Electoral Board of Ethiopia Postpones Sidama Referendum

ADDIS ABEBA – The Sidama referendum on regional statehood has been postponed by a week, says the national electoral board of Ethiopia on Wednesday.

The vote was scheduled to be held on November 13, 2019.

The National Electoral Board said the referendum will now be held on November 20 instead of November 13, 2019.

The decision to postpone the referendum was made to get more time for preparations, including recruitment of election officials, said the electoral board said in a statement issued on Wednesday.

About 5,500 officials will be recruited for the referendum on self-determination for ethnic Sidama community that would have created the country’s 10th autonomous region.

Ethiopia’s nine regional states enjoy a level of autonomy where they are able to choose their official language and have limited powers over taxation, education, health and land administration.

Emboldened by reforms introduced by Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed since he came to office in 2018, political activists from the Sidama, currently subsumed into one of the nine states, wanted to unilaterally declare a new regional state in July.

At least 17 people were killed that same month in clashes between security forces and Sidama activists, while some leaders accepted an offer from the government for a referendum within five months.

At least eight other ethnic groups in Ethiopia, a country of 105 million people, are also seeking autonomy.