Gambela Region

Gambela Peoples' Region
ጋምቤላ ሕዝቦች ክልል


Map of Ethiopia showing Gambela Region
Country Ethiopia
Capital Gambela
  Total 29,782.82 km2 (11,499.21 sq mi)
Population (2007)
  Total 307,096
  Density 10/km2 (27/sq mi)
ISO 3166 code ET-GA

Gambela or Gambella, (Amharic: ጋምቤላ?) also official known as Gambela Peoples' Region, is one of the nine ethnic divisions (kililoch) of Ethiopia. Previously known as "Region 12", its capital is Gambela. The Region is situated between the Baro and Akobo Rivers, with its western part including the Baro salient.

Located in Gambela is Gambela National Park, which covers approximately 5,061 square kilometers or 17% of the Region's territory.


Based on the 2007 Census conducted by the Central Statistical Agency of Ethiopia (CSA), the Gambela Region has total population of 307,096, consisting of 159,787 men and 147,309 women; urban inhabitants number 77,925 or 25.37% of the population. With an estimated area of 29,782.82 square kilometers, this region has an estimated density of 10 people per square kilometer. For the entire Region 66,467 households were counted, which results in an average for the Region of 4.6 persons to a household, with urban households having on average 3.8 and rural households 4.9 people. The Gambela Region is mainly inhabited by various Nilotic ethnic minority populations (Nuer 46.66%, Anuak 21.16%, Mezhenger 4%), as well as some Omotic groups (Kafficho 5.04%, Shakacho 2.27%), Afro-Asiatic populations (Amhara 8.42%, Oromo 4.83%, Kambaata 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 Anuak, 11.11% Amharic, 4.85% Oromiffa, 4.65% Kafa, 2.48% Shakacho, 1.47% speak Kambaata, 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[2] Gambela is the historic home of the indigenous Anuak. In recent years there has been significant violence between the Anuak and more recently arrived Ethiopians, who are generally referred to as "Highlanders".

The 1994 national census reported the regions population to be 181,862 in 35,940 households, of whom 92,902 were men and 88,960 women; 27,424 or 15.08% of the population were urban inhabitants. (This total also includes an estimate for all 19 kebeles of one woreda and 6 kebeles in two other woredas, which were not counted; these areas were estimated to have 19,465 inhabitants, of whom 9,203 were men and 10,262 women.) The six largest ethnic groups of the region were the Nuer (39.7%), the Anuak (27.45%), Amhara (7.74%), Oromo (6.49%), Mezhenger (5.76%), and Kafficho (4.18%); all other ethnic groups made up 8.68% of the population. Nuer is spoken as a first language by 39.72%, 27.47% speak Anuak, 8.44% Amharic, 6.45% Oromiffa, and 5.75% speak Majang; the remaining 12.17% spoke all other primary languages reported. A plurality of the inhabitants said they were Protestant, with 44.01% of the population reporting answers in that category, while 24.13% professed Ethiopian Orthodox Christianity, 10.28% practiced traditional religions, 5.15% were Muslim, and 3.21% were Catholic.[3]

Values for reported common indicators of the standard of living for Gambela as of 2005 include the following: 44% of the inhabitants fall into the lowest wealth quintile; adult literacy for men is 57.5% and for women 22.8%; and the Regional infant mortality rate is 92 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.[4]

Refugee camps

There are a number of refugee camps located in Gambela Region housing around 268,000 refugees from South Sudan:[5]


The CSA reported that for 2004-2005 3,734 tons of coffee were produced in Gambela, based on inspection records from the Ethiopian Coffee and Tea authority. This represents 1.64% of the total production in Ethiopia. The CSA could not provide livestock estimates for Gambela.[6] In a 26 May 2000 report, the FAO observed that at the time Trypanosomiasis was a major problem in cattle for this Region.[7] There was an epidemic of this disease in the area during 1970.[8]

Gambela is believed to have major oil resources. In June 2003, the Ethiopian government signed an agreement with Petronas of Malaysia for the joint exploration and development of oil resources in Gambella region. Petronas then awarded a contract for seismic data acquisition to China’s Zhongyuan Petroleum Exploration Bureau (ZPEB) October of that year.[9]

The Water and Mines Resources Development Bureau of Gambela announced January 2007 that it was initiating a program that would drill 13 new manually operated wells, 54 new deep water wells, and develop four springs. This would provide access to drinking water for 26,000 inhabitants, increasing coverage for the state to 42 percent from the existing 27 percent, at a cost of 6 million Birr.[10] Construction of an asphalt road 102 kilometers in length and connecting Gambela City with Jikawo by way of Itang was begun in 2008 with a budget over 446 million Birr.[11]

Presidents of the Executive Committee

(This list is based on information from[12]

Administrative subdivisions

While Gambela is subdivided into administrative zones and woredas as other Regions in Ethiopia are, this region has seen the most changes in these subdivisions of any region, to the point they can confuse anyone tracing their development.

Originally, Gambela was subdivided into four administrative zones and one special woreda (an administrative subdivision which is similar to an autonomous area and is not part of a zone) as follows, although these zones were not been given proper names.

By 2001, when the CSA released its Sample Agricultural Enumeration, these four zones had been combined into two, and Godere had been merged into the second administrative zone. By the 2007 census, Gambela had been redivided into three zones (named for the three largest ethnic groups), and Itang had been made a special woreda; borders of the existing woredas were moved around to create several new ones. These zones are:


  1. 2011 National Statistics
  2. Census 2007 Tables: Gambela Region, Tables 2.1, 2.5, 3.1, 3.2, 3.4.
  3. 1994 Population and Housing Census of Ethiopia: Results for Gambela Region, Vol. 1, Tables 2.1, 2.7, 2.15, 2.18, 2.23 (accessed 1 September 2009)
  4. Macro International Inc. "2008. Ethiopia Atlas of Key Demographic and Health Indicators, 2005." (Calverton: Macro International, 2008), pp. 2, 3, 10 (accessed 28 January 2009)
  6. CSA 2005 National Statistics, Table D.2.
  7. "Special Report FAO/WFP Crop and Food Supply Assessment Mission to Ethiopia", section 4.5. (Accessed 21 June 2006)
  8. "Local History in Ethiopia" (pdf) The Nordic Africa Institute website (accessed 29 January 2008)
  9. "Seismic Survey Project in Ethiopia Put into Operation" (ZPEB press release)
  10. "Bureau launches 71 water projects in Gambella State" (Walta Information Center)
  11. "Construction of Gambella-Etang-Jikawo asphalt road well in progress", Ethiopian News Agency, 13 May 2009 (accessed 30 May 2009)
  12. According to the account provided by Human Rights Watch (HRW), there was a president of Gambela prior to Okello Ouman, who was killed by his own troops in 1991. HRW provides no further information on this individual, not even a name."Targeting the Anuak: Human Rights Violations and Crimes against Humanity in Ethiopia's Gambella Region"

External links

Further reading

Coordinates: 7°37′06″N 34°41′22″E / 7.6184422°N 34.6893311°E / 7.6184422; 34.6893311

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