Both Barara and Addis Ababa Were Built On Oromo Land

By Mekuria Bulcha

Source: Oromo Commentary

Barara Addis Ababa
The terms Badabedi [Badaa Bedi], Badeqqe [Badaa qe’ee], Ginbi which means a Qaalluu shrine (also galma) and appear on this map are Oromo names. Like on other Oromo religious sites the Orthodox clergy built a church here. Source: Marco Vigano, 2014: “The Names Lost, the Map Grasped. Central Shoa on the Fra Mauro map, is significant lost medieval Ethiopia recovered?” (Accessible on internet)
The focus of this article is the recent “discovery” of the medieval military garrison of Barara and its relation to the history of Oromo presence on the Shawan Plateau. The article examines data collected from written historical, ethnographic, linguistic, and archaeological sources to prove that Oromo presence in Shawa preceded the foundation of the market called Barara which was destroyed in 1530 during invasion of Abyssinia by Ahmad Grañ the Emir of the Adal Sultanate. Its aim is not to argue about the existence of a town called Barara, or about its specific location on the Shawan plateau.[1] Instead, it responds to the hardnosed propaganda of using the “discovery” of Barara that dominates the Amharic-speaking media and will suggest that the so-called 16th century “Oromo invasion” of Ethiopia is a historical fact. It examines three commentaries – two by single observers and one by a group – which claim that the Oromo had arrived on the Shawan plateau half decades after the destruction of Barara in 1530.

One of the two individual observers is Dr. Habtamu Tegegne, a historian, who claims that the “historical record shows that when the Oromo arrived in the Shawa area in the late 1570s, and for at least a century after, [they] remained essentially pastoral in their way of life.”[2] The second commentator, Dr. Abraham Alemu, questions the Oromo claims of indigeneity in Finfinnee. As I have mentioned elsewhere, recycling Bahrey’s 16th century caricature of the Oromo as nomadic intruders into the Christian kingdom, he posits that some Oromo “tribes might have driven their cattle across the land [Finfinnee] once upon a time, but that does not give them any right to it” (“ከእለታት አንድ ቀን የሆኑ የኦሮሞ ጎሳዎች ከብቶቻቸዉን በዚያ መሬት ነድተዉ አልፈዋልና በዚያ ምክንያት መሬቱ የኦሮሞ ነዉ ማለት ጨርሶ ተቀባይነት የለዉም”).[3] He means the land on which Menelik built his capital city was a terra-nullius, or an empty land.

The statements of the two commentators constitute distortion.  The Tuulama Oromo were not nomads; they were leading a sedentary way of life when Menelik conquered Finfinnee.  The purpose of this misleading depiction of the Oromo society is not only to say the Oromo were late comers to Ethiopia, but also that they have not developed to a stage when a people can make claim to a territory. It is to say a sedentary way of life was not part of their culture before the 16th century or even when Menelik conquered Finfinnee.

The third comment is made in unpublished paper titled ‘Addis Ababa is Barara, and Barara is Addis Ababa’ (አዲስ አበባ በረራ ናት፤ በረራም አዲስ አበባ) which has been circulating on the internet since August 2017. The name of the author of the 49-long document is not indicated, but an organization called Amhara Professionals Union (APU) is responsible for its publication and spreading. The aim of its author(s) was to counter a draft law prepared by the Ethiopian Council of Ministers’ regarding the special interests of the Oromia regional state in Addis Ababa (Finfinnee).[4]

Distorting the history of the conquest of Finfinnee, the authors of a controversial paper “Addis Ababa is Barara” have argued that “Menelik did not take an inch of land from the Oromo” (“ምኒልክ አንድ ስንዝር የኦሮሞ ርስት መሬት አልወሰዱም”).[5][6] They posit that Barara was destroyed before Oromo arrival in the Shawa. They argue that he had reclaimed a medieval capital of his ancestors called Barara from the Oromo who had conquered it in the 16th century and that he had renamed it Addis Ababa. They claim that the place and name “Finfinnee” did not exist on record or collective memory and is invented recently by Oromo politicians.

