Sidama Liberation Front

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Stop Perennial Land Resource Mismanagement and State Sponsored Border Conflicts in Lokka Abbaayya and Baleela Districts,  Sidama State

Press Statement by the Sidama National Liberation Front (SNLF)

May 15 2021

The Lokka Abbaayya and Baleela districts which border Wolayita Zone and Oromia respectively, had witnessed perennial land resource mismanagement and  state sponsored conflicts and instability in recent decades leading to losses of lives, properties and internal civilian displacements. The border conflicts and abuse of civilians intensified since the failed transition in the past three years. 

In Lokka Abbaayya district, the fertile land that borders Lake Abbaayya and the Wolayita Zone has supported cattle herders for generations. The land also offers a great potential for irrigated commercial agriculture. Although no land use plan has been developed by the district, investors have been fraudulently allocated land by the ruling party cadres causing a great suffering to the local population and causing ecological damages.  

This land has been inhabited by the Sidama Lokka Abbaayya cattle herders for generations. They paid the ultimate sacrifices to protect and preserve the land often losing their lives and limbs during raids by neighbouring tribes. During these raids, perpetrators often  raped women and mutilated their breasts.  

The two major challenges for the residents of this part of Lokka Abbaayya district are: (1) Unsetteled perennial border dispute with the Wolayita zone, and (2)  Fraudulent  allocation of the fertile agricultural land to strangers in the name of investment displacing the local farmers to the drier areas undermining their livelihood security.  

These challenges are the outcome of weak governance, maladministration and corruption in Sidama Regional State and Lokka Abbaayya district. For instance, in 2009 EC, two ruling party cadres who claim to have been born in Lokka Abbaayya (1) Demissie Tashite, the former vice administrator of the district and head of Security department and (2) Abraham Marshallo, the then official of the defunct Sidama zone SEPDM and the current head of Sidama Regional prosperity party transferred a large chunk of Sidamaland to the neighbouring claimants without any consultation with the Sidama residents. The two cadres unilaterrally signed an 11 page land transfer document the content of which was never discussed and disclosed to the Lokka Abbaayya residents who lived there for centuries.  

The Lokka Abbaayya residents who objected to these frauds have been harassed, imprisoned and silenced by Abraham Marshallo and Demissie Tashite. 

Apart from these, these two semi-literate cadres personally and fraudulently allocated the fertile land near Lakka Abbaayya to 29 investors of which only three were local. 

In recent years, an attempt was made to demarcate the border between Lokka Abbaayya and Wolayita zone by a committee  comprising of 24 elders 12 each from Sidama and Wolayita. Nevertheless, in the middle of the demarcation process, the father of Abraham, Marshallo, who was among the 12 Sidama elders halted the demarcation process citing an order from his son.

Although Demissie Tashite has been removed from his position, Abraham Marshallo has been promoted as the head of Sidama Regional properity party and has continued to abuse the Lokka Abbaayya natural resources and civilians with impunity. 

Habtamu Birhanu, one of the most dedicated Sidama Ejjeetto leaders, who is a university graduate in Construction Technology, and an employee of Lokka Abbaayya district Urban Development and Roads Department has been removed from his job and is currently being hunted down by the Sidama Region police for criticizing the maladministration, corruption and imbezzlement of the district natural resources by Abraham Marshallo, a highschool graduate the head of Sidama regional prosperity party.  

In Baleela district that borders the Oromia State, state sponsored border conflicts in the past three years resulted in the death of over 50 civilians, and permanent internal displacement of nearly 40,000 civilians. These civilians remain internally displaced until today with no resolution to their plights in sight.  Like in Lokka Abbaayya, the new prosperity party appointed head of Sidama Regional Security Bureau, Alemayehu Timotewos, who had previously allegedly embezzled over Birr 11 billion from the Borricha district has once again been involved in destablizing the Baleela district by soliciting his corrupt cronies to district leadership in collaboration with his inept comrade Desta Ledamo, the prosperity party appointee and a mercenary ruler of the Sidama Regional State. The border disputes in Baleela district and Siraaro state owned farm lands that belong to both Oromia and Sidama have deliberately been used by cadres on both sides to destablize the areas for political goals. 

The Sidama National Liberation Front condemens perennial abuses of the natural resources and the basic rights of civilian populations in Lokka Abbaayya and Bilaate border districts in western Sidama State and calls on:

1) The residents to reject the chronic  maldministration and abuse of power by the ruling party cadres

2) The ruling party cadres to immediately halt arbitrary arrests and intimidation of Sidama professionals such as Habtamu Birhanu and respect their constitutional rights to freedom of speech;

3) Permanently address the border disputes between Lokka Abbaayya and Wolayita Zone and Oromia and Sidama State in Baleela district and Siraaro region. 

4) Desist from land grab and illegal land allocations in these border districts. 

5) Conduct land use audit and hold cadres that were involved in fraudulent land allocations and involvenent in deliberate instigation of conflicts at these border districts accountable. 

6) Reject the illegitimate elections organized by prosperity party and Ezema that excludes all federalist parties and aims to dismantle the multinational federalism and enslave the Sidama nation. 

Victory to the oppressed nations!!

Long live the multinational federalism!!


May 15, 2021