(Bloomberg) — Ethiopia will hold its first population census in more than a decade, a step that could have far-reaching consequences for the Horn of Africa nation that’s grappling with multi-ethnic representation and rippling demands for self-determination.
The census’ advisory council will have 20 members, including nine ministers and officials from all nine of Ethiopia’s ethnically based regional states, the ruling party-funded Fana Broadcasting Corp. reported Tuesday. It didn’t say when the survey will take place.
“The new census might change the visibility of thus far undervalued ethnic groups,” independent researcher Benedikt Kamski said by phone from the southern city of Hawassa. This could provide “statistical backing to self-determination movements” in large parts of Ethiopia’s south, where a zone named for the ethnic Sidama people has already requested statehood and others may follow, he said.
Ethiopia, Africa’s second-most populous nation, was reconfigured a quarter century ago as a multi-ethnic federation to give autonomy to its more than 80 ethnicities. As Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed vows multi-party democracy, revived opposition groups are calling for greater regional autonomy in a country once under the tight grip of the ruling coalition.
Ethiopia’s last census was in 2007, and the constitution requires one every 10 years. The Central Statistical Agency’s director-general, Biratu Yigezu, didn’t immediately respond to two calls and two text messages seeking details on what information the census will gather and the deadline for its completion.
Referendums under Prime Minister Meles Zenawi, who ruled until his death in 2012, were dogged by claims of politicization and that they under-represented some ethnic groups.