The Rights of Minorities and their Political Participation. The Case of Komo in Gambella-Ethiopia

Research Paper (undergraduate), 2015

14 Pages



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It is a great opportunity for citizens of all countries to have the rights they deserve, and being equal before the law. Sub nationalities and divisions in numbers do not require or increase their privileges. In many ways, citizenship and public rights varies from country to country as a result of their numbers (majority) or being indigenous. In this regard, the minority in the country is not given much attention to democratic rights. They do not establish their own state, they may not using their language and are dependent on their political involvement.

To address this problem, it is a federal and regional state recognized by the constitution of FDRE and the regions that have been the most responsible for the establishment of their own state. In other words, the region has assumed its constitutional right to enact these laws. In this article, however, the Gambela People's National state had formed with five ethnic groups and the political participation of minorities are acknowledged. Based on this knowledge, the Komo people political and social involvement and the regional government accommodation will be inscribed below.

1. Introduction

Nation, nationalities, and peoples of Ethiopia were subjected and marginalization for many years, regardless of their nations, language, culture, tribe, religion… etc. and this implies that there was historically injustices and marginalization of the nation-state. Accordingly, the federal system is designed to correct the past historical injustices, marginalization and to empower previously marginalized ethnic, national groups by ensuring self-government in nine regional states. And by redrawing boundaries and designing local governments, it to ensure self-rule to major and minor ethnic national groups.

The verse in FDRE constitution Art 39(3) ‘Every Nation, Nationality and People in Ethiopia has the right to a full measure of self-government which includes the right to establish institutions of government in the territory that it inhabits and to equitable representation in state and Federal governments’ implies that how the federal government gave infancies to accommodative federal system in order to correct the past injustice and insure self-rule without any difference of majority and minority issues.

In parallel to the FDRE constitution, the Gambella Regional constitution Art 46 (1 &2 ) also explain as the region is be made up of the five indigenous ethnic namely Anywa , Nuer, Majang, Opo, and Komo and at the same time the constitution recognized that there should be equal right and power sharing among the indigenous while it elaborates the representation should be proportional to key institutions of the region and by the federal government(Art 46-3)

Thus, Komo are minorities and less in terms of their population in the region and at the same time they also found in Benishangul Gumuz Regional state. They shared the political power in the region by representing at the key institution in the region and they have their own local government at kebele levels under the Anyua zones. Though they are complaining in the representations at the federal key institutions.

Finally, this paper tries to examine how minority ethnic Komo had guaranteed the political participation right in Gambella region, thus it premised on the national history of federalism, as well as political background of Gambella region, and constitutional background of the minority right at both federal and regional constitution.

1.1. General over view of Gambella Peoples National Regional state

Gambella Peoples National Regional State is one of the 9 administrative regions. It is located in the south-western part of Ethiopia and borders two other regions - Oromia to the North and east and the Southern Nations, Nationalities and Peoples’ Regional State (SNNPRS) to the south - and the country of Sudan to the west. Most of Gambella is flat and its climate is hot and humid. Annual rainfall averages about 600 mm while the minimum/ maximum temperatures are approximately 21.10C and 35.90C respectively in winter.

Ecologically, the region is predominantly lowland (Kolla)[1]...with a few mid lands (weyna dega). Recession riverside agriculture is common, particularly maize and sorghum, and widely practiced by Anyuaa people along the Baro, Gilo and Akobo rivers. As the region is generally not cereal self-sufficient, alternative income sources such as fishing are important sources of food. Wild food consumption is part of the daily dietary intake given the still partly untouched natural forest resources.[2]

According to the 2007 Census conducted by the Central Statistical Agency of Ethiopia (CSA), the population of Gambella Region has a total number of 307,096, of which 159,787 are men and 147,309 are women; among these, the population size of urban inhabitants are 77,925 or 25.37% of the population.

The Gambela Region is mainly inhabited by various indigenous Nilotic ethnic minority populations[3] (Nuer 46.66%, Anyuak 21.16%, Majang 4%, Upo 0.32%-990 and komo o.o7%-224) as well as some Omotic groups keficho 5.04% shakicho 2.27%), Afro-Asiatic populations (Amhara 8.42%, Oromo 4.83%, Kambatta 1.44%, Tigray 1.32%), and other ethnic groups predominantly from southern Ethiopia 4.86%. Nuer is spoken as a first language by 48.35%, 22.02% speak Anyuak, 11.11% Amharic, 4.85%Afan Oromo, 4.65%Kafa, 2.48% Shakacho, 1.47% speak Kambata and 1.32% speak Tigrinya; the remaining 3.75% spoke all other primary languages reported. 70.1% of the region's population are Protestant, 16.8% Orthodox Christian, 4.9% Muslim, 3.8% practice traditional religions, 3.4% Catholic.[4].

