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Introduction to Gada System
Kebede Lemu B.
Department of Social Anthropology
2020
Chapter One
1. Basic Concepts of Gada System
 The term ‘Gada’ cannot be given univocal
interpretation.
 It stands for several related ideas. Gada is a
comprehensive phenomenon by its nature contains
political, religious ritual and cultural dimensions.
 Hence, it is difficult to define and easily the meaning
gada unless we split it into the religious, political
and cultural institutions (Alemayehu, 2009).
What does Gada means?
Cont…
 According to the meaning given by the scholars who studied Gada
for long, Gada has various meanings.
 More specifically, it refers to any period of eight years during
which a class stays in power.
 It refers to a specific grade (VI) through which every class pass
(Asmarom, 1973).
 Asmerom Legesse (1973) who has studied Gada system for a long
period expressed it as follows;
…….Gada is a system of generation classes that succeed each
other every eight years in assuming political, military, judicial,
legislative and ritual responsibilities.
Cont…
• Here, the definitions given by Asmerom gave
attention to the nature of Gada system and
the ways generation class could participate.
• From the above text, it is clear that Gada is a
complex system which encompassed the
political, administrative, judiciary etc.
institutions.
• Among scholars who studied Gada system,
Asmerom’s study gives detail information on
the nature and function of the Gada system.
Cont…
• Gada does not only refers to changes of grades every eight
years.
• It also includes institutions like;
 Moggaasa (Naturalization) and Guddifacha (adoption),
 Araara (conflict resolution),
 Gumaa (blood compensation),
 Rakoo (marriage law),
 Waaqeffannaa (Oromo indigenous religion),
 Irreecha (thanks giving festival) etc. make up Gada
system.
Cont…
Guddifacha: - It is an institution in which one family adopts somebody from other
Oromo clan(s) or within clan.
 The first purpose of Guddifacha (adoption) which could be concluded between
relatives was to have children for a family that did not have children.
 According to the rules of adoption (Guddifacha) any adopted individual or group
had equal social, political and other rights to the adopting group. This was a
method of becoming one member of Oromo clan.
 Also it believed that a method of getting children and means of solving various
problems with the neighboring clans.
 The process of adoption could be performed in two ways; adopting to a family
and to a clan.
 No need of changing the name of the adopted person. The adopted person has
full rights to participate and share as their own offspring.
Cont…
Moggaasa: - It is Oromization or Oromsuu (From non-Oromo to
Oromo).
 It is necessary to change the name of the adopted person. In
another words, it is the method of incorporating to Oromo.
 As it can be understood from its name, Oromsuu was naturalizing
non-Oromo individuals who were included to the Oromo society
due to various reasons.
 Oromization may because of natural or manmade problems.
 Oromo did not simply accept them. There are some
investigations to accept.
Cont…
• In the same manner, various scholars have forwarded
different meanings. Gada is a complex socio-political, religions
and economic system. It has broad meaning. As Mohammed
(1984) defined it,
…….the term Gada is very difficult to define precisely. It is
a term loosely used for so many varied concepts that it has
lost any single meaning. The dividing line between the
various definitions is very shadow and indistinct unless term
is used. This is because the interpretations of Oromo terms,
idiomatic expression and proverbs related to Gada have
extra meaning other than their surface meanings….
Cont…
• As we can understand from the above text, it is very difficult
to give a precise meaning and definition of Gada.
• It appears that the term Gada came to have different meanings
through time.
• Gada is a calendar. It is also the name given to the men
reached on the six stage.
• Hence, to understand Gada, it is necessary to know each
and every social, political and religious practices of the
society.
• Gada is a big instrument to examine and understand the
cultural and historical experience of the Oromo people.
Cont…
• Gada system is a democratic system that has been
shaping and guiding the lives, modes of governance,
socio-economic conditions, philosophical outlooks
etc., and
• which has enabled to ensure unity and solidarity among
the people as well as the practice of peaceful conflict
resolution strategies (Sheleme, 2016).
