Following the referendum vote held last Friday, five zones and one Wereda (district smaller than one zone) in southern Ethiopia formed a new region, the South West region.
The special zones of Konta Wereda, West Omo, Bechi Sheka, Kaffa, Dawro and Sheka have now merged to form the region of southwest Ethiopia. Of the region’s total population, the majority (1,221,092) voted for the formation of the new region, while the total number of people voting to keep the five zones in the southern region of Ethiopia was from 24,024.
The formation of the South West Ethiopia region will bring the total number of regions in the country to 11. Tigray, Amhara, Oromia, South, Somalia, Afar, Gambella, Benishangul Gumz, Harari, Sidama and South West are now the regions of Ethiopia.
Ethiopia’s current system of federalism introduced after 1991 by the former rebels (Ethiopian Peoples’ Revolutionary Democratic Front – dominated by the Tigray People Revolutionary Front (TPLF), has been criticized for dividing the country on the basis of ethnicity , which led to targeted attacks against people from different ethnic groups living in another.
These targeted attacks by ethno-nationalist politicians and political activists have resulted in the deaths of thousands of innocent people and the displacement of millions of people in recent years.
It is not clear whether the formation of the southwestern region of Ethiopia, which includes people from different ethnic groups, signals the country’s intention to move away from ethnicity-based regional formation to adopt a geographic location.