Indeed, Barara was built in the 15th century by king Dawit. But, to posit that Menelik II did not take an inch of land that belonged to Oromos is to tell an unabashed distortion of history or a monumental lie. The truth is, history had repeated itself; Menelik built Addis Ababa on Oromo land as his 15th century Amhara predecessors done.

Barara could be one of the “roving capitals or camps” of the Abyssinian kings between the fourteenth and the beginning of the sixteenth century. Even the existence of the temporary royal camp of Barara did not precede the presence of the Oromo on the central Shawan plateau. There is no conclusive evidence that indicates the Barara camp site was where Addis Ababa/Finfinnee is located today.  However, that the Oromo were the inhabitants of the entire region long before the expansion of the Christian kingdom from Amhara to the Shawan plateau has been demonstrated irrefutably by researchers including myself.[7]  Based on events categorized as (a) Ethnographic and historical evidence or history of conflicts between Amhara immigrants and indigenous communities before the 16th century (b) Oromo involvement in the Islamic and Christian wars of 1529-1543 in Shawa (c) the Fra Mauro “testimony” of toponyms, and (d) linguistic evidence, I will discuss the pre-Barara presence of the Oromo on the Shawan plateau below.

 Ethnographic And Historical Evidence

I will turn first to the hagiographies of the Orthodox clergy and chronicles of the Amhara kings as sources of ethnographic and historical information. The hagiographies and chronicles contain records about contacts which the Christian settlers had with the indigenous communities confirming Oromo presence in Shawa centuries before the town of Barara was built. The earliest record that mentions the identity of one of the indigenous groups deals with a conflict in the early 12th century when an Amhara predatory expedition came to the territory of a people called Warjih. Taddesse Tamrat notes that “A Muslim chronicle belonging to the region of eastern Shawa preserves the tradition that early in A.D 1128 the Amhara led an unsuccessful expedition in the land of the Warjih.”[8] The Warjih repulsed the Amhara expedition. Tamrat writes that at that time, “the Warjih probably inhabited a more extensive area as far west as the foothills of the Shawan Plateau.”[9] He means the Entotto hills.

Further information about conflict between the Abyssinians and the inhabitants of Shawa comes from the late 13th century and concerns conquest of the Muslim “sultanates, states, commercial centers.” According to S. Trimingham, the principalities of Shawa, Dawaro, Gidaya (Gidaya is variously spelt and pronounced as Giddaa or Jiddaa) and Waaj were conquered or made to pay tribute by Yikuno-Amlak (1270-1285), who overthrew the Cushitic Zagwe dynasty in 1270 and established the so-called Semitic Solomonic dynasty.[10] He was the first Abyssinian king to establish Abyssinian hegemony over the Shawan plateau.

Continuing the conquests started by Yikuno-Amlak and his son Widm Asferre, Amda-Siyon (r. 1314-1344) conducted campaigns in Galla agar (‘land of the Galla’, which in fact was Galaan) In 1332.[11]  According to his chronicler, Amda-Siyon attacked also the Warjih in 1332 who were (and still are) the neighbors of the Galaan. In retaliation to his assault on their land the Warjih “laid waste the land of the Christians.”[12] The Maya were another Oromo gosa who had been intermittently in conflict with the Abyssinians over a long time. Mentioning a conflict between the Abyssinians and the Oromo people during the reign of Widm Asferre (r. 1299-1314) of the new Solomonic dynasty, Getachew Haile (see endnote 25) wrote that,

During the second year of his reign, when the Galla on one hand and the Muslims on the other rose up and wrecked-havoc on them, the king, the officials, and the clergy got together and counseled in unity to make peace with these Muslims of Yifat and Wello [Wallo] in order to combat only the Galla. They not only counseled, but indeed made peace with the Muslims.