• In the same manner, Dereje (2012) stated that Gadaa is
an indigenous socio-political democratic system of
the Oromo people that regulated;
– political stability,
– economic development,
– social activities,
– cultural obligations,
– moral responsibility, and
– the philosophy of religious order of the society.
Cont…
• To conclude the definition of Gada system,
Oromia culture and tourism bureau (2016)
stated that;
– the Gada system is a time-honored age and
generation-set system practiced among the
Oromo people who regarded the system as their
common heritage and as one of their major
identity makers.
• Gada organizes society via councils (yaa’aa),
laws and orders, outlining rights and duties of
its members.
Cont…
• The Oromo recognized the Gada System as part of
their cultural heritage and as a system of
governance.
• The political philosophy of Gadaa is based on three
main values:
 terms of eight years,
 balanced opposition between parties, and
 power sharing between higher and lower levels.
• Hence, gadaa consisted of five-fixed party system.
• Generally, the Oromo culture is deeply rooted in the
Gada system.
Cont…
• The ideological foundation of Gada system is based on the
principle of;
• 1) security and identity,
• 2) unity,
• 3) equality and
• 4) egalitarianism.
• According to Gada ideology, all Oromos have the duty to
protect those four principles, regardless of any political
difference among the five Gada parties and different clans
(Geremew, 2012).
Gada as Indigenous Knowledge
• As the role of indigenous systems of governance is
becoming so vital in democratization globally,
• It is necessary to depict the role that Gadaa
institutions play in good governance and peaceful
coexistence (Tesema, 2016).
• Gadaa system is essentially a home-grown
(indigenous) democratic socio-political organization
of the Oromoo people.
• Historically, gadaa has been considered as a
democratic and just system than other forms of
governance in the region.
Cont…
• A number of scholars who have studied Oromo gadaa
system positioned gadaa as an African democracy that could
inform constitutional thinkers.
• Asmarom (2000), one of the scholars who have accurately
studied the gadaa system, described this uniquely democratic
system of the Oromoo people as:
• One of those remarkable creations of the human mind
that evolved into a full-fledged system of government.
It contains genuinely African solution for some of the
problems that democracies everywhere have had to
face.
Cont…
• According to Donald Levin (1974), the culture of the
Oromo people with regard to equality and democracy
remains an exemplary one to the remaining world.
• It is because the Gada system represents one of the most
complex systems of social organization ever devised by the
human imagination.
• There is no human society like that of Oromo in our
world that has created such an extraordinary/astonishing
system of government (Carter, 1976).
Cont…
• In another words, the indigenous Oromo Gada
system incorporates;
– elements of contemporary peace building
approaches to maintain social harmony and
– peaceful coexistence notions such as culture of
peace, gender equality, solidarity, peacemaking,
development, human rights, justice, natural resource
and environmental management (Dereje, 2012).
Cont…
Historical Background of Gada: Past, Present and
Future of Gada
 The indigenous gadaa system organized and ordered society
around political, economic, social, cultural, and religious
institutions (Baissa, 1971, 1993; Legesse, 1973).
 We do not know when and how this system emerged.
However, we know that it existed as a full-fledged system at
the beginning of the sixteenth century.
 During this century, the Oromo were under one gadaa
administration (Baissa, 1993).
Cont…
• However, due to the development of class within
Oromo society in some areas and external factors, and
spread of different religions undermined the political,
military, and ritual/spiritual roles of the gadaa system in
some parts of Oromia. As a result, the institutions were
weakened.
• In its modified form, the system is still practiced among
the Boorana, Guji, and Tuulama, helping in maintaining
peace, exchanging knowledge of society, and practicing
rituals among some moieties and groups (Asafa, 2009).
Cont…
• Ehret's study on African civilization tries to
give some explanation on the evolution and
development of Gada system.
