Libmonster ID: U.S.-1386


Doctor of Historical Sciences

Institute of Africa, Russian Academy of Sciences

Keywords: Ethiopia, Gambella, ethnic federalism, interethnic relations, conflicts

In accordance with the Constitution that came into force in August 1995, a new form of Government was introduced in Ethiopia - an ethnic federation. The Government that came to power after the overthrow of the anti-democratic regime of Mengistu Haile Mariam (Derg) in 1991 officially recognized the ethnic factor as the main principle or criterion for organizing public administration in multi-ethnic and multilingual Ethiopia.

The basis of the created 9 states is based on the ethnic principle. Under the 1995 Constitution, all ethnic groups were granted equal rights, the opportunity to participate in government at all levels, use their own languages, and develop their own traditional culture.


Ethiopia is a country with a very complex ethnic composition. It has 85 nations. The most numerous (in%) are: Oromo-34.4, amhara-27, Somaliland-6.2, tigray-6.1, sidama-4.0, gurage - 2.5 1.

The ethnic factor has always played a big role in Ethiopia. This was the case during the so-called imperial period (under Emperor Haile Selassie I), during the Derg period (1974-1991), and now. Ethnicity manifests itself in all spheres of life: in the functioning of government bodies, in the activities of parties (they are organized according to ethnic principle), in the structure of the army, in the socio-economic field, in the field of culture, etc.

The ethnic factor continues to play a serious role in the political life of the country, leading to complications in interethnic relations and, as a consequence, to conflicts. Moreover, its role has increased in recent years. This is due to a number of reasons: unresolved economic problems and increasing social and ethnic tensions, increasing importance of traditional ethno-cultural values, growing ethnic identity, and a heightened emotional attitude to one's languages, culture, and religion.

Interethnic conflicts occur in different parts of the country. One of the most conflict - prone states is Gambella.

Gambella State is located in the extreme west of the country along the border with Sudan (see map). According to the 2007 census, its population was 306.9 thousand people (0.4% of the country's population). Most of them are Nuer - 143 thousand (46.6%), followed by anya (anwa, anuak) - 65 thousand (21%), amhara-26 thousand (8.4%), Oromo-15 thousand (4.8%), majangir (medjangir) - 12 thousand (4%), Tigray - 4 thousand, etc. 2

All the peoples of Gambella retain their traditional social organization and culture: languages, rituals and customs, traditional beliefs and cults, although Protestantism has increased in recent decades. They differ significantly from each other in their economic activity and level of development.

By religious affiliation (2007 census), the overwhelming majority - 70.1% - are Protestants, 16.8% - belong to the Ethiopian Christian Church, 4.9% - profess Islam, 3.8% - adherents of traditional religions and cults, 3.4% - Catholics.

Map. States of Ethiopia.

Note: 1. Addis Ababa; 2. Afar; 3. Amhara; 4. Benishangul-Gumuz; 5. Dyre-Dawa; 6. Gambella; 7. Harari; 8. Oromia; 9. Somalia; 10. Southern peoples; 11. Tigray. Italicized - cities-regions that have the same status as states (author's note).

page 23

About 15% are AmharaOromo and Tigray. They are called "highlanders". These are people who migrated from the central Ethiopian highlands. The term "Highlanders" is widely used by both scientists and politicians and has already acquired the meaning of an ethnonym. They are also called "red" (have a lighter skin color), in contrast to the local population - black negroids. The local term for settlers is "degegna", or more prestigious - "habesha" - adherents of Ethiopian Christianity.

Highlanders are more developed and educated than the local black population and make up more than 40% of skilled workers and the majority of civil servants. Most of them live in cities, and some in rural areas, where they are engaged in agriculture.

Complex relationships exist not only between Highlanders and the indigenous population, but also between indigenous ethnic groups. All this leads to interethnic conflicts and significantly complicates the political situation.


With the introduction of the new federal system and the creation of the state, there were significant changes in Gambell. Representatives of local ethnic groups were appointed to all posts after 1991. According to the current practice, the president of the state is Anya, the vice-president is Nuer, the secretary is majangir, the Deputy Speaker is komo, the Chairman of the Supreme Court is Nuer, and his deputy is anya. This ethnic "arithmetic" is designed to preserve the ethno-political balance in the state.

Settlers who held dominant positions in regional authorities were relegated to the background. Although Amharic has maintained its position as an official language in the state, measures have been taken to develop local languages. The three main languages - AnyaNuer and Manjangir-are used in schools as the language of instruction.

Increased interest in traditional culture has led to the revival of some customs and rituals. In 2001, the institution of traditional authorities was restored, and the four elders of Anya were restored to their former status. Progress has been made in education: the number of primary school students has increased by 80%, the number of students - by 70%3.

