Sidama referendum postponed


Ethiopia postponed a referendum on self-determination for its ethnic Sidama community that would create the country’s 10th autonomous region for a week, Fana news agency reported.

The new date for voting is November 20 instead of 13, the delay caused by referendum preparations lagging, Fana cited an electoral board statement as saying.

Ethiopia’s nine regional states enjoy 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, political activists from the Sidama, currently subsumed into one of nine states, wanted to unilaterally declare a new regional state in July.

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

In August, the electoral board said it would deploy1 700 polling stations and 8 500 election officials for the referendum.

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

Abiy (43) appointed by the ruling coalition in April 2018, won praise for political reforms in what was once one of the continent’s most repressive nations.

He won the 2019 Nobel Peace Prize for his peacemaking efforts, which ended two decades of hostility with longtime enemy Eritrea.