ADDIS ABEBA – Ethiopia will hold a referendum on ethnic Sidama’s demand for regional statehood on 13th of November, electoral board said.
The announcement was made in a statement issued by the National Electoral Board of Ethiopia (NEBE) on Thursday.
Political activists from the Sidama wanted to unilaterally declare a new regional state in July, sparking conflict with the central government that insisted for the process to be carried out legally.
At least 17 people were killed in clashes between security forces and the activists. Sidama leaders later accepted an offer from the government to hold a referendum within five months.
Election board slated for the referendum to be held in the second week of November. NEBE said it would arrange 1, 692 polling stations and deploy 8,460 election officials for the vote, in the statement read on a state broadcaster.
Sidama is part of Southern Nations, Nationalities, and People’s Regional State.
The region’s Council is expected to allocate the 75.6 million birr budget needed for the referendum.
The Council is currently tasked with preparation and finalization of legal and administrative frameworks on the future situations of the regional capital Hawassa city together with the distribution of wealth and the rights of other ethnic groups until October 3.
Ethiopia currently has nine regional states that enjoy a degree of autonomy under which they are able to choose their official language and have limited powers over taxation, education, health and land administration.
At least eight further ethnic groups in the Horn of Africa country of 105 million people are also seeking autonomy.
Photo Caption:The Sidama, the largest ethnic group in the southern region, have been calling for their own semi-autonomous state [Tiksa Negeri/Reuters]