The main focus in school and professional training, as well as in the appointment to administrative positions, is given to persons with disabilities.! sing your (titular) nationality. They are called "tevelazh" (tewelaj) - "one who was born here", in contrast to" mete " (mete) - an alien population. At the federal level: Nuer and Anya hold posts at different headquarters. Among them were also ambassadors.

In the first years after the creation of the ethnic federation, the Anya occupied a dominant position in the power structures and civil service compared to other indigenous ethnic groups. Thus, in 2000, out of 19 ministerial portfolios, 13 were held by Anya and 5 by Nuer. Of the 3,845 civil servants, 1,397 are Anya, 243 are Nuer, and 2,160 are Highlanders (AmharaOromoTigray).4. In 1992, the Nuer created their own party, the Gambella Peoples ' Democratic Unity Party.

In 1994, the Ethiopian Census was conducted. Its results were staggering: Nuer made up 40% of the population of Gambella State, and Anya only 27%. This caused a storm of indignation on the part of anya, who argued that the number of Nuer included a huge number of refugees from neighboring Sudan, and therefore de figure is significantly overstated. In the 2005 elections, Nuer and Anya achieved equal representation in the Gambella State Council, with 33.5 out of 81 seats each.

Gambella's economy is one of the most backward in the country. Little has changed in the past quarter-century of the new political system's existence. The agricultural products produced here do not cover the needs, and almost 1/5 of the population depends on regular external assistance. Highlanders began to develop land for coffee plantations and logging in the forest areas belonging to the Majangir. The discovery of oil deposits attracted foreign investors.

The implementation of the villagisation program in 2013 and in subsequent years - the relocation of pastoralists and peasants who combine pastoral farming with agriculture - to villages is accompanied by forced evictions, the use of repressive measures and the lack of promised compensation. New allocated land plots are not suitable for farming 6.

As noted above, Gambella State is one of the most conflict-prone regions in Ethiopia. The most acute and prolonged conflicts have occurred and continue to occur between Anya and Nuer, as well as between indigenous ethnic groups and AmharaTigray and Oromo settlers. Tensions and violence are observed both in urban and rural areas, between ordinary community members and the political elite, and cover all spheres of life. There is segregation in cities: Nuer and Anya inhabit different neighborhoods.

In interethnic conflicts, there is a close connection between a number of factors: socio-economic, political, historical, cultural, ideological, and psychological.

The main reason is the struggle for power at all levels, both in the administration and in the party bodies. From 1992 to 2016, inter-ethnic conflicts in Gambella claimed many lives and led to the destruction of entire villages and numerous refugees.

page 24

For example, in 1991-1992, Anya attacked Nuer in the city of Gambell and Woreda (district) Itang. Several villages were burned.

In 1995, as a result of administrative reform and the division of the state into two zones, Anya received 5 woredas (districts), and Nuer - 3. In 1996, Dimma Woreda, inhabited by Anya, was transferred from the Southern State to Gambella, and thus anya had 6 woredas. This caused indignation of the Nuer, who demanded the creation of another woreda. Anya won the state election in 1995, which caused a new wave of discontent.

A relatively peaceful period of about 5 years ended in January 1998. A new escalation of violence in the Itang Woreda between Anya and Nuer lasted for six months. 60 people were killed, more than 3 thousand lost their homes. In June 1998, a state of emergency was declared and troops were brought in.

Anya are divided: there are opposing groups within the ethnic group. In 1998, the political elite of Anya created the Gambella Peoples' Democratic Congress party. Part of Anya was part of the pro-government Gambella Peoples' Democratic Front.

In 1999 and 2000, there were student riots in the cities of Gambella and Itang. Nuer students opposed the use of the Amharic language and demanded instruction in their native language. Their demands were rejected by anya officials, since these cities are located on their territory.

The conflict between Anya and Nuer in July-December 2000 in Itang Woreda and Gambell city was particularly violent and spread to other woredas. A state of emergency was declared, police forces and troops were involved. The President of the state (Anya by ethnicity) was jailed, and the Gambellan Peoples ' Democratic Front party was disbanded. The territory of the multiethnic Itang woreda was divided into two - between Nuer and anya.

Anya's deteriorating relations with the displaced were accompanied by bloody clashes: in 2003, hundreds of Anya were killed in the town of Gambella. These events caused a great resonance in the world.

Federal authorities called the reason for the conflict the abundance of parties in the state. This led to the disbanding of all parties in early 2003 and the creation of the Anya Democratic Organization, the Nuer Democratic Organization, and the Majangir Democratic Organization under the ruling RDFEN. All of them were united in the Gambella Peoples ' Democratic Movement.