The question is who were the “Galla” involved in the above event that took place two hundred and thirty years before the so-called Galla invasion of the Christian empire of the sixteenth century. The answer is the Gallaan. Thus, the resistance which met the Amhara conquerors and rulers intermittently between the 12th and 19th centuries from the Warjih, Maya, Galaan and others prove the antiquity and continuity of Oromo presence on the Shawan plateau. The conflicts described above were apparently the cause for the displacement of large parts of the Oromo population from the Shawan plateau to the south in the fourteenth, fifteenth, and early 16th centuries. As I have discussed at length elsewhere,[13] it was these displaced groups, who, to return to their former home region, had spearheaded the war against the Abyssinians in the 16th century. This fact is misrepresented by Ethiopianist historiographers as the Oromo invasion of Ethiopia. Across the centuries we find these Oromo groups on the Shawan plateau represented by the ethnonyms their ancestors had during the medieval period. In most cases, we find them in the same districts where their ancestors had lived as mentioned in Abyssinian chronicles and hagiographies or Oromo oral history and gadaa tradition. Most of them have also proliferated and branched out into scores of sub-groups while maintaining the ethnonyms of their ancestors.

Oromo And The Grañ Wars Of 1529-1543 In Shawa.

The second evidence that falsifies the theory of “pre-Oromo Barara” or “Oromo invasion of Ethiopia in the 16th century” is the participation of Oromo groups on both sides of the Christian-Islamic war in Shawa. Arab-Faqi wrote that among the forces used by Ahmad Grañ against the Christian kingdom was “a group recruited from a Muslim tribe called Shoa [Shawa] together with those of Gidayah [Jiddaa].”[14] The Yejju (El Ejju) were another group who were recruited by the Muslim forces and fought the Christians.  Arab-Faqi wrote “The El-Ejju people then furnished the Muslim with a large contingent of cavalry and infantry … [and] followed the jihadist force to Beta Amhara.”[15]Among those who were recruited by the Christians to fight against the forces of Ahmad Grañ were the Maaya. Despite their historical conflict with the Christian kings mentioned above, the Maaya were recruited in large numbers and were sent against the Muslim forces by the Christian king Lebna-Dengel (r. 1508-40). Pankhurst writes that the jihadists “encountered a force of over 3,000 Maya soldiers armed with bows and poisoned arrows.”[16]

 The Ethno-Linguistic Evidence

Referring to Fra Mauro’s map, the authors of “Addis Ababa is Barara” write that “The map reflects with amazing manner the reality on the ground” (“ካርታው በሚያስደንቅ ሁኔታ መሬት ላይ ያለውን እውነታ ያንጸባርቃል”) and that the Oromo had changed the original names.

I will start with linguistic analysis of the toponyms which appear on the map and in other sources cited by the authors of “Addis Ababa is Barara.” Names such as Sadai [Siida], and Bada Bedi, Badaqe and Menagesha which are taken from Fra Mauro’s map or the works of Tamrat, Pankhurst and Vigano are ancient place names that existed in the region before the destruction of Barara. Except Menagesha the names are not Semitic. They are Oromo. To begin with, Barara is an Oromo word: it means “mercy or the merciful”.[17] As indicated by Kebede Galata, funerary stelae are found in different parts of Ethiopia but is called Siida (Sidai) only in Afaan Oromoo.[18]Badaqe (in Tamrat), Badeqé (in Breternitz and Pankhrst), or Badeqqe (in Vigano) which like Barara is mentioned as a medieval “city” or “village” is an Oromo place name too. The correct spelling is Badaa Qe’ee.[19] Bada (Baddaa) means highland or a place on a highland or hill. The word is both a noun and an adjective in the Oromo language and is used as prefix to a place name denoting its altitude and prevailing temperature.[20] The word  (é is a long vowel common in Oromo language and reads as qe’ee or qeyee) has different shades of meaning such as home, homestead, a place for residence, a village, or a human settlement.

Although about a fifth of the space in their article is given to the description of the Semitic languages, the authors of “Addis Ababa is Barara” do not tell which ones are Semitic or Amharic. Ironically, “the reality on the ground” which the Venetian cartographer faithfully had indicated on his map is based on what he heard from visiting Abyssinian monks in 1464, refutes the theory that Barara existed before “Oromo arrival in Shawa”. Instead, it suggests that town was built on Oromo land in a place called by the Oromo Baaraaraa.

