Ethiopians vote for new federal region: electoral board

Published November 24, 2019, 12:39 AM

by Ellalyn De Vera & Richa Noriega

By Agence France-Presse

Ethiopia’s Sidama people voted overwhelmingly for a new federal region, with 98 percent choosing an autonomous rule, the electoral board said Saturday.

Ethiopia's Sidama people voted overwhelmingly for a new federal region, with 98 percent choosing autonomous rule, the electoral board said Saturday. (AFP)
Ethiopia’s Sidama people voted overwhelmingly for a new federal region, with 98 percent choosing autonomous rule, the electoral board said Saturday. (AFP)

The official results were released by Wubshet Ayele, deputy head of the National Electoral Board, in the regional capital Hawassa, roughly 200 kilometers (125 miles) south of Addis Ababa.

“Preliminary results of the referendum held for the statehood of Sidama zone show that voters support the formation of the regional state,” the government-backed Fana Broadcasting in a statement.

Analysts say it could inspire other groups to push for autonomy and redraw boundaries in Ethiopia, Africa’s second-most populous country with more than 100 million people.

Less than two percent voted to remain in the existing federal region, one of nine currently in Ethiopia, Ayale said.

The results pave the way for Sidama to become the 10th state — but also acts as inspiration for others keen to carve out their own ethnic region.

The referendum on autonomy springs from a federal system designed to provide widespread ethnic self-rule in a hugely diverse country.

The Sidama — who number more than three million — have agitated for years to leave the diverse Southern Nations, Nationalities, and Peoples’ Region.

The new state will split off from that region and will hand tax-raising powers and control over schools, police, health and other services to the Sidamas, who would be in the majority in the state.

Implementation of the referendum is expected to raise a host of thorny issues, and there are long steps ahead before the new state becomes a reality.

 
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