Silt'e people

Ge'ez: ስልጤ
Haile Selassie I [1]
Total population
(750,398 (2007 census)[2])
Regions with significant populations
Silt'e language, Amharic
Islam, Ethiopian Orthodox Christianity
Related ethnic groups
AmharaHarariZaySheekhaal clanTigrayTigre and other Ethiosemitic and Cushitic peoples.

The Silt'e people also Silte people (ስልጤ; simplified form: Silte) are an ethnic group in southern Ethiopia. They inhabit today's Silt'e Zone which is part of the Southern Nations, Nationalities and Peoples Region. Silt'e denote their origin to the city of Harar.[3] A considerable number of Silt'e live in Addis Ababa, Adama and other cities and smaller urban centres of southern Ethiopia where they make a living, e.g., as merchants or keepers of petty shops. In the countryside the Silt'e practise mixed farming and cultivate ensete.

The term Silt'e is the modern ethnonym of the speakers of the Silt'e language. Today's Silt'e comprise the following major historical sub-groups: Azernet, Berbere, Alichcho, Wuriro, Melga (or Ulbareg) and Silt'i (or Summusilt'i). The name Silt'i (for the subgroup) is derived from the alleged ancestor Gen Silt'i. The modern ethnonym Silt'e was chosen in memory of this ancestor and as a reminiscence of the old Islamic sultanate of Hadiyya the Silte people claim a historical relation to.

The great majority of the Silt'e population is Muslim. Until the second half of the twentieth century the Silt'e were considered as being part of the Gurage (but called Adiyya or Hadiyya by the Sebat Bet Gurage). Silte people are also called Adere by the neighbouring Arsi-Oromo which might indicate the relationship to the Adere (Harari) who live (in and around the historic city of Harar) miles away from where the Silte people are inhabiting. The two ethnic groups(Silte and Harari) share somewhat similar language and the same religion. Other designations were Islam or East Gurage (after their language which forms part of the East Gurage language area). After the fall of the Derg regime in 1991 a political movement formed to establish an independent ethnic identity for the Silt'e, as they now called themselves. Ten years later, the Silt'e were successful in obtaining an administrative independence from the Gurage Zone in the creation of the Silt'e Zone.


  1. Haile Selassie's mother was paternally of Amhara and Oromo descent and maternally of Silte heritage. However, as he had accepted the Amhara cultural norms, Haile Selassie was regarded as Amhara: he was able to ascend to the Imperial throne through his paternal grandmother's royal lineage (see history).
  2. Census 2007 Tables: Southern Peoples, Nations and Nationalities Region, Tables 2.1, 3.1, 3.2 and 3.4.
  3. Prunnier, Gerrard. Understanding Contemporary Ethiopia. Oxford University Press. Retrieved 25 June 2016.


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