2. Federalism in Ethiopia and Political background of Gambella Regional State

2.1. Federal arrangement in Ethiopia

In 1991, the overthrow of military government by the combined armed struggle of the coalition parties like Tigray People Liberation Front (TPLF), Oromo People Democratic Organization (OPDO), and Amhara National Democratic Movement (ANDM) and Southern Ethiopian People Democratic Front (SEPDF) are opened a path for restructuring the state on a different ideology which is described as ethnic federalism (Berhanu Balcha Gutema, 20007, p. 5) Ethiopia was established ethnic based federal system that gives full recognition to ethnic autonomy, while maintaining the unity of the state. The initial process of federalization in Ethiopia took place for four years and formalized in 1995 of the new constitution. The Ethiopian ethnic federal system is significant in allowing secession for each ethnic group (Alem Habtu, 2003, pp. 1-2)

2.2 Political background of Gambella Regional State

Gambela is first restructured in TGE as region 12 consisting Anyuwa, Nuer, and majang ethnic group.[5] And letter becomes Gambela peoples National Regional State (GNRS) as one among the 9 administrative regions and two cities administrative consisting the five indigenous ethnic group: Anyuwa, Nuer, Majang, Opo, and Komo. Gambela is the capital city of the region. Having the five indigenous ethnic grope, Gambela is subdivided into three zones[6], 12 woredas and one city administration and one special woreda.[7] However, the two minority ethnic gropes are dependent on in the majority as the three zones are structured on the bases of the three majority or dominant ethnic group.

Thus, in this few pages, I will see the Komo people and their political participation grounding on the federal and the regional constitution of Gambela.

Source: Ethiopian mapping agency[8]

3. The Komo people, who are they?

The Komo, are a Nilo-Saharan-speaking community living in the Sudanese borderland Gambella and Benshangul Gumuz regional state. They mainly settled in the Mao-Komo special woreda of the Benishangul-Gumuz Region in Ethiopia and Anyuwa zone of Gambela. In recent years, many people belonging to this ethnic group have been resettled by the Ethiopian state in order to provide them with clinics and schools.

Like Oppo, the Komo are located in Gambella’s northwestern region in the mountains that border Gambella with Oromiya. Some people of the Komo ethnic group live in proximity with Anyua.

The Komo dialect is nearly immersed to Anyuak dialect as many of the Komo people are scattered around Anyuak areas. The Komo is the least ethnic group in Gambella with only a population of 0.07% (224) in Gambela.[9]

As minority group is a term referring to a category of people differentiated from the social majority, those who hold the majority of positions of social power in a society and may be defined by law. Rather than a relational "social group", as the term would indicate, "minority group" refers to the above-described. The differentiation can be based on one or more observable human characteristics, including ethnicity, race, religion, caste, gender, wealth, health or sexual orientation. The term "minority" in the case of Komo here is used to refer to categories of ethnicities who hold a fewer number.


[1] There are 3 climate zones in Ethiopia that are known as Dega(highland),weynadega(temprate) and kola(lowland).

[2] Abraham Sewonet. Breaking the Cycle of Conflict in Gambella Region. UN Emergencies Unit for Ethiopia. 2002

[3] The population size of the indigenous people in Gambella could be considered minority when compered nationally.

[4] Population and Housing Census Report-Gambela Region - 2007 , Central Statistical Agency, 2010-07, English, Ethiopia, Publisher(s): Central Statistical Agency

[5] Transitional charter proclamation No 7/1992

[6] The zones are named by the three ethnic groupe; these are Nuer zone ,Anyuwa zone and Majang zone administration

[7] The woredas are Abobo, Dimma, Gambella Zuria, Gog and Jor under Anuak Zone Akobo, Jikawo, Lare, Wentawo,mekuy under Nuer Zone and Godere and Mengesh under Mezheng Zone . Itang is a Special woreda while Gambella town is city adminstaration.

[8] Gambella map, htpp://

[9] Population and Housing Census Report-Gambela Region - 2007 , Central Statistical Agency, 2010-07, English], Ethiopia Publisher(s): Central Statistical Agency

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The Rights of Minorities and their Political Participation. The Case of Komo in Gambella-Ethiopia
Addis Ababa University  (Center for Federal Studies)
Human Rights
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rights, minorities, political, participation, case, komo, gambella-ethiopia
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Nardos Hawaz (Author), 2015, The Rights of Minorities and their Political Participation. The Case of Komo in Gambella-Ethiopia, Munich, GRIN Verlag,


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