 Ethno-Religious Rites And Archeological Artefacts

Religious rites, cultural artefacts, and records in historical document, including the Fra Mauro map, which the authors of “Addis Ababa is Barara” have used as evidence, constitute a third pool of information that refutes the plausibility of their theory about pre-Oromo Barara. Archaeological and historical data which were collected by Samuel Walker, Marco Vigano and Hartwig Breternitz and Richard Pankhurst in search for the lost “city” of Barara reveal two layers of history – Abyssinian and Oromo. The Oromo layer is older than the first and links the present Oromo inhabitants of the Shawan plateau with their ancestors who lived in the same region centuries before the town of Barara was built.

Focusing on Sidai [Siida], Samuel Baker notes that “it is indicated on the [Fra Mauro] map as the siege of the Patriarch” and the name “simply translates as funerary stelae in the Oromo language.” They note that as confirmed through local informants during their first visit, “Oromo speakers were presumably settled here before the medieval town on the map took form.”[21] They write that the objects constituted “pre-Christian funerary monuments, inscribed monumental stones, toppled and broken stelae”, and “deliberately broken millstones [which] were found in numbers during the visit.”

Apparently, the “deliberate” destruction was caused by conflict described by Professor Taddesse Tamrat as “bitter and gruesome.” Tamrat wrote that the conflict was between the Orthodox church and the “pagan clergy” because of “the insistence of the preachers on building their churches on the sacred places of the pagan clergy.”[22] Tamrat does not tell us who the “pagan” clergy were, but we find them in the hagiography of Abuna Qawistos (died 1352). He wrote that Abuna Qawistos found “the people of Galan and Yay [Galaan and Yaayyaa] worshiping the devil at the foot of the kobal [probably a corruption of odaa] tree” chanting, “O people Galan and Yay, see what your god Qorqé [can] do.”[23] This is another strong piece of evidence that refutes the false narratives concocted by the Abyssinian Orthodox clergy and reveals the truth. The records show that the Orthodox clergy were supported devotedly by the Christian kings.[24] The hagiographers of the Orthodox Church mention that the Oromo were “trouble makers” in connection with the death of a certain priest or bishop, Zena-Markos, during the reign of Yekuno Amlak (r.1270-85).[25] Apparently, here, “trouble-makers” stands for serious conflict between the Amhara community and the Oromo. The conflict was between the followers of the traditional Oromo religion, Waaqeffannaa and Christian settlers who wished to impose their religion on the indigenous population.

The Name Finfinnee Is An “Invention”.

The authors of “Addis Ababa is Barara” argue that there was no place or town called Finfinnee in history (“ፊንፊኔ የሚባል ከተማ በታሪክ አልነበረም”). To prove that they list relevant and irrelevant publications and claim it is not mentioned in any of the sources they had consulted. But several of the sources they have on their reference list mention Finfinnee. For example, the Ghanaian historian Kofi Darkwah who, includes a map with the District of Finfinni in his book writes, “an expedition conducted in September 1841 to the Finfinni district near Entoto where Addis Ababa was later founded) returned with 14,042 cattle.” He adds that “In the campaign conducted in Finfinni district (..) the invaders were said to have killed 4,600 of the invaded [Oromo].”[26] Of course Darkwah is not saying Finfinnee was a city but a district and site where the city of Addis Ababa was founded in 1887. It is not just the hot springs (Hora in Oromo or Filwoha in Amharic) that was called Finfinnee, but the whole district.

