Ethiopia plans 10th state referendum to ease autonomy demands

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Ethiopia’s National Election Board has announced plans to hold a referendum on creating a 10th regional state for the Sidama ethnic group after activists promised to declare a new region for themselves on Thursday.

Sidama activists warned the government they would unilaterally declare an autonomous state by July 18 unless plans for a referendum are put in place, leaving many residents in the southern city of Hawassa fearing an outbreak of violence.

Ethiopia announces referendum plans

Hawassa city is the capital of the multi-ethnic southern nations region but some members of the Sidema ethnic group – who make up the largest group in the region – are claiming it as the capital of their own, new region.

Should the referendum go ahead and result in favour of creating a 10th state, new jurisdiction would be carved out of the Southern Nations, Nationalities and Peoples regional state (SNNPR), which accounts for roughly 20 percent of Ethiopia’s 105 million population.

The SNNPR has accepted the government’s timeline for the referendum, which would be held within five months, according to reports from Fana Broadcasting Corp.

However, some activists argue they have already requested a referendum in the past and the government has failed to respond until now.

Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed is facing increasing calls for autonomy from multiple ethnic groups in the country. Aside from Sidama, at least eight more ethnic groups are campaigning for their own regions.

Featured image: By Mimi Abebayehu – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=68780896

About Aaron Brooks

Aaron Brooks is a UK journalist who wants to cut out the international agendas in news. Spending his early years in both England and Northern Ireland he saw the difference between reality and media coverage at an early age. After graduating from the University of Chester with a BA in journalism, his travels revealed just how large the gap between news and the real world can be. As Editor-in-Chief at East Africa Monitor, it’s his job to provide a balanced view of what’s going on in the region for English-speaking audiences.