There is civil unrest in Ethiopia’s Sidama Zone. According to the Ethiopia Observer, the past week has seen protests across the southern Ethiopian region—many of them violent—following the murder of a young man on July 18th. One protest in the Hagere Selam town of Hula Woreda was met with gunfire from federal police, killing 14 people, according to a witness on the scene.

New reports from the Addis Standard state the death total has reached “more than 35,” with hundreds more displaced.

Much of the unrest stems from the Sidama Liberation Movement (SLM), a group seeking an “autonomous region for Sidama ethnic group.” The Ethiopia Observer notes that many of the attacks seen in the Sidama Zone have been carried out along ethnic lines. “Non-Sidama ethnic communities were targeted, houses and government buildings burned, shops looted by an organized group.”

Among the buildings destroy were three orthodox churches in Hagere Selam, “Vehicles belonging to Yirga Alem town’s administration,” and a flour factory owned by a person born in a different region of Ethiopia. Also caught in the crossfire is the Aregash Lodge, “a popular tourist destination located in the outskirts of Yirga Alem” that was a frequent stopover for coffee travelers on origin trips. One member of the Aregash Lodge management tells the Ethiopia Observer that two of their vans (as well as one of their client’s vehicles) were burned and all of their tukuls—round mud huts with thatched cone roofs where visitors would stay—were looted; none were burned in the fires.

A referendum is expected to be held to decide the Sidama Zone’s quest for statehood, but many of the Sidama activists believe it is coming too late, per the article.

There is currently no official count of those who lost their lives as the violence continues to be carried out by protestors and police alike. According to the Addis Standard, internet has been disable across the entire zone and cell service is “hardly available,” so the final total may not be known for a while.

This story is developing…

Zac Cadwalader is the managing editor at Sprudge Media Network and a staff writer based in Dallas. Read more Zac Cadwalader on Sprudge.

Top image via the Ethiopia Observer

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