The Oromo migration revisited

July 21, 2008 at 8:27 am 9 comments

According to M. D. W. Jeffreys, writer of “The Wanderers”, the derogatory term “Galla” is translated as ‘immi- grant’, guest or outsider. The group of people who used to be referred-to by that name, however, prefer to call themselves ‘Oromo’, meaning, “the strong men”. I have therefore replaced this term with Oromo, and put it in bracket so the reader would know what used to be in it’s place on the documents i’m referring to. With the post below, I hope to show how fitting the later title is for Ethiopia’s Oromo children – past & present.


Professor Getachew Haile’s “‘Yeabba Bahriy Dirsetoch Oromochin Kemimeleketu leloch senedoch gara’ (The Works of Abba Bahriy with Other Documents concerning the Oromo – 2002), is primarily a new edition and translation into Amharic and English of the work “Zenahu le-[Oromo]”, a Ge’ez study of Oromo society and Oromo migration into central Ethiopia in the sixteenth century… an important firsthand account of the social structure of the pastoralist Oromo and the impact of their migration on the existing agrarian communities of Central Ethiopia.”

Dejach Balcha Aba-Nefso, an Ethiopian patroit with Oromo roots

In it, the writer puts it as his belief that Oromos weren’t the innocent victims of Abyssinian ruler’s “massacre” as today’s politics would have us believe. For which no one should be judged, he pleads with the reader, since the wars recounted in the book are no more than accounts of two of our grandparents (namely the Oromo and non-Oromo Ethiopians) fighting over who should take the spoils of what they legitimately stole from the common people. I personally do not believe the spoils were fairly distributed, but the book gives some insights into “The Oromo Question” & culture the discerning reader won’t wanna miss.

The author of the original text, the monk Abba Bahriy, starts his narration with the words:

“I (hereby) begin to undertake studies of the [Oromo] in order that I may know the number of their tribes, their zeal to kill people, and the brutuality of their demeanor. If there is anyone who would say to me, “Why has he written about the wicked ones like the history of the good?”, I will give him an answer, saying to him: “Search in the books, and you will see that the history of Muhammed and the history of the kings of the Muslims have been written, although they are our enemies in religion. Gioyorgis Welde Amid (a Coptic historian who wrote the history of the world from creation to 1260 A.D.), too, has written the history of the Zingu’an kings of the Barbarians, who are the Afridon and the other kings of Persia, who are called at this era the Sofi”.

To corroborate this claim, Section 15 of “Zenahu le-[Oromo]” begins with:

After this, Birmeje (a “luba” or an appointed Leader of the Oromos to lead the tribe for eight consecutive years) was relieved and Mul’ata son of Bifole was appointed. He made a dullgutto on Gojjam. The meaning of dullaguto is “war of topknot” for when the [Oromo] are circumcised at the same time, they give themselves a name, as we have said at the beginning of Section 4, and they attack a country which their predecessors have not attacked. If they kill people or large animals, they shave their whole head, leaving a little hair (topknot) in the middle of their skull. But he who did not kill does not shave himself, so much so that he suffers from lice. For this (reason) they are zealous to kill us.

My favorite part of the book, however, is Section 19. It shows how perceptive the very devout monk was in matters of the world:

The knowledgeable ones make an extensive inquiry, asking, “How is it that the [Oromo] defeat us, although we are many, and many are our arms?” There are those who say, “God has allowed them because of our sins.” And there are who say, “It is because of our nation’s division into ten classes. Nine of these do not come close to any battle, and they are not ashamed of their fear. But the tenth class battles and fights to the best of its ability. Although our number is big, those who can fight are few, and those who do not come near the battle are many.”

One of these is the party of the monks, who are countless. There are those who become monks in their youth, when monks lure them while they are studying, like (the case of) the writer of this essay and those like him. There are also those who become monks because of fear of battle.

The second group is called debtera. They study the scriptures and all the profession of the clergy; they clap their hands and stamp their feet: they are not ashamed of their fear. They take as their models the Levites and priests, namely, the sons of Aaron.

