Voters wait in a queue to cast their vote during the Sidama autonomy referendum in Hawassa. Picture: Reuters/Tiksa Negeri

Johannesburg – Ethiopia’s Sidama region in the south, where four percent of the country's 105 million people live, has begun voting in a referendum which would allow them more self-determination.

The polls opened on Wednesday and their results are being closely monitored by other ethnic groups also seeking more autonomy ahead of an election next year, the East African reported.

The national electoral board says the polls will close late Thursday, with 2.3 million voters registered at nearly 1 700 polling stations expected to cast their vote.

There are fears violence could again break out following clashes between Sidama activists and security forces in July which left 17 people dead after the government delayed the referendum for five months.

There are currently more than a dozen other ethnic groups considering, or already in the process of campaigning for regional status in a country with 80 ethnic groups.

African News Agency (ANA)