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Ethiopia to vote on breakaway state highlights battles over autonomy

By AFP

Added 18th November 2019 07:50 AM

The Sidama push for statehood already triggered days of unrest in July that left dozens dead and prompted the government to place Ethiopia's southern region under the control of soldiers and federal police.

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Analysts believe it is likely that the Sidama ethnic group will get a state of their own (AFP)

The Sidama push for statehood already triggered days of unrest in July that left dozens dead and prompted the government to place Ethiopia's southern region under the control of soldiers and federal police.

Members of Ethiopia's Sidama ethnic group are expected to vote Wednesday to form a breakaway regional state -- a milestone that risks further destabilising the country ahead of next year's national elections.

The Sidama push for statehood already triggered days of unrest in July that left dozens dead and prompted the government to place Ethiopia's southern region under the control of soldiers and federal police. 

In Hawassa, the regional capital, some fear a return of those tensions, but resident Cherinet Deguye said the violence will have been worth it if the referendum passes and the Sidama get a state of their own -- an outcome analysts believe is likely.

"The process leading to the referendum has come with a bitter price with many of our people killed and injured," Cherinet told AFP last week shortly after registering to vote. 

"But there is a great deal of excitement and the atmosphere is currently peaceful."

The referendum touches on the issue of autonomy -- the bedrock of a federal system designed to provide widespread ethnic self-rule in a hugely diverse country of more than 100 million people.

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