Violent protests erupted in Hawassa (Southern Nations, Nationalities, and Peoples' region) on Thursday, July 18, after security forces reportedly thwarted a meeting planned by local activists to declare the formation of a new region in Ethiopia for the Sidama ethnic group. Protesters reportedly blocked roads across the city with burning tires; unconfirmed reports indicate gunshots were heard. All shops are reported to be closed and mobile data is blocked.
In the meantime, the president of the Sidama Liberation Movement Party, reportedly announced that he would eventually accept an offer by the National Election Board to have the Sidama ethnic community hold a referendum on whether to create their own region within five months.
A heightened security presence has been reported in Hawassa on Thursday, and is expected to remain in the coming hours and days. Localized disruptions are also to be anticipated.
SNNPR is made up of numerous ethnic groups, including the Sidama who make up the largest group. Concerns have risen that if the Sidama are granted their own federal state, other ethnic groups will also try to do so, as an increase in ethnic-based unrest have been reported throughout the country in the past months.
Individuals in Ethiopia, and particularly those in Hawassa, are advised to monitor the situation, avoid all protests and demonstrations due to potential violence, anticipate heightened security measures and transportation disruptions near large public gatherings, and adhere to instructions issued by local authorities and their home governments.
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