Last updated: 29/09/2023
The Segen Area Peoples zone conflict emerged over the fallout of Konso woreda becoming a zone in 2018. This new zone once belonged in ‘Segen Area Peoples zone’ as Konso woreda, along with Amaro woreda, Burji woreda, Derashe woreda, and Ale woreda. In this zone, eight ethnic groups, including the Ale, Burji, Dirasha, Konso (also known as Xonsita), Kore, Kusumie, Mashole, and Moseye lived together with other ethnic groups (like Oromo, Wolayta, Amhara, Gurage).1Kulle Kursha, ‘Segan shambles shows sense in splitting South,’ Ethiopia Insight, 30 December 2018
Before establishing Segen Area People’s zone on 28 March 2011,2Misganaw Addise Moges, ‘Practice of Self-Government in the Southern Nations Nationalities and Peoples’ Regional State: The Case of Segen Area Peoples’ Zone,’ Masters thesis, Addis Ababa University, 8 June 2018 Amaro, Burji, Derashe, and Konso had the status of ‘special woreda,’ i.e. they were semi-autonomous and were accountable directly to Southern Nations, Nationalities and Peoples (SSNP) Regional Council rather than to the zonal administrative level. This administrative setup made the Ale people minorities within Konso and Derashe special woredas. The Derashe special woreda was predominantly inhabited by Dirasha (the majority within the woreda), Dhobasse (now called Ale), Moseye, Mashole, and Kusumie ethnic groups. Konso special woreda was inhabited by the majority Konso and the minority Gewada (now called Ale) ethnic groups, while Amaro special woreda was inhabited by the Kore ethnic group, and Burji special woreda by Burji ethnic group.
After the implementation of ethnic-based federalism in Ethiopia in 1995,3Kidane Mengisteab, ‘Ethiopia’s Ethnic-Based Federalism: 10 Years After,’ African Issues, 2001 the Ale people demanded to establish their own woreda. To resolve this issue, in 2011, SNNP region (SNNPR)’s ruling party, the Southern Ethiopian People’s Democratic Movement, removed the special woreda status of the four surrounding woredas – Amaro, Burji, Derashe, and Konso – established Ale woreda, and grouped them all under the newly created Segen Area People’s zone.4Addis Standard, ‘News Analysis: Konso zone and Segen Woreda admins, security officials discuss ways to jointly tackle ongoing security crisis in Segen,’ 25 April 2022
This decision was made without much consultation with those living in the zone, and was immediately met with resistance from the Konso population. A committee consisting of 23 members was established to advocate for creating a separate Konso zone.5William Davidson, ‘Fugitive mediator clubbed by activists then charged with sedition as protests cleaved Konso,’ Ethiopia Insight, 18 July 2018 However, the formal request was rejected by the Regional Council and later the House of Federation. This led to another round of demonstrations in the zone, and the subsequent imprisonment of some protest leaders.6Ethiopia Observer, ‘Traditional leader arrested in Konso,’ 14 March 2016 Furthermore, there was a dispute over the capital city of the newly formed Segen Area Peoples zone as most ethnic groups, including the Konso people, wanted their capital city Karat to be the zone’s capital city as it is easily accessible for most ethnic groups of the zone and better equipped with infrastructure than the others. However, the Regional Council decided the city of Segen (previously known as Gumade) would be the capital city of the zone.7Yared Ayalew, ‘The quest for self-determination under Ethiopia’s ethnic federalism: the case of the people of Konso,’ Social Science Research Network, 29 December 2019
The Konso political prisoners were released in 2018 after Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed announced the release of all political prisoners in Ethiopia.8Meleskachew Amiha, ‘Ethiopia to Free 528 People Arrested During Anti-Government Protests,’ Voice of America, 15 January 2018 In November 2018, the Konso and Ale groups split from Segen Area Peoples zone. Konso gained the status of a zone, immediately triggering violent conflict as elites fought for territory and political influence.9Addis Standard, ‘News Analysis: Konso zone and Segen Woreda admins, security officials discuss ways to jointly tackle ongoing security crisis in Segen,’ 25 April 2022 The remaining four woredas – Derashe, Amaro, Burji and Ale – in Segen Area Peoples zone become separate woredas within the zone. As a result, Segen City Administration and its 17 kebeles were split among these four woredas and Konso zone. This was opposed by people who identified themselves as “Gumayde Peoples” and wanted to establish the “Gumayde Peoples Special Woreda Structure.”10Addis Standard, ‘News Analysis: Konso zone and Segen Woreda admins, security officials discuss ways to jointly tackle ongoing security crisis in Segen,’ 25 April 2022 When Segen Area People zone was established in 2011, the city administration was established by combining nine kebeles from Konso woreda, four kebeles from Burji Woreda, three from Amaro woreda, and one kebele from Derashe woreda. Before the implementation of ethnic federalism in 1994, these 17 kebeles were under one woreda known as Gumayde woreda. The request by Gumayde people was rejected by the administration of Konso zone and Amaro and Burji Woredas, who claim that the request is raised by multiple ethnic groups who have no land, no people, and no structure of their own.11Addis Standard, ‘News Analysis: Konso zone and Segen Woreda admins, security officials discuss ways to jointly tackle ongoing security crisis in Segen,’ 25 April 2022
As a result, Konso and Segen Area Peoples zone have been the scene of intense bouts of ethnic-based violence over administration borders. While border disputes are common across Ethiopia, the scale and destruction that has resulted in these zones are shocking. The inter-communal conflict between Konso and Derashe communities in April 2022 displaced around 37,000 people from Konso and Segen Area Peoples zones.12Addis Standard, ‘News: Close to 37,000 newly displaced civilians in urgent need of humanitarian assistance in Konso Zone, SNNP State,’ 19 April 2022 ACLED records at least 63 reported fatalities in Konso, and 227 fatalities in the Segen Area Peoples and Konso zones between November 2018 and 30 April 2023 (see map below). These clashes mirror trends throughout the country: local elites seeking to control greater territory and resources engage in conflict to promote their own material agendas. As opposed to the conflicts in Oromia, Tigray, or Amhara, despite being large and devastating, the Konso and Segen Area Peoples zones violence does not contain the capacity to spread more generally throughout the region. This is due to its highly localized nature, where local politicians engage little with overall political decisions at the central level and are more concerned with immediate territorial administration and resources.