W.C. Harris who visited Finfinnee in March 1843 wrote about the “beautifully secluded valley of Finfinni”. Martial de Salviac mentions in his book about a missionary station ran by Mgr. Taurin at Finfinni.[27] The authors of “Addis Ababa is Barara” fake consultation of some sources and deliberately ignore information recorded by others, because the sources contradict what they want us to believe.  The late Professor Donald Levine, who was a friend of the Amhara elites, has stated in his well-known book Wax & Gold, that the Amhara elite is skillful at deception. “With straight face and convincing manner, he will relate the most preposterous fictions.”[28]Epistemological violence, or deliberate obstruction of knowing, is a trademark of Ethiopianist historiography. The blatant violence committed by the authors of “Addis Ababa is Barara” is part of that tradition. They have fabricated half-truths about Barara and denied facts about Finfinnee to prove that the Oromo were 16th century immigrants from somewhere to Ethiopia.

Having analyzed (a) ethnographic and linguistic evidence (b) Oromo participation in the Ahmad Grañ wars in Shawa in the 1530s (c) and archaeological evidence, I have shown that the Oromo were the indigenous population of the Shawan plateau centuries before the foundation of the garrison town of Barara.

 Finfinnee – Federalism, And Sovereignty

Finfinnee is legally or conventionally the capital city of Oromia. Article 6 of the Constitution of the State of Oromia of 1995 stipulates that Finfinnee is the Capital City of the Regional State of Oromia. A capital city is the seat of the government of a country or a state. It functions often as a prime economic, cultural, and political center of the state.

 Regardless of what the constitution is saying, the Oromo have a common understanding about their homeland and capital city. What they have been saying from border to border in solidarity with the Oromo who were threatened by eviction was, Finfinnee handhura Oromiyaati! (Finfinnee is navel of Oromia!), “Oromia biyya keenya, hirratt dhalanne eessa deemna!” (Oromia is our homeland, we are born in it, we will go nowhere). They mean “the eviction of Oromos in and around Finfinnee is symbolically the eviction of Oromos everywhere in Oromia.” In addition, the Addis Ababa Master Plan, which caused a huge uproar during the Oromo protests of 2014-2018, would destroy the Oromo state as a contiguous territory and the Oromo people as one nation. Consequently, the youth died everywhere to stop its implementation.

Although Finfinnee is the capital city of Oromia, the status of Oromo language did not change much from that of the heydays of the imperial times. Before 2017, none of Finfinnee’s schools were using Afaan Oromoo as a medium of instruction. Finfinnee’s Oromo inhabitants got their first elementary schools (two in number) that teach in Oromo language in 2017. Thus, while in the rest of Oromia the medium of instruction and administration is Afaan Oromoo, since September 1991, its capital city Finfinnee has retained its garrison-town linguistic characteristicsIts Oromo inhabitants are still expected to drop their language and speak Amharic to participate in the life of the city and become its acceptable citizens.

Although Oromo inhabitants of Finfinnee have become increasing self-assertive about their identity, many of them seem to still wear the Amhara mask to avoid harassment. However, awakened by the positive achievements reflected in the protests to the Master Plan and the negative incidents of mid-September 2018 a movement called Finfinnee Renaissance Association (FRA) was organized in October 2018 to unite Finfinnee’s Oromo inhabitants, particularly the youth, who have announced that they have decided to have a voice in Oromo politics, and work to revive their culture and preserve their heritage. They stressed that their aim is not to suppress the right of non-Oromo citizens of Finfinnee but want them to respect Oromo right to their language, culture, and identity.

Article 5 of the Ethiopian Constitutions endorses that “All Ethiopian languages shall enjoy equal state recognition.” Article 39 endorses inter alia that “Every Nation, Nationality and People in Ethiopia has the right to speak, to write and to develop its own language; to express, to develop and to promote its culture; and to preserve its history.” Consequently, Amharic and Tigrinya are recognized as languages of administration, education, law, etc. in Bahr Dar and Mekele respectively. This is not the case in Finfinnee.

Coming back to the status of Finfinnee, I will underline the question of sovereignty. In Oromia, Article 47 (4) which states that “Member States of the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia (FDRE) shall have equal rights and powers”, and Article 52 (b) which empowers states, inter alia, “To enact and execute the State constitution and other laws” are not implemented. In other words, the government and state of Oromia have no power over Finfinnee or failed to exercise it. That is not the case, for example, with the Amhara and Tigray States regarding their capital cities. They exercise full sovereign power over Bahir Dar and Mekele, respectively.

