This article needs additional citations for verification. Please help improve this article by adding citations to reliable sources. Unsourced material may be challenged and removed.Find sources: "Benishangul-Gumuz Region" – news · newspapers · books · scholar · JSTOR (May 2021) (Learn how and when to remove this message)
Benishangul-Gumuz Region
በኒሸንጉል ጉሙዝ
Flag of Benishangul-Gumuz Region
Official seal of Benishangul-Gumuz Region
Map of Ethiopia showing the Benishangul-Gumuz Region
Map of Ethiopia showing the Benishangul-Gumuz Region
 • Chief AdministratorAshadli Hassan
 • Total50,699 km2 (19,575 sq mi)
 • Rank7th
 • Total1,127,001[2]
 • Rank9th
ISO 3166 codeET-BE
HDI (2019)0.476[3]
low · 7th of 11

Benishangul-Gumuz (Amharic: በኒሸንጉል ጉሙዝ, romanizedBenšangul Gumuz) is a regional state in northwestern Ethiopia bordering Sudan. It was previously known as Region 6. The region's capital is Assosa. 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 peoples – Berta (also called Benishangul, which is its original name) and Gumuz.

The region has faced major challenges to economic development, due to lack of transportation and communications infrastructure. The Abay River (Blue Nile) divides Benishangul-Gumuz, and there was no bridge crossing it until 2012. The major road that connects the Metekel Zone and the Assosa Zone was built by the China Construction Company in 2012. The road has a 365-meter bridge that crosses the Abay. Nowadays it is simple to travel between the regional capital of Assosa and Gilgil Beles, the capital of the Metekel Zone. Previously one had to travel through Wollega and Gojjam in the neighboring regions of Oromia and Amhara, a distance of 1,250 kilometers, but it is now around 378 kilometers on the new road and bridge. Conditions for travel within zones varies, but is often poor and subject to disruption by the rainy season.[4] 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.[5]


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 before;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.[6] It had a projected population of 1,127,001 in 2018.[2]

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%). before;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.[7] 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.[8] 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.[9]

There are 2 refugee camps and 1 transit center, housing 36,440 refugees from Sudan and South Sudan, located in Benishangul-Gumuz region.[10]


Religion in Benishangul-Gumuz Region (2007)[11]

  Muslim (33.4%)
  Ethiopian Orthodox (33.4%)
  P'ent'ay (13.5%)
  Catholic (0.6%)
  Other (0.5%)

Ethnic groups

Some of ethnic groups native to the Benishangul-Gumuz region are:

Five of these ethnic groups (Benishangul, Gumuz, Shinasha, Mao and Kwama) are granted the exclusive right to non-territorially functioning indigenous councils.[12]


This section needs expansion. You can help by adding to it. (February 2021)

Like the Gambela Region, Benishangul-Gumuz is historically closely linked to neighbouring areas of Sudan, and to a lesser extent to the Ethiopian Highlands. These regions served as slave-hunting grounds since Aksumite times, and their Nilosaharan-speaking inhabitants were pejoratively called Shanqella (Šanqəlla, also Shanqila, Shankella) by the highland Ethiopians.[13] Besides slaves, gold was traditionally an important export of Benishangul.[14]

Little is known about its history before the 19th century.[15] Archaeologists have found sites that they date to the end of the 1st millennium BC or the beginning of the 1st millennium AD and assign them to the forerunners of today's Komuz-speaking ethnic groups. Finds attributing them to the Berta date from the 17th to 20th centuries and are mainly located on mountains, hills and in rocky areas that are easy to defend. It was not until the mid-20th century that Berta also settled in the lowlands, as slave hunts and armed conflict had ended.[16]

The area lay as a "buffer zone" or "no man's land" between southern Sennar and Damot in the highlands. The Ethiopian Emperor Susenyos invaded the area in 1617/18, and it fell to the Funj Sultanate in 1685.[13]

