Armed security officers patrol the street during a clash between a Sidama youth and security forces after they declared their own region in Hawassa. Picture: Tiksa Negeri/Reuters

Johannesburg – Hospital officials in Ethiopia’s southern Sidama region report that at least 25 people have been killed during clashes with Ethiopian security forces after activists launched their bid for independence.

There are reports, however, that the death toll could be as high as 60, the BBC reported.

Succession activists were killed when security forces opened fire on protesters across the Sidama region. The activists have declared their own federal state.

The unilateral declaration of independence followed a deadline for the government of Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed to respond to the request for a referendum on the matter expiring on Thursday.

Four confirmed deaths were reported in the city of Hawassa, where the secessionists want to establish the capital of their future state, 26 others were also wounded in the city. During the clashes security forces were forced to evacuate 12 tourists after their lodge was attacked.

Ethiopia comprises nine semi-autonomous regions and is ruled by a federal system aimed at providing ethnic self-rule in the hugely diverse country. 

The Sidama have been pushing for years for their own state and this desire gained impetus after Ahmed came to office in 2018 promising many reforms.

Meanwhile, the internet has been blocked in parts of the south of the country since Thursday, including Hawassa.

African News Agency (ANA)