Poll result allows Ethiopia’s Sidama to be autonomous

Voters pose for a picture with their identity documents while waiting in a queue to cast their vote during the Sidama referendum in Hawassa, Ethiopia, on November 20, 2019. - Polls opened on November 20, 2019, in Ethiopia's ethnic Sidama region in a referendum for a new federal state, a critical vote in a tense region that could embolden others to follow. (Photo by Michael TEWELDE / AFP)
Ethiopia’s Sidama people/ (Photo by Michael TEWELDE / AFP)

Ethiopia’s Sidama people have voted overwhelmingly for a new federal region.

The official results indicate that 98 percent of choosing an autonomous rule, the country’s electoral board has said.

The results were released on Saturday by the National Electoral Board, in the regional capital Hawassa which is 125 miles south of the capital, Addis Ababa.

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

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.

The new state will hand tax-raising powers and control over schools, police, health and other services to the Sidama people, who would be in the majority in the state.

Several other groups in the south of the country have already launched plans for self-determination similar to that of the Sidama people.

Analysts fear the vote could embolden groups with similar demands and unleash further ethnic violence.

The dormant Sidama campaign gained fresh momentum after Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed winner of this year’s Nobel Peace Prize took office in 2018 and began introducing a series of political reforms.