According to Negasso Gidada, Oromo penetration into the region began in the mid-18th century.[17]

In the first quarter of the 19th century, Arab traders arrived from Sennar, which was occupied by Ottoman Egypt from 1821. These traders married into the Berta upper class and thus gained political influence. By the middle of the century, the waṭāwiṭ, the descendants of Arabs and Berta, had become the new ruling class. They also began to spread Islam among the Berta. Various trade routes met in Benishangul, and local gold and Ethiopian amole (salt bars) were exchanged for slaves, cattle, horses, iron, civet, musk, coffee, ivory and honey (which also came from the Oromo areas of Sibu and Leeqaa). Luxury goods such as textiles and glass beads were imported via Sudan.[15][14]

Later in the 19th century, Benishangul was affected by the Mahdi uprising.[13] In the late 19th century, Ethiopia, under Menelik II, annexed the Sultanates of Beni Shangul and Gubba (Qubba in Arabic) at the behest of Abdallahi ibn Muhammad of Sudan who feared the British would occupy it.[18] In 1898, Asosa became the political and economic capital.[19] Until the Italian occupation of Ethiopia in the mid-1930s, the area supplied gold and slaves to the central government on a large scale. Slaves were also smuggled into Sudan across the border, which was established in 1902.[14]

Under the regime of Mengistu Haile Mariam, who ruled Ethiopia from 1974, some 250,000 drought- and famine-stricken peasants from the highlands—mostly Amharas from Wollo province—were relocated to Benishangul-Gumuz from 1979 and especially in the mid-1980s.[14][20]

Resistance to the Mengistu regime here came mainly from the Berta. In addition, the Oromo Liberation Front (OLF) - supported by the Eritrean People's Liberation Front, which in the meantime had advanced far south from Eritrea - also fought for the area in the Ethiopian civil war in the late 1980s and early 1990s. The OLF tried to incorporate the local population as "black Oromo", but met with little support. The Berta rebels instead allied with the Tigray People's Liberation Front (TPLF), which overthrew the Mengistu regime in 1991 with the coalition EPRDF. As the Berta People's Liberation Movement[21] or Benishangul People's Liberation Movement (BPLM), they - like the Gambella People’s Liberation Movement of the Anuak in Gambella - were not accepted as full members of the EPRDF, but became regional partners of the new ruling coalition.[13]

In 2019, the Metekel conflict began. In December 2019, about 200 people were killed in the Metekel massacre.


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%).[22]

Over 60% of this region is covered with forest, including bamboo, eucalyptus and rubber trees, incense and gum forests as well as the indigenous 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.[23]

Chief Administrator of the Region

Party Time period
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 - May 2016
Ashadli Hasen B-BGDP June 2016 – present

(This list is based on information from, John Young,[24] and the Ethiopian News Agency website[25])

Administrative zones

Like other regions in Ethiopia, Benishangul-Gumuz is subdivided into administrative zones.

