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Ethnic identification no longer compulsory in census

New ethnic, religious designations to appear on census

Ethnic and religious identification is not compulsory in the upcoming Fourth National Census which is scheduled for April, 2019, The Reporter has learnt.

“Anyone who is, for instance, from a mixed ethnic background or born out of two ethnic groups can choose not to be identified by any particular ethnicity,” Biratu Yigezu, General Director of Central Statistical Agency (CSA), told The Reporter.

“If someone said he/she don’t belong to any of the ethnic groups or don’t want to be identified with a particular ethnicityhas the right to do so,” he said.

“Those with similar cases will be registered under the “Other or mixed Nationalities” category,” The Reporter learnt.

In addition, those who said they are just Ethiopian will also be registered under the “Other or mixed Nationalities” category.

Ethnic identifications have always been controversial over the years when it comes to previous census.

In the past censuses, particularly since the coming to power of EPRDF in 1991, ethnic identification has always been at the core of most vital registrations and censuses.

“In my experience, which includes participation in three national censuses, what I know is that, in both the 1995 and 2007 censuses, people had to identify themselves with a particular ethnic group or religion, somehow,” an expert with more than 30 years of work experience with CSA told The Reporter.

“It was out of option, he said. Significant number of the population has to choose their ethnic identity or align with a particular ethnicity if they were to be registered.”

And most of the time minors will be registered using their father’s ethnic identity, he said.

Biratu, however, argues that in previous censuses people had the option to identify their ethnic designation as a mixed one; and that it is not a new practice.

In related news, new ethnic groups which have gained recognition by the House of Federation since last census and similarly more religious categories are to be included in the upcoming national census under their own category.

“Previously, those ethnic groups which exist but were not recognized have been categorised and registered under “others”,” says Biratu;“But now at least three new ethnic groups including Qimants and one religion Wake Fata [which is dominant in Oromia region] are to be included as categories.”

It was just few weeks ago that the government announced the date of the Fourth National Census, among speculation of another postponement.

It is to be recalled that the original timetable for the census was set at a year ago. However, because of a number of factors such as security problems across the country, displacement of millions of people as well as a lengthy procurement process the government was hindered from conducting the Fourth National Census as scheduled.Indeed the government was forced to reconsider the time frame. It was initially scheduled to take place in November, 2017.

Given the aforementioned factors, it was then decided that it would take place in March, 2019. Nevertheless, similar factors have yet again pushed it to April with the government giving the last confirmation for the latest schedule.

Ethiopia conducted its First National Census back in 1984. Regarding the upcoming census, its preparation was officially commenced in 2015 with a 3.5 billion birr financing secured from both the Ethiopian government and donors.

This will be the First Census for the country where digital technology is expected to be deployed. In this regard, CSA purchased 180,000 tablets and 126,000 pieces of power banks at a total cost of 665 million birr.

It is to be recalled that, the procurement process, which took longer than expected, was shrouded by controversies. Bidding companies during the purchase process were complaining about alleged irregularities along the way.

Once it is conducted, the government will be expected to disclose the result of the census within six months.