This briefing was produced by the Ethiopia Peace Research Facility (PRF).
The PRF is an independent facility combining timely analysis on peace and conflict from Ethiopian experts with support for conflict sensitive programming in the country. It is managed by the Rift Valley Institute and funded by the UK government.
On 6 February, six zones and five special woredas in the Southern Nations, Nationalities and Peoples Regional State (SNNPR) held a referendum on statehood to determine whether the zones – Wolayta, Gamo, Gofa, South Omo, Gedeo and Konso – and special woredas – Derashe, Amaro, Burji, Basketo and Ale – will form a separate autonomous state or remain within the SNNPR. This was the third such referendum on statehood to be held in the region since Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed came to power in 2018.
During the third week of February, Ethiopia’s National Electoral Board (NEBE) declared the approved results of the referendum of all zones and special woredas except Wolayta. All those that have declared voted overwhelmingly in favour of separate statehood. If it now comes into being, the proposed South Ethiopia Regional State will be the third new state to separate from the SNNPR through a referendum since the creation of the region in 1994. The referendum, and the formation of the new state, will have significant implications for the fate of the SNNPR, Ethiopia’s ethnolinguistic federal arrangement and the ethnic groups that will form the new region.