See also


  1. ^ "2011 National Statistics". Archived from the original on March 30, 2013.
  2. ^ a b Population Projection of Ethiopia for All Regions At Wereda Level from 2014 – 2017. Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia Central Statistical Agency. Archived from the original on 6 June 2018. Retrieved 4 June 2018.
  3. ^ "Sub-national HDI - Area Database - Global Data Lab". Archived from the original on 2018-09-23. Retrieved 2018-09-13.
  4. ^ John Young "Along Ethiopia's Western Frontier: Gambella and Benishangul in Transition" Archived 2018-07-18 at the Wayback Machine, Journal of Modern African Studies, 37 (1999), p. 342
  5. ^ "State repairs 600 km roads"[permanent dead link], Ethiopian News Agency 28 July 2009 (accessed 1 November 2009)
  6. ^ Census 2007 Tables: Benishangul-Gumuz Region Archived January 30, 2012, at the Wayback Machine, Tables 2.1, 2.5, 3.1, 3.2, 3.4.
  7. ^ According to an October 1996 situation report Archived May 29, 2008, at the Wayback Machine written by members of the United Nations Emergencies Unit for Ethiopia, a significant number of the Amhara settlers relocated from the former Wollo Province.
  8. ^ "Households by sources of drinking water, safe water sources" Archived March 5, 2009, at the Wayback Machine CSA Selected Basic Welfare Indicators (accessed 28 January 2009)
  9. ^ Macro International Inc. "2008. Ethiopia Atlas of Key Demographic and Health Indicators, 2005." (Calverton: Macro International, 2008) Archived 2010-11-05 at the Wayback Machine, pp. 2, 3, 10 (accessed 28 January 2009)
  10. ^ "Displaced Sudanese". Archived from the original on 2012-01-17. Retrieved 2012-05-23., The UN Refugee Agency website
  11. ^ "FOREWORD". Archived from the original on 2016-03-04. Retrieved 2021-08-29.
  12. ^ Dessalegn, Beza. "Experimenting with Non-Territorial Autonomy: Indigenous Councils in Ethiopia". Journal on Ethnopolitics and Minority Issues in Europe 18, nr 2 (2019): 3–23.
  13. ^ a b c d John Young, "Along Ethiopia's Western Frontier: Gambella and Benishangul in Transition", Journal of Modern African Studies, Vol. 37/2, June 1999
  14. ^ a b c d Alessandro Triulzi: "Beni Šangul" in: Siegbert Uhlig (Hrsg.), Encyclopaedia Aethiopica, Band 1, 2003, ISBN 3-447-04746-1
  15. ^ a b Alessandro Triulzi, "Trade, Islam, and the Mahdia in Northwestern Wallaggā, Ethiopia", Journal of African History, 16 (1975), pp. 55–71
  16. ^ Alfredo González-Ruibal, Víctor M. Fernández Martínez: "Exhibiting Cultures of Contact: A Museum for Benishangul-Gumuz, Ethiopia" Archived 2011-01-24 at the Wayback Machine (PDF; 456 kB), Stanford Journal of Archaeology, 5 (2007), pp. 61–90
  17. ^ Negasso Gidada: History of the Sayyoo Oromoo of Southwestern Wallaga, Ethiopia from about 1730 to 1886, Addis Abeba 2001 (cited in González-Ruibal and Fernández Martínez)
  18. ^ Erlich, Haggai (2007). "Ethiopia and the Mahdiyya – You Call Me a Chicken?". Journal of Ethiopian Studies. 40 (1/2). Institute of Ethiopian Studies: 247. JSTOR 41988228. Archived from the original on 2023-01-06. Retrieved 2023-01-06.
  19. ^ Alessandro Triulzi, "Asosa", in: Siegbert Uhlig (Hrsg.), Encyclopaedia Aethiopica, Band 1, 2003, ISBN 3-447-04746-1
  20. ^ Alex de Waal, Africa Watch: Evil Days: 30 Years of War and Famine in Ethiopia, 1991, ISBN 978-1-56432-038-4 (pp. 317f., 322–324, 326, 328)
  21. ^ Paulos Chanie, "Clientelism and Ethiopia's post-1991 decentralisation", Journal of Modern African Studies 45/3 (2007)
  22. ^ "CSA 2005 National Statistics" Archived November 18, 2008, at the Wayback Machine, Tables D.4 - D.7.
  23. ^ Ethiopia: Tackling environmental challenges with trees Archived 2007-06-12 at the Wayback Machine (IRIN)
  24. ^ Young, "Along Ethiopia's Western Frontier", p. 334
  25. ^ "Benishangul Gumuz State Council appoints Ahmed Nasir as chief of state"[permanent dead link], Ethiopian News Agency, 4 November 2008

10°46′N 35°32′E / 10.767°N 35.533°E / 10.767; 35.533