A referendum to decide if Sidama zone should be instituted as Ethiopia's 10th autonomous region is set to take place on Wednesday, November 20. The vote was originally scheduled for November 13, but was delayed by the country's electoral board as preparations reportedly lagged behind. The government will deploy 6000 volunteers to monitor the vote and plans to open nearly 1700 polling stations.
A heightened security presence is expected near all polling locations. Associated demonstrations are expected in the coming days ahead of the referendum.
Activists from the ethnic Sidama community held demonstrations in July calling for autonomy as a new regional state. Subsequent clashes between protesters and security forces resulted in the deaths of 17 people. In response, the government offered to hold a referendum in five months' time.
Individuals present in Sidama are advised to monitor developments to the situation, avoid any large gatherings and demonstrations due to the risk of violence, and adhere to all instructions issued by the local authorities or their home government.
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