Authorities in Benishangul Gumuz Region are preparing a conflict recovery project that would need a 38.5 billion birr budget to be implemented. It is an initiative that arose as the security situation improving.
The plan is expected to be implemented in five years in three phases, with execution scheduled to begin next month.
The region’s sectoral bureaus will start adapting the plan and mobilizing resources based on their needs. The region is drafting a directive that will guide resource mobilization.
The required budget for the recovery plan is nearly six times the region’s 6.7 billion birr budget for the 2022/23 fiscal year.
“Non-governmental organizations and UN agencies have already expressed their interest in supporting the initiative,” Tarekegn Tasisa, the region’s disaster risk management commissioner, said.
The recovery and rehabilitation project, based on a study prepared by the region’s disaster risk management commission, will be implemented in the region’s 17 districts in the Metekel, Kamashi, and Asosa zones. The plan outlined a list of main activities that would be carried out in six sectors, including disaster risk management, agriculture and natural resources, health protection, and education.
The study for the plan was conducted using the regional government’s root-level apparatus. They have identified the extent of the damage, and the commission compiled it, according to the Tarekegn.
Besides the study carried out by the commission, another study is also being prepared led by Assosa University. The university’s study estimated that the region sustained 79.4 billion birr damage due to the conflicts in the past years.
The conflict has resulted in the loss of 16 million quintals of crop, valued at 44 billion birr, according to the study.
“The university’s study has already been presented to the regional government, but it’s not finalized yet. That’s why we are using what we studied. Ours is already ratified by the recovery steering committee,” the commissioner said.
Officials say the security situation in the region is improving now. The number of civilians killed in the past five months is at its lowest.
The region has been a place of horrific civilian killings and conflicts between government security forces and Gumuz rebels since 2019. While the Metekel and Kamashi zones are the main fighting grounds for the rebels, Metekel zone has seen killings targeted at ethnic Amharas.
Even though the region is rich in gold and coal mining resources, investors are not able to mine the reserves, especially in the Kamashi zone. The region ranked second in the country in terms of gold production, with artisans producing more than 90 percent of the region’s gold.
475,384 residents are displaced from their villages due to the insecurity in the region, of which 77,500 are children under the age of five, and 20,000 are breastfeeding mothers, according to the conflict impact assessment. The conflict is also a reason for the destruction of 43,640 houses.
The region, which has been witnessing conflict and the killing of innocent people in various places, saw 113,000 students are out of school due to instability. The destruction of schools has created a difficult situation for students to return to school. In the conflict-affected areas of the region, 201 schools were completely destroyed and 86 schools suffered partial damage.
The region’s 142 health facilities, including 126 health posts, have also sustained damage due to conflicts.
Benishangul Gumuz, which provides agricultural land to investors who engage in large scale farms, has had its 109 agricultural institutions’ warehouses looted and partially or completely destroyed.
The study showed that 291 farmer training institutes and 140 animal health facilities met the same fate.
The recovery and rehabilitation plan has prioritized the implementation of the return of internally displaced people and the rehabilitation of those people in their former homes in a sustainable manner. It also focuses on rebuilding social and economic institutions and providing the necessary equipment for the institutions.
The project need assessment showed that 38.5 billion birr will be needed to implement the plan in disaster risk management, agriculture and natural resources, health protection, education, water irrigation and energy resource development, women, children, and youth sectors, as well as peace building and security sectors.
“The cost of the recovery budget is so much higher than the region’s capacity. But we are planning to mobilize resources from diaspora communities that are from the region,” Tarekegn stated.
Funds from donors including the federal government and the World Bank recovery project are expected to be part of this project.
The Benishangul Gumuz region is one of the six regions, including Tigray, Amhara, and Afar, where rehabilitation project was launched by the federal government together with the World Bank this year. In May 2022, the bank signed a USD 300 million grant to assist the reconstruction, and the federal government has allocated 20 billion birr in the current fiscal year for reconstruction.
In areas that have security threats, the project will be implemented by a third party. The Ministry of Finance has delegated United Nations Office for Project Services (UNOPS) to implement the reconstruction in the Tigray region.
The Ministers of Health and Education studied the damage in all six regions and prepared a report detailing the cost of the five-year reconstruction project.
The Ministry of Education stated that USD 96.5 million is needed to recover from the damage to schools in the Benishangul Gumuz region, while the Ministry of Health stated that USD 22.35 million is needed to recover from the damage in the health sector of the region.
However, the question of equitable distribution of wealth is being raised in the reconstruction project of the federal government. The Boro Democratic Party, which shared power in the region’s government, blamed the federal government for not paying enough attention to reconstruction.
In a statement issued by the party a month ago, the party urged the federal government to pay attention and allocate resources to the replanting zone in the same way that attention and resources are allocated to the destruction and displacement of citizens in northern Ethiopia.
Yohannes Tesema, the party’s Political Sector head, believes the government is not giving enough attention to the recovery as much as it gives to the Amhara and Afar regions.
He claims that out of the USD 300 million granted by the World Bank, the amount of funds allocated for the Benishangul Gumuz region is small.
“Our region doesn’t have the capacity to mobilize this amount of budget for the recovery. It definitely needs the federal government’s support more than this,” he asserted.