Thus, the Oromo claim over Finfinnee is not a question of “interest” as indicated in Article 49(5) of the 1995 Ethiopian Constitution. It is more than that: it concerns sovereignty. The term “special interest” is misleading in double sense. First, it puts Oromia’s authority over its own capital city under question; to say to the Oromo you have “special interest in Addis Ababa” is like telling a family “You have special interest in your home.” The Oromo have historical and constitutional rights, not mere “interests” over Finfinnee. Secondly, the promise the Article purports to offer is deceptive and cynical. It is deceptive, because 25 years after the adoption of the Constitution, the meaning of “special interest” remains equivocal. Whatever it may mean is not respected. Eviction is a violation of Oromo right as well as interest. It is cynical because, the eviction of Oromo households which had started with the foundation of Addis Ababa 135 years earlier was accelerated tremendously during the last 30 years.

Article 46 of the Constitution of the FDRE says “The Federal Democratic Republic shall comprise of States.” In many federal states, with multiple constituent nations and nationalities, a federal capital which is in one of the constituent states of a federation does not have sovereignty. The constituent state in which the capital city is situated has sovereignty. The federal government does not have a direct control over it.  This should apply to Addis Ababa’s relation to Oromia.

Many commentators compare Addis Ababa with Washington D. C. which was founded on neutral site with compromise between the constituent states of a federation. The land was seized from Indians and ceded by the states of Maryland and Virginia to the federation.

Another fact which those who compare it with Washington, D.C. miss is that, although the indigenous Oromo were evicted from Finfinnee, they are not outrooted as the indigenous Indians were from Washington, D.C and the entire region. When the 13 settler colonies declared their independence from Britain in 1776, the indigenous Indian population of Maryland and Virginia were already wiped out and no one was left to claim right to the land or oppose the white settlers to build their capital city on it. That is not the case with Finfinnee. As the opposition to the transfer of Oromia’s capital to Adaamaa and the anti-Master Plan protests have shown unequivocally, the 40 million Oromos see Finfinnee as their land and capital city and their readiness to defend it at any cost.

 Secondly, since Finfinnee is the capital city of Oromia, one cannot deny the fact that Afaan Oromoo is its legitimate language. However, Finfinnee/Addis Ababa is also a city with a large Amharic-speaking population. Consequently, it should adopt a multilingual model to cope with the linguistic fault-lines. Although such a model is not without problems, the Belgians, for example, decided to combine unilingual and bilingual holding their country together. While the constituent states of Wallonia and Flanders of the Belgian federal state are institutionally unilingual operating respectively in French and Dutch, Brussels is bilingual. The bilingual model can be adopted to minimize existing linguistic fault lines in Finfinnee/Addis Ababa particularly regarding working languages. I mean, besides Amharic, Afaan Oromoo must be a working language of the city.

There are Amharic-speaking commentators who oppose the federal solution to Ethiopia’s political conflict based on a defunct colonial principle called the “right of conquest” which I will describe in a moment. Buoyed with chauvinism reminiscent of yesteryear’s garrison-town (naftanya) mentality, one of the commentators stated that,

Qubee and Finfinnee will be the graves of Oromo nationalism. I think, Oromo nationalists who desire to live in peace in Ethiopia should distance themselves from the qubee alphabet and Finfinnee (“ቁቤና ፊንፊኔ የኦሮሞ ብሄርተኝነት መቀበሪያ ይመስሉኛል። የኦሮሞ ብሄርተኞች በኢትዮጵያ ውስጥ ተከብረው መኖር ከፈለጉ ከቁቤና ፊንፊኔ መራቅ አለባቸው).[29]

The chauvinism reflected in the quotation cited above reminds me the words of Alexander Bulatovich who, in his book From Entotto to River Baro wrote that “[Oromo] lands together with their population belong to the emperor by right of conquest” (emphasis mine). Bulatovich means there is no other reason, historical or moral, but only brute firepower that had legitimized the Abyssinian occupation of the south. Its simple logic is “might makes right”. The phrase if the Oromo “desire to live in peace in Ethiopia” suggests that they need Amhara tolerance to do so.

