The Ethiopian military has taken over security in the troubled south of the country, where dozens have died amid increasing demands for a new breakaway region.
Since last Thursday, the Sidama zone has witnessed pro-statehood Sidama youth clashing with security forces. The regional government said in a statement that the situation had gone beyond the control of the local security services and that as of Monday, all zones will be watched over temporarily by the federal military and security forces, the Ethiopian News Agency reported.
Leaders of the Sidama ethnic group in southern Ethiopia had planned to unilaterally declare their own federal state last week. The declaration would have been a test of whether Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed's federal government can stick to its commitment to peaceful political reforms while balancing increasing demands from competing ethno-nationalist groups.
At present, Ethiopia is partitioned into nine semiautonomous regions. The constitution requires the government to organize a referendum for any ethnic group that wants to form a new entity within a year of their requesting it. Ethiopia's election board said it would hold a referendum before the end of the year. It said it had not received the referendum request until November 2018, meaning it still had several months to hold the vote. The Sidama have pushed for years to leave the diverse Southern Nations, Nationalities and Peoples' Region, of which they are a part, to create their own state.