Hawassa (Amharic: አዋሳ?, also spelled Awassa or Hawassa) is a city in Ethiopia, on the shores of Lake Awasa in the Great Rift Valley. It is located 285 km south of Addis Ababa via Debre Zeit, 130 km east of Sodo, and 75 km north of Dilla. The town serves as the capital of the Southern Nations, Nationalities, and Peoples' Region, and is a special zone of this region. It lies on the Trans-African Highway 4 Cairo-Cape Town, and has a latitude and longitude of 7°3′N 38°28′E and an elevation of 1708 meters above sea level.
Awasa was capital of the former Sidamo Province from about 1978 until the province was abolished with the adoption of the 1995 Constitution. This city is home to Hawassa University (which includes an Agricultural College, a Main Campus and a Health Sciences College), Awasa Adventist College, and a major market. The city is served by Awasa Airport (ICAO code HALA, IATA AWA), opened in 1988. Postal service is provided by a main branch; electricity and telephone service are also available. Important local attractions include the St. Gabriel Church and the Awassa Kenema Stadium. Fishing is a major local industry.
In September 1994 alone, 194 members of the Sidama Liberation Movement (commonly known as SLM1 to distinguish it from the pro-government SLM2) were arrested and held in Awasa prison. The chairman of SLM1, Woldeamanuel Dubale, had fled to the United Kingdom after an unsuccessful attempt in 1992 to assassinate him.
The Addis Tribune reported 31 May 2002 that government security forces in Awasa on Friday, 24 March, killed 38 farmers who were attempting to demonstrate against the government decision to move the capital of the Sidama Zone from Awasa and make it a chartered city, similar to Dire Dawa. Three thousand demonstrators of the Sidama people, the ethnic group that so far had control of the regional capital, had taken to the streets when police declared their demonstration illegal and opened fire. The regional government recently announced their decision to move the administrative center to Aleta Wendo. Human Rights Watch had documented the deaths of 25 protesters, 12 of whom were children, and identified 26 more injured. These deaths came shortly after police shootings in Shambu, Ambo, and other towns in Oromia, resulting in five acknowledged student deaths. Rapid deployment forces of the federal and regional police also killed two at a meeting in Seraro the previous year.
Based on the 2007 Census conducted by the Central Statistical Agency of Ethiopia, this zone has a total population of 258,808, of whom 133,123 are men and 125,685 women. While 157,879 or 61% are living in the city of Awassa, the rest of population of this zone is living at surrounding rural kebeles. A total of 61,279 households were counted in this zone, which results in an average of 4.22 persons to a household, and 57,469 housing units. In 2016, a new Industrial Park was built in Hawassa to accommodate 60,000 jobs at a (1.3 km²) or 321 acre site.
The five largest ethnic groups reported in this Zone were the Sidama (48.67%), the Amhara (15.43%), the Welayta (13.9%), the Oromo (5.21%), and the Gurage (4.33%); all other ethnic groups made up 12.46% of the population. Sidamo is spoken as a first language by 47.97% of the inhabitants, 31.01% speak Amharic, 9.58% speak Welayta, and 2.07% Oromiffa; the remaining 9.37% spoke all other primary languages reported.
The 1994 census reported this town had a total population of 69,169 of whom 35,029 were men and 34,140 were women.
59.71% of the population said they were Protestants, 26.99% practiced Ethiopian Orthodox Christianity, 8.14% were Muslim and 3.78% embraced Catholicism. The Latin Catholic minority is pastorally served by the missionary Apostolic Vicariate of Awasa, which has its Cathedral of Kidane-Meheret here.
Football (soccer) and swimming are the most played games in Awassa, but other sports like basketball and skateboarding are becoming popular among the youth. Biking and running competitions are occasionally held on the main streets of the town.
Hawassa University, established in 1999 through the merger of a number of higher education institutions, is based in the city. Infolink College is the first private engineering college found in Awassa City. Africa Beza College campus is also in the city. Hawaasa University is the first university in Ethiopia to offer Hotel Management degree program. HoMa graduates of 2006 are believed to be the best hotel professionals in the country.