In the past, it was believed that the forces of the conquering state, being stronger than those of the conquered were “legitimately” entitled to rule the conquered territory in question as they will. Sharon Korman notes that “the right of acquisition vested by conquest did not depend on the consent of the dispossessed state.”[30]  That was how European colonies in Africa, Latin America, and Asia had functioned. However, the ethical implication of the belief that “might makes right” was questioned following the horrors of World War II and the principle of “right of conquest” was rejected by the UN Charter, and the UN role in the decolonization of territories occupied by European states in Africa, Asia and the Americas, the principles of self-determination and universal human rights. Decolonization is not implemented in Ethiopia. That is why “the right of conquest” is still lurking in the mind of the author of the article cited above.

Leaving the naftanya [nafxanya] bravado aside, in Oromia including Finfinnee, the knowledge of Afaan Oromoo must be counted as an asset for employment rather than a liability. In other words, an Oromo need not learn Amharic to seek a job here irrespective of who the employer is. It is a travesty that an Oromo is required to learn Amharic to qualify for a job in his own capital city and state. The problem of Oromo unemployment cannot be solved by teaching Oromos Amharic, but a policy that makes Afaan Oromoo a working language in Oromia including its capital city Finfinnee. That Afaan Oromoo should be given priority as a working language in Oromia, including Finfinnee, in general needs no argument.[31] Lack of knowledge of the Amharic language should not be used as an excuse for the high rate of unemployment among educated Oromo.[32]

Naturally, federal employees working in the Amhara state are using Amharic. An Oromo who wants to work in the Amhara (or the other constituent states which use Amharic as a working language) should learn Amharic.  But he or she should not be told that he or she must know Amharic to get employment in Oromia, including Finfinnee. Afaan Oromoo should be the working language of Finfinnee as the rest of Oromia  


