Wednesday October 16, 2019
JIGJIGA (HOL) - The much-anticipated referendum which would grant self-rule to the Sidama community in southern Ethiopia has been postponed following delays in preparation.
The State-owned news agency FANA said Wednesday the plebiscite slated for November 13 has been pushed forward by a week to November 20.
The public vote is aimed at deciding whether the region can establish itself as a new regional state.
If endorsed, Sidama will become the 10th semi-autonomous region in Ethiopia.
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.
In August, the electoral board said it would deploy close to 1,700 polling stations and 8,500 election officials for the referendum.