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Gadaa Oromo Democracy: Three Approaches to the Study of African Society September 27, 2012

Posted by OromianEconomist in Africa, Ancient African Direct Democracy, Culture, Finfinnee, Gadaa System, Humanity and Social Civilization, Irreecha, Kemetic Ancient African Culture, Oromo, Oromo Culture, Oromo First, Oromo Identity, Oromo Nation, Oromo Social System, Oromummaa, Self determination, Sirna Gadaa, State of Oromia, The Oromo Democratic system, The Oromo Governance System, Uncategorized.
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These closely related books reveal the many creative solutions an African society found for problems that people encounter when they try to establish a democratic system of governing their affairs. In much of what has been written about Africa, the common image is that of people governed by primitive customs and practices, in which only feudal roles of elders, kings, chiefs, sultans, and emirs have been acknowledged by Western observers. Little is ever shown of indigenous African democratic systems, under which there is distribution of authority and responsibility across various strata of society, and where warriors are subordinated to deliberative assemblies, customary laws are revised periodically by a national convention, and elected leaders are limited to a single eight-year terms of office and subjected to public review in the middle of their term. All these ideals and more are enshrined in the five-century old constitution of the Oromo of Ethiopia, which is the subject matter of these books.

In these books, Legesse brings into sharp focus the polycephalous or “multi-headed” system of government of the Oromo, which is based on clearly defined division of labor and checks and balances between different institutions. Revealing the inherent dynamism and sophistication of this indigenous African political system, Legasse also shows in clear and lucid language that the system has had a long and distinguished history, during which the institutions changed by deliberate legislation, and evolved and adapted with time.’ Amazon Books &

 — At Finfinnee, Oromian Young Generations Literally Collections.

Review of ‘Oromo Democracy: An Indigenous African Political System.’ By Asmarom Legesse

Oromo Democracy: An Indigenous African Political System. By Asmarom Legesse.  Trenton, NJ: Red Sea Press, 2006, 296p, 10 figures, 8 pictures. $ 29.95 paperback. ISBN 1-56902-139-2. 



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This book is an important contribution to the study of identity politics, a subject hotly contested by many Africanists. Bulcha’s discussion the state-centered bias in the much of academic work on Ethiopia and its denial of the history and pre-colonial autonomy of indigenous non-Abyssinian peoples aught to lead to some serious debate. (Kajsa Ekholm Friedman, Professor Emeritus, Lund University, Sweden).

This work by Mekuria Bulcha is the most comprehensive and innovative work on the Oromo of Ethiopia ever to be written. Identity politics, he argues can be a positive challenge to the development of the state. As it has been the case of Southern Sudan states can also evolve, disappear and change. This work outlines the history, the traditions and politics of the Oromo people summarized and critically assessing all scholarly work done previously. It will remain a seminal work for scholars of Africa and the Oromo for many years to come. It is master peace and sets new challenge for all of us researching on the Oromo nation and people. (Mario I. Aguilar, Professor, Chair of Religion and Politics & Director of the Center for the Study of Religion and Politics (CSRP), University of St. Andrew, Scotland, UK).

Based on empirical evidence and relevant theories of nationalism Bulcha convincingly argues that the pre-colonial Oromo were a pre-modern nation. He revisits the representation of the Oromo identity in Ethiopian history and proposes the innovative and stimulating thesis that the 16th century Oromo ‘invasion’ of the Ethiopian highlands was the result of a conscious effort to regain control of a territory that was lost and contended since the 14th century Abyssinian expansion into the region. Mekuria Bulcha’s presentation of new evidence of the Oromo resistance to the 19th century conquest, his description of the international appeals by the Oromo elite in the colonial phase, his analysis of the activities of the Oromo social movements for the cultural and linguistic rights in the 1960s, and his account of the history of rebellion and armed struggle from the 60s, up to the current ethnic federalism are likely to make this book a classic reference for the studies on ethno-nationalism. (Marco Bassi, Ph.D. Research Associate, African Centre, University of Oxford, UK).

In his important and interesting discussions on the Gadaa System Mekurian Bulcha argues that:
The Oromo People created Gadaa, and Gadaa created the Oromo nation (Legesse, 2000 as quoted in Bulcha 2012)

The Gadaa system is the matrix of the Oromo culture and society: in the past it stood for several related ideas and practices encompassing cultural, political, economic and religious elements. Many of the basic elements of traditional Oromo culture that are anchored in the Gadaa system have withstood the exigencies of time and still today influence the values, attitudes, and social practices of Oromo people irrespective of, region, religion and social class. Oromo worldview and way of life was shaped by Gadaa system (Bulcha,, 2012 & Legesse, 2006).

The unity of the Oromos that is crystallized in the Gadaa culture is not a nostalgic memory of a glorious past or illusory of vision of the future paradise. Gadaa is a reality embedded in the Oromo psyche that constitutes what is to be Oromo as an individual and as a nation. Gadaa underpins the cohesive or corporate Oromo history that scholars who have not studied the Oromo fail to recognize (Gebissa, 2008).

The most important organ of the Gadaa system is the federal assembly known as Gumii Gayoo in Borana and Caffee in other places. These assemblies were very large and attended by councillors called hayyuu, drawn from different sections of the society. These assemblies made laws which defined the essence of Oromo democracy. In short, the specificity and similarity of the myriads of norms, rituals and political practices around which it was organized throughout the Oromo country make Gadaa a unique pan- Oromo institution of great historical depth (Bulcha, 2012, Legesse, 2000).


Copyright © Oromianeconomist 2012 and Oromia Quarterly 1997-2012. All rights reserved. Disclaimer.


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