[1]Taddesse Tamrat puts it about 50 to 70 km northwest of the Entotto range. See Tamrat, T.  Church and State in Ethiopia, 1270-1527. (Oxford: The Clarendon Press, 1972: 298). Referring to Ahmad Grañ’s chronicler Arab-Faqi, Hartwig Breternitz and Richard Pankhurst have pointed to a site in the vicinity of the Dukem River. Another historian, Professor Guluma Gemeda (2018) suggests the vicinity of the Dukem River, west of the Yerer Mountain range
2 Tegegne H.  “Addis Ababa/Entoto is actually Barara”, Ethiopian Registrar, accessed on 17 February 2020.
[3] Alemu, A. & Tadla Woldeyes. On “The value of truth in our community”, ESAT Awde Filsfina. 29 September 2018,
[4] Gemeda. G. ”Barara is not Addis Ababa.” (22 November 2018) Kichuu Info [online resource]
[6]Amhara Professionals Union, “አዲስ አበባ በረራ ናት፤ በረራም አዲስ አበባ ናት” (“Addis Ababa is Barara; Barara is Addis Ababa”), 2017: 3.
[7] Gemeda, G. “Barara is not Addis Ababa”. Ibid. Bulcha, M. Contours of the Emergent and Ancient Oromo NationDilemmas in the Ethiopian Politics of State- and Nation-Building, Cape Town, South Africa: Centre for Advanced Studies of African Society (CASAS),  Revised edition, 2016, Chapter 4.
[8] Tamrat, T. ibid. p. 42
[9] Ibid. p. 43.
[10] Trimingham, S.J. Islam in Ethiopia, London: Frank Cass, (Third impression), 1976: 58, 62. The Zagwe kings who were of Agew origin – a Cushitic ethnic group – “sought legitimacy for their rule not in the old Agew social order, but by making themselves patrons of Orthodox Christianity”
[11] Trimingham, S.J. ibid.
[12] Pankhurst, R. ibid. 1997: 41.
[13] Bulcha, M. ibid.
[14] Basset, M. R. translated in Tamrat, ibid. p. 125, fn. 1. The Hargaya are not Oromo.
[15] Hassen, M. “The Pre-Sixteenth Century Oromo Presence Within the Medieval Christian kingdom of Ethiopia,” A River of Blessings: Essays in Honor of Paul Baxter, edited by David Brockensha, (Syracuse: Syracuse University Press, 1994: 52
[16] Cited in Pankhurst, ibid. 1997: 184, 186
[17] See Gragg, G. Oromo Dictionary, Michigan: African Studies Center, Michigan State University, 1982: 38. See also Guluma Gemeda, ibid
[18] Galata, K. Soodduu – Megalithic, Addis Ababa, 2017.
[19] Grag, G. ibid. 1982: 30,
[20] Breternitz, H. Pankhurst, R., “Barara, the royal city of 15th and early 16th century (Ethiopia): medieval and other early settlements between Wechecha Range and Mt Yerer: results from a recent survey”, Annales d’Ethiopie, Volume 24. 2009: 209-249. For example, there are two such places, Baddaa Diggaa (Diggaa highland) and Baddaa Tuqaa (Molehill), outside my hometown Naqamtee.
[21] Vigano, M. and Baker, S. “Sadai, Stelae Town. Ambanegest, Mountain of Kings”, November 2016: 2.
[22] Tamrat, T. ibid., 1972: 181.
[23] Ibid. p. 184
[24] Tamrat, T. ibid. p. 237 writes that “On one occasion King Zar’a Ya’iqob received reports that the local people of a small district in Mugar practiced pagan worship sacrificing cows and sheep for the serpent god inhabiting a tree. He immediately ordered that a church be built on the site.”
[25] Haile, G. Ye Abba Bahriy Dersatooch: Oromoochin kemimelekatu leeloch sanadoch gaaraa (The Works of Abba Bahriy with Other Documents concerning the Oromo), Collegeville Minnesota,  2002: 233, 2.
[26] Darkwah, R. H. K. Shewa, Menilek and the Ethiopian Empire, London: Heinemann, 1978: 192. He cites Captain C. W Harris letter written on 27 November 1841 to the British Foreign Office from Shawa.
[27] M. De Salviac, An Ancient People … The Oromo: Great African Nation; translated from French by Ayalew Kanno, East Lancing, Mich.: 2005:112.
[28] Levine, D. Wax & GoldTradition and Innovation in Ethiopian Culture, Chicago University Press, 1972: 250.
[29]Yared Tibebu ”እሪ በል ኦሮሞ!!!” (cry out Oromo), EthioReference, 06-01-2020
[30] Korman, S. The Right of Conquest: The Acquisition of Territory by Force in International Law and Practice. Oxford University Press. 1996: 127
[31] Dr. Worqneh Gebeyehu on Finfinnee. Finfinnee Renaissance Association [online resource]   (Accessed on December 10, 2018).
[32] Abraham Qajela, “አፋን ኦሮሞ የኢትዮጵያ የሥራ ቋንቋ የመሆን ግዴታነትና የእራሱ በሆነው በኢትዮጵያ ፊደል የመገልገል ተገቢነት”,

Mekuria Bulcha, PhD, Professor Emeritus. PhD in Sociology from Uppsala University in
1988. Taught Sociology at Uppsala and Mälardalen Universities in Sweden and is author of
widely read books on Oromo and Ethiopian political history including Dilemmas in the Ethiopian
Politics of State and Nation-Building, CASAS, Cape Town, SA, 2011, Revised edition 2016. Founder
and Editor of the Oromo Commentary


  1. Professor Mekuria’

    Another great article from you! Your work is an inspiration to the next generation of Oromo scholars who are worthy of that name: to be a true Scholar is a designation EARNED not granted by an institution. A University grants a Degree but that accolade must be supported by rigorous research and work for someone to be considered a true Scholar. You have earned the admiration of thousands of Oromo students in the Social Sciences because of the QUALITY of your work both in form and content! Although I am way past my prime years, I am proud to symbolically call you my Professor too!

    Looking forward to reading your next work!

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