The Benshangul/Gumuz Region lies on Ethiopia’s western border with Sudan, and shares internal borders with Amhara and Oromia Regions. The Region hosts Ethiopia’s Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) and has been the site of intense ethnic killings throughout the past year. Throughout the past two years, Metekel Zone of the Region has been one of the most violent locations in the country, with over 1052 fatalities recorded. The political violence situation in the Region is complicated and complex, but mirrors other locations in Ethiopia with themes of competing elites divided along ethnic lines and awarded political superiority by the Ethiopian ethno-federalist system.
The Region comprises five indigenous ethnic groups: Berta (also known as Benshangul), Gumuz, Shinasha, Mao, and Komo. Out of these five ethnic groups, the most populous are Berta and Gumuz. Just like other regional states, however, different ethnic groups also live in the Region. According to the last census in 2007, out of the Region’s 670,847 inhabitants, the Berta ethnic group is 173,743, Amharas are 142,557, Gumuz ethnic group is 141,645, Oromo 89,346, Shinasha 50,916, Agew-Awi 28,467, Mao 12,744, and Komo 6,464 (FDRE Population Census Commission, 2007). By 2019. it is estimated that the Region’s population has reached around 1.1 million (UNICEF Ethiopia, December 2019). Seventy-seven percent of the population lives in rural areas (Ibid). The capital city of Benshangul/Gumuz is Asosa. The Region is divided into three administrative Zones (Metekel, Asossa, and Kemashi), 17 Woredas, two special Woredas (Pawe and Mao Komo), and 33 Kebeles. The Region’s economy relies on agriculture. Large amounts of land in the Benshangul/Gumuz Region have been leased to mainly international investors in agriculture. The road density in the Region is low (28.4 km/1000 sq km) and during rainy seasons it is hard to travel to the rural areas of the Region (Hika Nigatu Ayele, 2017).