One on one with Hon. Chuna Buya, The 34-year-old Burji member of the Ethiopian Federal Parliamentary Assembly
The coronation of Emperor Hailessellasie in 1930 following the death of Empress Zewditu came with many changes to Ethiopia.
He introduced Ethiopia’s first written constitution in July 1931, and with it came the birth of parliament in Ethiopia.
The 1931 bi-cameral parliament consisted of the upper Senate and the Lower Chamber, composed of appointed nobilities, ministers, veterans, and aristocrats.
His 1955 constitution review for the first time allowed the people to elect the 250 members of the parliament’s lower house.
At that time, Burji was a small little known administrative unit under Sidamo province and had no national representation.
The political fortunes of the Burji took a positive turn with the 1974 overthrow of Emperor Haile Selassie by Mengistu Haile Mariam.
In 1987, Mengistu instituted a constitutional review that introduced Legislative National Council (Beherawi Shengo).
Burji, for the first time, got the opportunity to be represented when Ato Samuel Fanje was elected to represent the Burji-Teltele sub-province in the 835-member national legislature.
When Melese Zenawi dethroned Mengistu Hailemariams in 1991, he replaced the Shengo with a two-chambered 547-member legislature. Twenty-two seats are set aside for minorities such as the Burji.
The Burji have since then been represented by Hon. Dido Ando, Hon. Roba Dame, Hon. Wondimu Ume, Hon. Ayele Sago, Hon. Bogale Geldo and Hon. Chuna Buya, who is the current MP.
Elected in 2015, Hon. Chuna also serves in two standing committees; Human Resource, Innovation, Technology affairs standing committee and the Revenue, budget, and finance affairs standing committee. He is the chairman of the latter.
Great power indeed comes with greater responsibility. That is why you will hear critics from Burji expressing their dissatisfaction with the performance of Hon. Chuna.
We recently secured a virtual meeting with him and got to learn more about him.
Question: Many Burji people living outside Ethiopia might not know you in person. Please tell them about yourself.
Hon. Chuna: My name is Chuna Buya Chuna. I was born in 1986 in Burji District. My father’s name is Buya Chuna Buya, and my mother is Damench Sode Daka. I am married and blessed with a daughter.
Hon. Chuna: I hold a Bachelor of Science (BSc) in Natural Resource Management (NaRM) from Bahir Dar University, 2008, and a Masters of Art in Leadership and Good Governance from Ethiopia Service University, 2011.
Hon Chuna: I started my career in 2009 at Burji special Woreda (district) office of agriculture as a natural resource management expert. I later served as the deputy and the head of the department in the same office before pursuing further education.
Hon Chuna: After completing my second degree, I again served in the Burji District Administrative office and the women and youth office.
I also worked as a researcher with the Ethiopian Management Institute (EMI) and the Ethiopian policy study and research institute. Some of my work was adopted and implemented at the National level.
Similarly, I undertook high-end consultancies. I helped various organizations develop strategies and conducted different training on leadership, change management, project planning & management, strategic planning & management.
Question: You were less than 30 years old when you became an MP. Tell us your experience
Hon Chuna: Becoming an MP allowed me to represent my people. It also allowed me to see the world from a different perspective. It came with immense challenges too.
Question: Tell us more about those challenges?
Hon Chuna: I will mention a few of them.
Security: There were several instances of insecurity-related challenges in Burji, Bule Hora (Hageremariam), Yabello, Moyale Ethiopia, and Kenya. We tirelessly worked behind the scene to ensure that peace is restored in all the affected areas.
Unity – Another seemingly endless challenge is the lack of unity. There are misunderstandings and harmful internal competitions that have affected our unity.
Poverty – Our people, especially in the Burji District, are not economically empowered. Uplifting our community is another critical challenge that has been bedeviling my office.
Lack of infrastructure – We lack proper hospitals, feeder roads, and reliable piped water. Even the projects which were commenced are either behind schedule or have stalled.
