Home | Ethiopian Articles | Benishangul-Gumuz Region

Benishangul-Gumuz Region

image

Benishangul-Gumuz, (Amharic:ቤንሻንጉል-ጉምዝ) also known as Benshangul/Gumaz, is one of the nine ethnic divisions (kililoch) of Ethiopia. Previously known as Region 6, the region's capital is Asosa. Following the adoption of the 1995 constitution, the Region was created from the westernmost portion of the Gojjam province (the part north of the Abay River), and the northwestern portion of the Welega Province (the part south of the Abay). The name of the region comes from two local ethnic groups - Berta (also called as Benishangul) and Gumuz.

Due to its lack of transportation and communications infrastructure, this region faces major challenges to economic development. The Abay divides Benishangul-Gumuz, and there is no bridge crossing this major river in the region. To travel between the regional capital of Assosa and Gilgil Beles, the capital of the Metekel Zone, one must pass through Walega and Gojjam in the neighboring regions of Oromia and Amhara, incurring a travel distance of 1,250 kilometers, versuses 180 had a bridge existed over the Abay. Conditions for travel within zones varies, but is often poor and subject to disruption by the rainy season. On 28 July 2009, the Regional Rural Roads Authority reported that over the previous year almost 600 of the 800 kilometers of local all-weather roads had been upgraded at a cost of 11.5 million Birr, and an additional 447 kilometers of roads constructed.

Demographics

Based on the 2007 Census conducted by the Central Statistical Agency of Ethiopia (CSA), the Benishangul-Gumuz Region has a total population of 784,345, consisting of 398,655 men and 385,690 women; urban inhabitants number 105,926 or 13.51% of the population. With an estimated area of 49,289.46 square kilometers, this Region has an estimated density of 15.91 people per square kilometer. For the entire region 174,445 households were counted, which results in an average for the Region of 4.5 persons to a household, with urban households having on average 3.6 and rural households 4.7 people. The ethnic groups include the Berta (25.41%), Amhara (21.69%), Gumuz (20.88%), Oromo (13.55%), Shinasha (7.73%) and Agaw-Awi (4.22%). Main languages are the Berta (25.15%), Amharic (22.46%), Gumuz (20.59%), Oromo (17.69%), Shinasha (4.58%) and Awngi (4.01%). Concerning religion, 44.98% of the population were Muslim, 33.3% were Orthodox Christians, 13.53% were Protestant, and 7.09% practiced traditional beliefs.

In the previous census, conducted in 1994, the Region's population was reported to be 460,459 of which 233,013 were men and 227,446 were women. Rural population was 424,432, while the urban population was 36,027. The five largest ethnic groups in Benishangul-Gumuz were the Berta (27%), Gumuz (23%), Amhara (22%), Oromo (13%) and Shinasha (7%). Berta is spoken in the Sherkole woreda, Gumuz is spoken along the western boundary of Guba and Dangur woredas and in the Sirba Abbay woreda, and the Shinasha are a displaced people of Kaffa scattered across Welega and Gojjam. The Berta, Gumuz and Shinasha tend to have more in common with the people of neighbouring Sudan than with other Ethiopian peoples, while the Amhara and Tigrayans, who are known as Habesha (or "highlanders") are recent arrivals, who began to settle in the region during the Derg era. According to the 1994 census 44.1% of inhabitants were Muslim, 34.8% Orthodox Christians, 13.1% followers of traditional religions and 5.8% Protestants.

According to the CSA, as of 2004, 27.23% of the total population had access to safe drinking water, of whom 22.35% were rural inhabitants and 58.53% were urban. Values for other reported common indicators of the standard of living for Benishangul-Gumuz as of 2005 include the following: 19.1% of the inhabitants fall into the lowest wealth quintile; adult literacy for men is 47.4% and for women 23.2%; and the Regional infant mortality rate is 84 infant deaths per 1,000 live births, which is greater than the nationwide average of 77; at least half of these deaths occurred in the infants’ first month of life.

There are 2 refugee camps and 1 transit center, housing 36,440 refugees from Sudan and South Sudan, located in Benishangul-Gumuz Region.

Agriculture

The CSA of Ethiopia estimated in 2005 that farmers in Benishangul-Gumuz had a total of 307,820 head of cattle (representing 0.79% of Ethiopia's total cattle), 65,800 sheep (0.38%), 244,570 goats (1.88%), 1,770 mules (1.2%), 37,520 asses (1.5%), 732,270 poultry of all species (2.37%), and 166,130 beehives (3.82%).

Over 60% of this Region is covered with forest, including bamboo, eucalyptus and rubber trees, incense and gum forests as well as the indengenous species. However, due to increased population which has led to the widespread destruction of the canopy, authorities announced a campaign on 8 June 2007 to plant 1.5 million seedlings over the next two months to replenish this resource.

Presidents of the Executive Committee

Attom Mustapha (BPLM) after 1991

Abdu Mohammad Ali (BPLM) 1990s

Ateyb Ahmed (BPLM) 1990s - 1995

Yaregal Aysheshum (B-GPDUF) July 1995 - November 2008

Ahmed Nasir Ahmed (B-GPDUF) November 2008 - present