By Teshome Borago

Wolaita Ethiopians held a massive rally in the capital Soddo and other parts of the zone demanding equality and human rights for their people.

They also asked for justice for the massacres of nearly a year ago, which the Wolayta Committee for Human Rights (WCHR) labeled “one of the darkest weeks in Wolaita history.”

Many Wolayta people held signs for “regional state” status as well as to remember those murdered in Hawassa and beyond in 2018.

Rare in Ethiopia, the demonstration was reportedly supported & organized jointly by both the local ruling party officials and various Wolayta opposition groups in the zone.

Dozens of former Ethiopian army and federal officers of Wolaita descent also joined the rally in their uniforms, holding grievance signs that the country they defended and fought for is not providing equal representation and protecting their people.

In June 2018, some Wolaita businesses were destroyed and innocent Wolaitas burned alive by radical Sidama mobs who attempted ethnic cleansing in Hawassa town.

In addition to Wolaita (who makeup around 3 million in population), many other large southern ethnic groups (including Sidama & Gurage) complain about the lack of regional status; while other small ethnic communities like the Harari, Tigray, Somali and Afar were already rewarded statehood under the 1990s restructuring of Ethiopian federation.

However, the WCHR said human rights for Wolaitas nationwide is more important than simply changing the label “zone” to a “state.”

In an online statement, the WCHR said:

“We must fight harder for the human rights and equality of the 25% Wolaita people in danger living out of our zone because of growing nativism and hate.”

The new government of Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed has ignored the regionalism requests by the likes of Wolayta, Sidama and Gurage ; as well as various controversial issues on Addis Ababa, Welkait, Metekel, Wollo, Dera, Guji, Dire Dawa, Moyale and other contested areas in Ethiopia.