The government's actions provoked resistance from parts of Anya. Many of them crossed the border and settled in neighboring Sudan, forming armed groups. They united in a military-political organization-the Front for the Liberation of the Peoples of Gambella (Gambella Peoples ' Liberation Front). Its base was the city of Pochalla in South Sudan.

From here in October-November 2005 they attacked the Ethiopian army. Many Anya were killed, and the day of December 13, 2005, Anya is called genocide.

The National Day of Remembrance is celebrated annually on December 13 in Gambell. This was initiated by the Anuak Justice Council, established in 2005. In 2006-2008, it was headed by prominent human rights activist Akuti Okot. It was she who spoke at the UN when discussing the Anya massacre in 2005.7

Anya politicians argue that the reason for all this is the importance of Gambella to the federal government, since there are rich oil deposits here and the authorities need to drive the Anya from their lands. The Anya believe that the oil wealth is their property.

The ethno-political situation in Gambella worsened again in 2015-2016. Several private clashes between Anya and Nuer led to an escalation of the conflict in January-February 2016. As a result of the clashes, more than 40 Anya were killed and many were injured. From the city of Gambella, the conflict has spread to rural areas.

The events of early 2016 caused a wide response both in the country and among the diaspora. 8

The situation in the state is significantly aggravated by hundreds of thousands of refugees from South Sudan, most of them Nuer. At the beginning of 2016, according to various sources, there were between 221.9 and 550.10 refugees in Gambell. More and more refugee camps are being set up in the lands of the Anya and other non-Nuer peoples, which naturally causes great discontent among the indigenous population.11

To protect the interests of the indigenous population, the opposition organization Gambella Nilotes United Movement was created. It accuses the Ethiopian Government of carrying out a military operation codenamed "Black Revolution" to expel the Niloto-Omot peoples from the southwestern regions of the country-Gambella, South Omo and Benishangul - Gumuz.

In 2015, the United Movement of Gambella appealed to the UN Security Council, the European Union, the African Union, and international humanitarian organizations to pay attention to the situation in Gambella and the plight of the above-mentioned Nilotic peoples and stop the land robbery of these peoples. As for the South Sudanese refugees, the organization believes that they should be distributed equally among all Ethiopians, and especially among the Amhara and Tigray communities in Amhara and Tigray States.12

However, conflicts continued in the following years.

page 25

Continuing traditional institutions and structures, such as the hierarchy of clans, ethnic stereotypes and biases, have a significant impact on interethnic relations. An example is Anya and Nuer's statements about each other (interviews recorded by Ethiopian researcher Deredje Feyissa in 2000).:

"Soon there won't be a single anya left in the Gambella region. Nasser (locality - R. I.) was ours, they took it away. Jikaw and Akobo were ours, and once again they took them from us. Wherever we go, they follow us. They have taken over our lands and rivers... Where should we go? We have to stop them. Nuer behave like this because they believe that there are many of them, and they are aggressive by nature. For us, the word Nuer means something bad" (civil servant anya, G. Gambella).

Nuer: "Why do the Anya deny our right to own land that they don't use? Why do they think the land belongs to them? The land belongs to Kuot (God). The land belongs to the kuma (government). If kume doesn't come to us, we'll go to him. Anya can't stop us... Anya is not a good people... They kill you if you are an outsider "(Nuer Elder, Woreda Jikav)13.

Some educated anya say that their people are dying out.

The situation in Gambell remains complex and unstable. In the last decade, conflicts have taken on particularly violent forms: the use of explosives, arson, mass murder, and the distribution of leaflets intended to incite interethnic hatred. Moreover, conflicts occur not only between different indigenous ethnic groups (Anya and Nuer), but also within these groups at the level of sub-ethnicities, clans, sub-clans, and large-family communities.

General elections to the Federal Parliament - the House of People's Representatives and regional legislative councils-were held in Ethiopia on May 24, 2015. Of the 546 seats in the federal Parliament, Gambella State won 3 seats. The Gambella People's Unity Democratic Movement participated in the elections. In the State Legislative Council elections, the party won all 155 constituencies in 14.

One of the most important tasks of all parties and authorities in Ethiopia, including in Gambella, is to work in the field of inter-ethnic relations. The importance of such work is highlighted by the events in Gambell in early 2016 and the re-escalation of relations and conflicts between the indigenous peoples of Anya and Nuer. Tensions also remain between them and the AmharaTigray and Oromo settlers.

* * *

The experience of Ethiopia shows that ethno-federalism has not yet led to a significant improvement in the ethno-political situation and easing tensions in interethnic relations, 15 as is particularly evident in the situation in Gambella.

Only the practical implementation of the principles of national equality proclaimed in the Constitution, taking into account the interests of different peoples in the implementation of national policies, helping to eliminate actual inequality in the level of economic and cultural development, deep respect for traditional cultural values, including language and religion, taking into account ethnic processes in the development of administrative and territorial structure, the creation of all this would help to reduce the negative impact of ethnicity on political life, strengthen the stability of the state and improve the ethno-political situation.

