ADDIS ABEBA – Ethiopia’s Sidama people have voted overwhelmingly for a new federal region, with 98 percent choosing autonomous rule, the electoral board said Saturday.
The official results were released by Wubshet Ayele, deputy head of the National Electoral Board, in the regional capital Hawassa, roughly 280 kilometres south of Addis Ababa.
“The November 20 polls was peaceful and didn’t have major logistical challenges, although in some places there were larger than projected queues of voters,” Ayele said.
Less than two percent of the 2.27 million people who voted in the referendum chose to remain in the existing federal region, one of nine currently in Ethiopia, Ayele said.
The poll paves the way for Sidama to become a 10th state — but also acts as inspiration for others keen to carve out their own ethnic region.
With more than 10 other ethnic groups potentially interested in holding their own referendum on autonomy, the Sidama result will have an impact far beyond the local region itself.