Assimilation and Land Grabbing
by Ethiopian Orthodox in Gambella Region is in its Climax

By Anyuak Media
August 25, 2010
Posted to the web on August 25, 2010


Gambella region is one of the fertile regions in Ethiopia, and it has abandon natural resources. Unlike other regions in the country, Gambella has been inhabited by some of the unique tribes in the country: the Anyuak, the Opo, the magenger, the Nure, the Kumo. These tribes are not only unique in their ways of live, racial identity, but they are also unique in their religious believes. As a result, they have been a target of assimilation and their lands also have been in constant snatch by either government or privates companies. In his book titled social problem, Macionis (2008) stated that the way majority and minority populations interact can range from deadly to peaceful. In studying such patterns, sociologists use four models: genocide, segregation, assimilation, and pluralism. Blatantly or covertly these elements of interactions are in the making in Gambella region.

Genocide which is the systematic killings of one category of people by another has been blatantly and covertly under way in the region for decades. The 2003 genocide is one the best example of the way majority and minority interact. Segregation is the physical and social separation of category of people. Sometimes minority populations decide to segregate themselves, this is the case with the religious order. Assimilation is the process by which minorities are gradually forced to adopt cultural patterns from the dominant majority population. Assimilation is one of the blatant models that have been going on in Ethiopia for centuries. The indigenous’ cultures in Gambella region may have survived the “abyssinianization” which took place in the past, but the new wave of the assimilation or Abyssinianization seems unavoidable.

According to Donald et al (1985) abyssinianization involved three principal components: the spread of the “rist” system of the land tenure, the adoption of Amharic, and the expansion of the Orthodox Churches throughout “Ethiopia.” According to author mentioned above, the spread of Amharic, lisane nigus (the king’s language), was an integral part of cultural transformation. The spread of Amharic language from old Abyssinia (Northern Ethiopia) to the new “Ethiopia Empire” which include Southern regions, Oroma regions, and Gambella region had been somehow successful. The expansion of the Orthodox Christianity was the last aspect of the tripartite process of Abyssinianization and, like the ability to speak Amharic; it was contradictory in a class character (Donald et al., 1985). In contradiction to Orthodox Christianity which is mainly dominated by Amhara and Tigry tribes, tribes like Oromo, five Gambella indigenous tribes, and Gurage, to name few, have opted to be Evangelists and Muslim respectively. Therefore, the Orthodox component had not been successful in achieving the process of Abyssinianization.

However, the advocates of the Orthodox religion have not given up the Abyssinianization in Gambella region. As part of Abyssinianization, the handful members of the Orthodox Church in Gambella town are now planning to build the fifth Orthodox Church on the top of the Gambella Mountain (Geleth or Jebjabe Mountain). Orthodox Church members in Gambella have four big Orthodox Churches: the first one is located in Arat Kilo, the second one is in Changkwar behind Agarfa College, the third is located on the left-hand-side on the road to Abobo before the Malaysian petroleum company Compound, and the fourth is in Bathtor area near the old airport. If not the notion of Abyssinianization that has been going on in Gambella region, the four Orthodox Churches would be enough to accommodate the few Orthodox Church members, namely the Amhara and Tigray tribes who reside in Gambella town. If the proposed fifth Orthodox Church on the top of indigenous’ cultural Mountain has no political implication, the planners would not plan to build the Church on the top of the Jebjabe Mountain because this Mountain is one of the remaining cultural symbols of Gambella town. The indigenous people want the Mountain to be preserved for their culture identities. If not the intention of the Abyssinianization, the planners of the Church would not propose to build the Church on the top of this cultural Mountain when they have a plenty of land around the town. If not the intention of assimilation/destruction of the indigenous way of lives, the planners of this demonic church would not come up with the idea to build the Church on the top of the Mountain where Gambella town water purification tank is located. Building the Church next to the town’s water purification tank has political implication i.e. water can be easily contaminated or poisoned by these religious groups whose hearts are filled with hatred. Building the church on the top of the cultural Mountain has something to do with the destruction of biodiversity on and around the Mountain. Even though Gambella municipal authorities attempted to stop building the Church on the Mountain, their efforts have been in vain. The groups have been adamantly insisted to go on the plan to build the Church. Thus, we in Diaspora as well as all native of Gambella in Ethiopia are called upon to make some effort to stop this cultural destruction! Here, is what you need to do:

  1. Do your part by writing to Orthodox Church Headquarter in Addis Ababa at: or
  2. Call any Gambella official you may know and express your concern about Orthodox Church plan.
  3. For those who are in Gambella go to any official office and make your voice heard.
  4. Spread the word around by sending this message to many people as much as you can.

As the warning to Orthodox Church planning committee, we, the concerned Gambella citizens, are calling on you to withdraw your plan to build the proposed Church on the top of our cultural Mountain. If not, you are going to be responsible for security disabilities in Gambella region.

The Tent is where the proposed fifth Orthodox Church will be on the top of the Gambella Mountain (Geleth). In the picture also pipeline of Gambella town water purification tank photo by Anyuak Media on Sunday August 22, 2010 in Gambella, Ethiopia.
Member of Orthodox Church during church services photo by Anyuak Media on Sunday August 22, 2010 in Gambella, Ethiopia







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