This third group is called Jan hatsena and jan me’asere. These guard justice and guard themselves from battle.

The fourth is the group of deggafoch of the women of the dignitaries and the (royal) ladies, powerful men and strong you men. They do not come near the battle; they say, “We are attendants of the women.”

The fifth group is called Shimagille, geze, and be’ale rist. They give a portion of their land to the peasant and demand his services; they are not ashamed of their fear.

The sixth group is the peasants. They spend their day in the fields and are oblivious about fighting.

The seventh group is those who benefit themselves from commerce. They make profit for themselves.

The eighth group is the artisans, such as the smiths, scribes, tailors, carpenters, and their like. They do not know fighting.

The ninth group is the minstrels, those who play the qende kebero and the begena, who make begging a profession. They bless the one who rewards them; they give him vain glory and the idle praise. And when they curse the one who does not reward them, they are not charged, for they say, “This is our tradition.”. They keep themselves very far from battle.

The tenth group is those who carry the shield and spear. These can do fighting, and “follow the steps of the king to run”. Because of the fewness of these, our country is destroyed.

The [Oromo], on the other hand, do not have any of these nine classes which we have mentioned. All are trained in warfare, from the small to the big. For this reason they destroy us and kill us.

Those who say, “They kill us by the order of God,” find a reason in the defeat of the children of Israel and their destruction at the hands of the kings of Persia and Babylon. They say, “If a fighter is victorious, who would ask help from God the Exalted and Most High? And if the many conquer the few, the words of scripture which say, ‘one shall put a thousand to flight, and two shall chase ten thousand’, would be vain”.

O knowledgeable ones, you know whether the words of the former arguers or of the latter arguers are credible.

Biya keenya negaa ya godhu!

Entry filed under: Latest Posts. Tags: , , , .

You b the judge! Lawd Have Mercy!

9 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Oromantic  |  July 23, 2008 at 7:39 am

    LOL the made up story of stupid monks like Bahrey and Aleqa gelemelay demonizing Oromos should not pass as “History”. There was no “Galla migration” but everybody knows that Abyssinians migrated to Ethiopia from Yemen. See the HISTORY page on this site and also this post.

  • 2. Bookmarks about Migration  |  August 26, 2008 at 12:00 am

    […] – bookmarked by 1 members originally found by collegeconnect on 2008-08-03 The Oromo migration revisited – bookmarked by 6 members originally […]

  • 3. Scooby  |  February 17, 2009 at 8:40 am

    Just came across this article now. `It’s an interesting piece. Berche.

  • 4. khrybu  |  April 8, 2009 at 10:23 pm

    I Know this history.Its fact that Oromo’s are migrants to Ethiopia.What is new?

  • 5. NIbo  |  May 6, 2009 at 12:52 pm

    I don’t honestly know how many people care about who migrated where as much as the condition we are all in now. I think there’s no wonder the newer generations in Ethiopia care nothing about the past because it has been twisted and turned again and again by so many parties to fit their political purpose. Besides, who cares about all that when they’re living on one meal per day.

  • 6. Dibaba  |  May 16, 2009 at 7:24 am

    Oromos are the natives. The immigration was a revolt against the church. that was why they went all the way to Axum (galla wara 1611).

    Ethnically, Tigre, oromo and amhara and probably the majority of ethiopians are from the same stock.

    For more read about Genome; it renders a new perspective

  • 7. Dereje  |  October 25, 2011 at 5:38 am

    Who are you? An emotional and subjective personality or do you possess a noble and critical mind? What you write give more important clues to future debate. But your presentation is more emotional. This makes you miss essential points in your arguements. Would you reconsider that?

  • 8. Macca  |  July 2, 2012 at 9:24 pm

    Habasha/Amaara means ‘people with no genealogical history or history of whatever, bastard, sons of urine, sons of prostitute, sons of orgasmic semen, sons of sensation’. In modern sense ‘people with identity crisis’. The greatest injury one is to inflect on you is to call you ‘Habasha’ or ‘Amaara’.

  • 9. wube  |  May 13, 2014 at 8:19 am

    pls all my bro came together b/c all of us the son of God pls

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