Four killed in Ethiopia’s Hawassa city following request for autonomy

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Four protesters died of gunshot wounds suffered in clashes between Ethiopian security forces for new autonomous region of Sidama zone.

The threat of large-scale violence in Hawassa was largely averted after a Sidama opposition party agreed on Thursday to delay declaring their own region and accept a government offer to hold a referendum in five months.

Not all Sidama people accepted the delay. Most shops and factories including the city’s industrial park stayed closed in protest with some activists still in the streets, although the situation was quieter on Friday, residents told Reuters.

Hawassa Referral Hospital said it had admitted 18 injured civilians since Wednesday, four of whom subsequently died of bullet wounds, one of whom was shot in the head, according to its general manager Zinaw Serniso.

Some of the injured had fractured bones after being hit with security forces’ batons while and others had been shot, he said.

The Sidama threat to unilaterally declare a new region posed a direct challenge to the authority of the federal government in Addis Ababa that oversees nine regions in the Horn of Africa country of 105 million people.

Regional states in multi-ethnic Ethiopia are able to choose their official working language and enjoy limited powers over tax, education, health and land administration.

Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, appointed by the ruling coalition last year, has been widely praised for political reforms in what was once one of the continent’s most repressive nations.

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