: which other towns in Ethiopia are to be administered nationally? Apparently all of them are performing very poorly compared to Hawassa but their administrations will never be changed. We know that under dictatorship anything can happen. However this is one of the most blatant deceits and should be stopped immediately.

Towns will serve as the centers of knowledge and technology to enhance agricultural and rural development.  They will accomplish this role only if we are able to deliver effectively social and economic services in these towns themselves.  These include among others; modern town planning; adequate socio-economic development planning,  land use and administration, housing supplies;  developing strategies for landscaping, and sanitation the town remain the corner stones for the development of these towns.  It requires political commitment and capacity to deliver these.

Comments from Sidama: The Sidama leadership that ensured that Hawassa grew faster than any other towns in the country during the past 20 years is regarded as having no political commitment and capacity to deliver these all of the sudden! Another blatant fallacy!

We cannot continue to administer Hawassa in the same manner as we used to administer rural Sidama. That will not continue anymore!

Comment from Sidama:  To EPRDF, it does not matter if rural Sidama continue to be administered by people with poor capacity; but it does matter when people with poor capacity administer Hawassa. That is what EPRDF calls championing the cause of the poor!! Do you people think before uttering such extremely shameful words, which leave your true intentions naked?  You are committed to replace those who administer towns where there is good amount of rent, but not interested in improving the administration of rural Sidama where 90 of our people live.

Thus we need to urgently take over Hawassa and appoint individuals with better political and leadership capacity and commitment.

  1. Principles to be followed to change  the Hawassa town administration

 1)      Since Hawassa town is in Sidama zone, the representation of the Sidama people in the town administration has been ensured in related laws.  This will be implemented without undermining their right for representation.

Comments from Sidama : this is not true. This very document undermines the right of the Sidama people for self-administration. Another blatant fallacy!!

2)      Outside of the positions that reflect the right of the Sidama people for representation, appointment will not be based on quotas but the ability of individual to fully understand and implement EPRDF town and industry development policy and their detailed implementation plans.

 Comments from Sidama:  which positions in Sidama do not require Sidama representation; are we talking about two constitutions in one country; can you appoint me as the mayor of Mekele; I am a Sidama and as capable as any Tiger. You cannot. You have to clearly and honestly state that the EPRDF constitution does not apply to South Ethiopia and you can bend the rules you have promulgated as you wish in the South.

 3)      Notwithstanding (2) above it is possible to  find members of EPRDF regardless of ethnic distinctions that are capable of leading the stated transition  step by step;

Comment from Sidama: Indeed you have as many capable Sidamas as possible who can lead that little town Hawassa; But your criterion is a political commitment to EPRDF, which none of the capable Sidamas have. Nor do capable Ethiopians elsewhere in the country have political commitments to EPRDF.

4)      The main principle is to ensure that the Sidama people, peoples of the region and the direct beneficiaries of the proposed change, the residents of Hawassa benefit from revolutionary and developmental leadership.

Comments from Sidama: the main objectives of the proposed change of leadership in Hawassa town are twofold: (1) permanently silence the Sidama demand for regional autonomy, and (2) ensure that the rents collected will go to the central government and through it to the offshore accounts where US$ 11 billion have been transferred  during the past decade or to the developments in the priority region.  


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