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Ethiopian party wants constitutional change amid unrest

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Dozens killed, many others wounded and property destroyed in clashes in southern Hawassa city since last Thursday

Addis Getachew

constitutionADDIS ABABA, Ethiopia 

An opposition party in Ethiopia on Tuesday called for a constitutional amendment, saying the constitution is partly responsible for all the mayhem happening in a southern ethnically based regional state since last Thursday.

The demand came in a news conference held by officials of the Ethiopian Citizens for Social Justice party on Tuesday.

Abebe Akalu, secretary-general of the party, said the part of the constitution that focused on ethnic rights should be amended with a focus on unity and national cohesion rather than division.

He said not all the provisions of the constitution are bad; “[…] part of the constitution that provides for human rights are excellent.”

Since Thursday, dozens of people were killed in clashes with security forces and numerous others injured in the city of Hawassa, 270 kilometers (167 miles) south of the capital Addis Ababa, as the Sidama ethnic group push for regional statehood status.

Meanwhile, Ethiopian Citizens for Social Justice party said the violence in the Southern Nations, Nationalities and Peoples’ Regional State was not directly linked to the demand put forth by the Sidama ethnic group.

“People that have nothing to do with the statehood issue are being killed and their property being destroyed,” the party said in a statement.

“We do not believe the issue of statehood would be resolved through the use of force,” it added.

The Ethiopian constitution gives ethnic groups the right to self-administration up to cessation and allows ethnic groups to demand breakaway regional state when they deem it desirable.