Investors – We have numerous investment opportunities and natural resources such as the Segen river, Lake Kelale, and vast land suitable for agriculture and settlement, but we are yet to attract investors.
Question: Would you mind highlighting a few of your key achievements?
Hon Chuna: Here are some of the key achievements.
Peace and Unity
Without peace and security, every other development will be of no use. To this end, my office has worked with different external groups in restoring and maintaining stability.
To foster internal unity, we have successfully conducted a unity workshop in Soyama and plan to do more. The workshop attracted professionals, leaders, religious groups, politicians, women, youth, and business people from Kenya and Ethiopia.
We have signed an agreement towards constructing a 1.8 billion Birr (approx Usd 46million) tarmacked road connecting Burji to Dilla and Arba Minch towns.
We are also on the verge of securing funds for tarmacking Bule Hora (Hagermariam) – Soyama – Konso (karat) road. Both roads will connect Burji to trans-African roads, stretching from Mombasa to Addis Ababa and other African countries.
Also, we have managed to get electricity infrastructure for five kebeles. That will go a long way in lighting up that part of the district.
Similarly, we commenced construction of Soyama district hospital. Unfortunately, the project has temporarily stalled because of reasons beyond us.
We established a Burji language department at the Dilla Teachers training college. We have already produced our first graduates.
The closest university to Burji District is Bule Hora university. We are having a local campus of the university in Burji District.
Question: What aspirations do you have for the Burji nation?
Hon. Chuna: Here are some of my aspirations.
I wish to see strong, vibrant, and united Burji across the globe. To achieve the same, we have to focus on continuous awareness campaigns.
I want to see an economically empowered Burji with a broad and robust network within and without the community.
I want to see our people participate in peaceful and beneficial development-oriented politics wherever they live.
We should talk with each other despite the difference in opinions. Talking with each other will help us share our challenges and achievements. We should use vehicles such as symposiums and workshops.
Question: What message do you have for the Burji, especially your fellow youths?
Hon Chuna: Here is my message.
To the Youth
I wish to urge you to focus on the big picture. Dream big and work towards actualizing that dream.
Take your education seriously because, as a community, we need experts in every field. Let us aspire to study until the highest point, such as a Ph.D.
Let us work hard, and pray that the Almighty God blesses our hard work. If you do not succeed at first, don’t give up. Keep trying till you make it.
To our entrepreneurs
Let us diversify our business portfolio and become the best in every sector of business.
Take advantage of the friendly business agreement between countries and engage in export/import business.
Have your forums and network where you coach and guide one another to become the best in business. Employ experts to help you develop the best business systems.
To our professionals
We depend on you to conduct credible research about our community to unravel the past and solve our challenges.
Whatever your job, wherever your location, have an open forum where you speak with one another and exchange ideas.
Distance yourself from divisions based on clan, village, town, and even political affiliation. We can be diverse and have different affiliations but still function as one united Burji family.
Break down the international barriers and educate our people that we are one united family regardless of our location.
Let us think global but act local, borrow best practices and innovations from the international arenas and modify them to solve our local problems.
As much as possible, let us not become part of the Burji problems, but come together and provide a solution.
You owe the community professional conduct, but above all, the community expects you to employ your education in coming up with creative ideas and solutions.
To our farmers
Let us embrace and adopt mechanization instead of ox plows. Adopting modern technology will lead to better production and faster commercialization.
Question: That was powerful advice. What is your parting shot?
Hon Chuna: I wish to underscore that we need to be kind towards one another to achieve the above.
The challenges facing us and the aspirations that we have might not be solved in a short period, so let us have patience but lay down a roadmap that will guide us and our future generations.
Let us avoid self-doubt and take the first step with a clean heart. Let us lay the foundation stone with firm faith. That way, the future generation will complete our journey.
One day, we shall reach the peak of the mountain! God Bless you all, and God Bless the Burji Nation.