22 June 2012 [ESAT]
There are reports of heightened fear in Sidama Zone following the conflict in Aleta Chuco town two days ago. There are reports of student demonstrations and road blockades in Tula town 10 KM outside of Awassa. Government workers were denied passage to do their field work in the surrounding towns.
The students who are believed to be ethnic Sidama are stopping cars and asking ethnic Wolaitas to come out. Two ethnic Wolaitas are so far reportedly killed inside of Awassa referral hospital as of today. The news of the two killed at the hospital have inflamed Wolaitas and many fear could ignite ethnic conflict. Our reporter who has been traveling in the area said businesses at the outskirts of Awassa town are closed since two days ago. There is a huge presence of Federal Police in Awassa and its environs. A lot of fliers are circulating in Awassa and the surrounding towns. ‘Awassa is being sold to Wolaitas!’, ‘Let us save Awassa!, come out to protest and resist the takeover!’ are some of the contents of the fires our reporter managed to get hold of.
Many believe, the accusation that ‘Awassa is being sold to Wolaitas’ is believed to be connected to the perceived influence ethnic Wolaitas have in the state and the federal government. Hailemariam Desalegn, the Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister of Ethiopia, is ethnic Wolaita and was administrator of the regional state for a long while before he moved to the federal government.
In the recent conflict the number of dead has increased to 4. Shops, schools, and government offices are still closed in the city.
Ethiopian federal government officials and political leaders from Sidama Zone has been engaged in a lengthy and often contentions negotiation to put the Awassa City administration under the federal government.
Our reporter’s effort to talk to comments from federal authorities didn’t succeed