ADDIS ABEBA – Sidama people in southern Ethiopia have begun voting on whether they want their own regional state within the federal system.
Long queues are seen in various cities of the zone including Hawassa city soon after the voting for Sidama referendum started at 6:00 a.m.
At least 2.3 million people are expected to vote today until 6 p.m. Preliminary results are due Thursday, according to the National Electoral Board of Ethiopia.
Prime minister earlier today said the referendum shows Ethiopia is on right track to democratization.
The Sidama referendum “is an expression of the democratization path Ethiopia has set out on,” Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed said in a twitted message.
Analysts say the referendum will be closely watched by other ethnic groups hoping to get their own federal regional state.
Today’s vote comes ahead of a national election next year, and is being carried out in a peaceful manner.
If the referendum passes as expected, the Sidama ethnic group, who make up about 4% of the population, will control local taxes, education, security and laws in a new region that would be Ethiopia’s 10th.