Ethiopia’s Sidama people vote to create regional state

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ADDIS ABABA, Ethiopia (AP) — Ethiopian authorities say the Sidama people in the south have voted overwhelmingly in favor of regional statehood. The vote could inspire others and cause further fragmentation of ethnic groups in Africa’s second most populous country while its Nobel Peace Prize-winning leader urges national unity.

The National Election Board on Saturday said 98.5% of people voted for regional statehood while just 1.48% voted to remain within the Southern regional state. Official results show voter turnout was 99.8%.

The Sidama make up about 4% of Ethiopia’s population.

A consortium of civil society organizations described Wednesday’s referendum as peaceful, but it alleged some polling stations weren’t transparent.

Some voters told The Associated Press those in the “remain” camp were intimidated. They spoke on condition of anonymity out of fear for their safety.

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