ADDIS ABABA (Reuters) – Voters in Ethiopia’s Sidama region went to the polls a day late on Tuesday as officials counted ballots from other regions in an election marred by an opposition boycott, war and reports of irregularities in some areas. Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed hopes the national and regional elections will show the success of democratic reforms he launched after being appointed by the ruling coalition in 2018. But the vote also reflects a messy reality in the country of 109 million people. Authorities could not hold polls on Monday in four of Ethiopia’s 10 regions including Sidama, where there were logistical problems, according to the election board. “Democracy is not built in a day. We are laying it brick by brick,” Abiy said in a written statement late on Monday. “No matter who wins, Ethiopians from all over the country have voted for whomever they choose, without any fear and without any kind of pressure. And because of that, Ethiopia is triumphant,” said Abiy. There was n
Voters in Ethiopia’s Sidama state are getting a second chance to cast ballots on Tuesday after officials there ran out of voting papers a day earlier, when most of the rest of the country voted for the country’s next legislature. The second day of voting in Sidama started at 11 am (0800 GMT). The head of Ethiopia’s electoral board, Birtukan Mideksa, told reporters late on Monday that there were no significant security problems witnessed during the election, though she noted some disturbances in the Amhara and Oromia regions. She also noted some polling stations that didn’t open at all due to security fears. “Generally, it was a peaceful election. There were no security or other challenges that could affect the outcome of the electoral process,” she said. Some polling stations have started posting results. Preliminary results are expected within five days, and final ones are expected within two weeks. An African Union observer mission, led by the former Nigerian president Olusegun Obasa
Election officers at different polling stations such as Gudu Malle-5, Piazza and Menaherya told The Reporter that the election is going peacefully and they have not faced any shortage of materials. Representatives of competing parties namely Prosperity Party (PP), All Ethiopian Union Party (AEUP) and Ethiopian Citizens for Social Justice (EZEMA) also confirmed that the election is going smoothly and they haven’t notice any shortage of election materials. Administrator of the newly established Sidama Region, Desta Ledamo and General Manager of the Addis Ababa City Admiration, Tiratu Beyene, casted their ballots in different polling stations established in the city and planted a tree as part of this year’s green legacy initiative.
Although Sidama region’s creation answered a long-standing autonomy demand, for many, the status quo remains unchanged. Gudumaale is a sacred spot for the Sidama people. It marks a gathering place for the celebration of Fichee Chembellalla, Sidama’s distinct New Year celebration. For years, thousands assembled at Gudumaale, adorned with their traditional best, to eat, dance, and welcome the new year. Gudumaale is also where Sidama elders come together to resolve disputes, and, at times, make important decisions for the community. In July 2019, the Gudumaale square in Hawassa, seat of the Southern Nations Nationalities and Peoples’ Regional State (SNNP), was poised to serve as the place where the Sidama people unilaterally declared their statehood. After a protracted struggle for self-determination that spanned over a century—and in the absence of government response to a constitutional referendum request—thousands made their way to the square in the early morning of 18 July 2019