People of the Sidama zone, in southern Ethiopia took part in Wednesday’s referendum demanding their own regional state within Ethiopia’s federal system.
The Sidama people form 4% of Ethiopia’s 105 million population and Wednesday’s autonomy vote is coming ahead of a general election next year.
In July clashes between security forces and Sidama activists led to the death of atleast 17 people after the government delayed the poll at the time.
If the referendum passes as expected, the new state, largely home to the Sidama ethnic group will now control local taxes, education, security and laws.
Mr. Ahmed Abiy on Thursday tweeted that the country’s differences should be resolved at the ballot box.
Congratulations to citizens and institutions involved in holding a peaceful and democratic referendum for Sidama statehood. The voting process is demonstrative of our capacity for taking our differences to the ballot and allowing democratic processes to prevail.#PMOEthiopia
— Office of the Prime Minister – Ethiopia (@PMEthiopia) November 21, 2019
More than a dozen other ethnic groups are also seeking regional status.
A successful vote will trigger a potential Sidama homeland, to be carved out of the Southern Nations, Nationalities, and Peoples (SNNP) region.
It has been the most ethnically diverse part of Ethiopia, a rural region of about 20 million people that borders Kenya and South Sudan.