And the future of Gambella, as well as the country as a whole, largely depends on a favorable ethnopolitical situation and the depoliticization of ethnicity.

1 Ethiopia has a population of 104.7 million. 31.03.2016.

2 Summary and Statistical Report of the 2007 Population and Housing Census. Addis Ababa. 2007, p. 100-103.

3 For more information, see: Dereje Feyissa. Playing Different Games. The Paradox of Anywaa and Nuer Identification Strategies in the Gambella Region, Ethiopia. N.Y., Oxford. 2011, p. 214.

4 Ibid., p. 220.

5 Ibid., p. 180.

6 14/Ethiopia-upr-submission-septemb.15

7 National Day of Remembrance for the December 13th Massacre of the Anuak. Press Release of the Anuak Justice Council. December 14, 2015 -

8 http:// January 29, 2016.

9 The UN Refugee Agency -

10 The only way to end escalating ethnic violence in Gambella - http: February 2016 // Pressrelease. The Solidarity Movement for a New Ethiopia.

11 Ibidem.

12 Ethiopian Government Must Stop Instigating Ethnic Cleansing Conflicts and Killings of Indigenous People through Resettling Refugees and Establishment of Many Military Camps for Rebels throughout the Gambella Region - 26 March 2015.

Dereje Feyissa 13. Op. cit., p. XI.

14 National Electoral Board of Ethiopia (NEBE). Official Results of the 24th May 2015 General Elections -

15 For more information, see: Ismagilova R.N. Etnichnost ' i federalizm: opyt Efifii [Ethnicity and Federalism: the experience of Ethiopia]. 2008. N 1. P. 130. (Ismagilova R.N. 2008. Etnichnost i federalizm: opyt Efiopii. N 1) (in Russian)

page 2


Permanent link to this publication:

Similar publications: LUnited States LWorld Y G


Peter NielsenContacts and other materials (articles, photo, files etc)

Author's official page at Libmonster:

Find other author's materials at: Libmonster (all the World)GoogleYandex

Permanent link for scientific papers (for citations):

R.N. ISMAGILOVA, ETHIOPIA: THE ETHNO-POLITICAL SITUATION IN THE STATE OF GAMBELLA // New-York: Libmonster (LIBMONSTER.COM). Updated: 02.03.2024. URL: (date of access: 24.04.2024).

Found source (search robot):

Publication author(s) - R.N. ISMAGILOVA:

R.N. ISMAGILOVA → other publications, search: Libmonster USALibmonster WorldGoogleYandex


Reviews of professional authors
Order by: 
Per page: 
  • There are no comments yet
Related topics
Peter Nielsen
New-York, United States
339 views rating
02.03.2024 (53 days ago)
0 subscribers
0 votes
Related Articles
Catalog: Pedagogics 
8 days ago · From Peter Nielsen
These slabs will spawn in the dungeon apparently at random, so players will need to be vigilant in their search for one.
Catalog: Philosophy 
10 days ago · From someone
Catalog: History 
30 days ago · From Peter Nielsen
Catalog: Political science 
34 days ago · From Peter Nielsen
Catalog: Political science 
35 days ago · From Peter Nielsen
Catalog: Political science 
37 days ago · From Peter Nielsen
Catalog: Pedagogics 
47 days ago · From Peter Nielsen
Catalog: Ecology 
49 days ago · From Peter Nielsen
Catalog: Military science 
50 days ago · From Peter Nielsen
return. but how?
Catalog: Political science 
59 days ago · From Peter Nielsen

New publications:

Popular with readers:

News from other countries:

LIBMONSTER.COM - U.S. Digital Library

Create your author's collection of articles, books, author's works, biographies, photographic documents, files. Save forever your author's legacy in digital form. Click here to register as an author.
Library Partners


Editorial Contacts
Chat for Authors: U.S. LIVE: We are in social networks:

About · News · For Advertisers

U.S. Digital Library ® All rights reserved.
2014-2024, LIBMONSTER.COM is a part of Libmonster, international library network (open map)
Keeping the heritage of the United States of America


US-Great Britain Sweden Serbia
Russia Belarus Ukraine Kazakhstan Moldova Tajikistan Estonia Russia-2 Belarus-2

Create and store your author's collection at Libmonster: articles, books, studies. Libmonster will spread your heritage all over the world (through a network of affiliates, partner libraries, search engines, social networks). You will be able to share a link to your profile with colleagues, students, readers and other interested parties, in order to acquaint them with your copyright heritage. Once you register, you have more than 100 tools at your disposal to build your own author collection. It's free: it was, it is, and it always will be.

Download app for Android