ModernGhanalogo

FEATURED: The Bushy Roads In The City Of Accra: Who Is Sleeping On The Job?...

body-container-line-1
21.11.2019 Ethiopia

Ethiopia's Sidama wait for referendum result for new state

By AFP
With apparently overwhelming support among Sidamas to form their own state, excitement is high on the streets of the regional capital Hawassa.  By Michael TEWELDE (AFP/File)
NOV 21, 2019 ETHIOPIA
With apparently overwhelming support among Sidamas to form their own state, excitement is high on the streets of the regional capital Hawassa. By Michael TEWELDE (AFP/File)

Elections officials in Ethiopia's ethnic Sidama region counted ballots on Thursday from a key referendum that many expect will endorse the carving out of a new federal state.

The vote on Wednesday is seen as a critical test in a nation already struggling with community tensions.

Analysts say it could inspire other groups to push for autonomy and redraw boundaries in Ethiopia, Africa's second most populous country with more than 100 million people.

The vote is seen as a critical test in a nation already struggling with community tensions.  By Michael TEWELDE (AFP) The vote is seen as a critical test in a nation already struggling with community tensions. By Michael TEWELDE (AFP)

"The voting process ended completely peacefully, with no security incidents reported to us or the security forces," said Soleyana Shimeles, spokeswoman for the National Electoral Board of Ethiopia.

Where counting was completed, initial results from that station were being posted on the walls outside.

Results are expected to be announced late on Thursday or on Friday, Shimelis said.

With apparently overwhelming support among Sidamas to form their own state, excitement is high on the streets of the regional capital Hawassa, some 200 kilometres (125 miles) south of Addis Ababa.

Map of Ethiopia locating the Sidama region which voted on Wednesday in a referendum that could carve out a new federal state.  By Jochen GEBAUER (AFP) Map of Ethiopia locating the Sidama region which voted on Wednesday in a referendum that could carve out a new federal state. By Jochen GEBAUER (AFP)

But there is also concern among the large numbers of non-Sidama minorities, especially in Hawassa, for whom the city is home.

The Sidama push for autonomy already triggered days of unrest in July that left dozens dead and prompted the government to place Ethiopia's southern region under the control of soldiers and federal police.

The referendum on autonomy springs from a federal system designed to provide widespread ethnic self-rule in a hugely diverse country.  By MICHAEL TEWELDE (AFP) The referendum on autonomy springs from a federal system designed to provide widespread ethnic self-rule in a hugely diverse country. By MICHAEL TEWELDE (AFP)

The referendum on autonomy springs from a federal system designed to provide widespread ethnic self-rule in a hugely diverse country.

At present, Ethiopia is partitioned into nine semi-autonomous regional states -- with the Sidama voting for a potential tenth.

The constitution requires the government to organise a referendum for any ethnic group that wants to form a new entity.

The Sidama -- who number more than three million -- have agitated for years to leave the diverse Southern Nations, Nationalities, and Peoples' Region.

The dream gained fresh momentum after Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, winner of this year's Nobel Peace Prize, took office last year.

body-container-line