• According to his study, the age-set type of
organization or social organization might
have begun when the society needed to
sustain social order among themselves and to
defend their rivals that were competing with
them for land, water and power.
• It might have begun when the concept of
common descent, the concept of peace and
cooperation among the society developed.
Cont…
• It is such concepts that express some deep sense of
solidarity and feeling of people perhaps also this might
have happened when Cushitic speaking peoples were
distinguished and began to form different cultural and
national identity (Ehret, 1976).
• Regarding Gada practices, there are some revivals of the
Gada System.
• Some of the Gada values are being put in place by the
region. This can show that the future of the Gada is bright.
Cont…
Similarities and Differences of Gada System
across Oromos
 All Oromos lived under one gadaa
administration.
 The system has long been practiced by the
Borena, Guji, Karayu, Tulama, Arsi, Ittu,
Humbana, Afran Qallo, Mecha etc clans of
Oromo.
Cont…
• Between 1522- 1618, with their increased
population and extended territories, different
Oromo groups started to form autonomous
Gadaa governments (Asaffa, 2009).
• In another words, Oromo clans have
established the centers of their Gada at
several places based on their territorial
settlement (Aregash, 2019).
• Also, parties in Gadaa have different names in
different parts of Oromia as the result of
Oromo expansion and the establishment of
different autonomous administrative systems.
Cont…
Tuulama
- Birmajii
- Michillee (Muudana)
- Duuloo (Halchiisa)
- Meelbaa (Horata)
- Roobalee
Arsii
- Birmajii
- Bultuma
- Bahara
- Horata
- Roobalee
Gujii
- Muudana
- Halchisa
- Dhallaana
- Harmuufa
- Roobalee
Ituu
- Horata
- Sabbaqa
- Dibbessa
- Fadata
- Darara
Boorana
- Moggisa
- Sabaqa
- Libasa
- Darara
- Mardiida
Cont….
• Across Oromos, these clans have own centers around their
territorial settlement. Borana and Gabra Oromo established their
Gada centers at Gumi Gayo and Arero in Borena zone.
• The Guji Me’e Bokko and the Nura in Guji Zone, The
Tulama at Oda Nabe and
• The Karrayu at Hora Sama in East Shewa zone, the Mecha at
Oda Bisil and Oda Buluk in West shewa and East Wellega
respectively,
• The Arsi at Oda Roba in Bale zone, the Ittu and Humbanna at
Oda Bultum in West Hararge and etc (OCTB, 2016).
Qaalluu vs Gadaa
• In most literature, the Qaalluu institution was referred to as
‘Abbaa Muudaa’.
• The term is derived from the ritual ‘Muudaa’ in which the
Qaalluu was the principal figure. Hence, Abba Muudaa’ means
simply ‘father’ or owner of ‘Muudaa’ ceremony.
• Therefore, it is important to realize that the name Qaalluu and
‘Abbaa Muudaa’ refer to the same type of ritual leader in the
Gada institution.
• In the long period of Oromo history, the ‘Abbaa Muudaa’ used
to deal with the Gada system and office was hereditary
(Asmerom, 2000, Dhinsa, 1975).
Cont…
• However, the general myth concerning
the origin of Qaalluu, almost among the
different Oromo groups is similar in
content.
• It is said to has been originally
descended from the heaven.
• According to Mohammed (1990),
Qaalluu is the guardian of the history,
culture and law of nations and considered
as spiritual leader.
Cont…
• In ‘seera caffee’ (Oromo customary law) there was an expression
who explains more about the nature of Qaalluu;
• Qaalluun ganama Qaalluu appeared with creation
• Qaalluun waaqa keessaa bu’e Qaalluu descended from heaven
• Qaalluun hangafa Qaalluu is the eldest
• Qaalluun Abbaa Oromooti Qaalluu is the father of Oromo
• Qaalluun Boorana Qaalluu is Boorana
• Qaalluun Qulqulluudha Qaalluu is Pure
• Qaalluun Abbaa Muudati Qaalluu is the father of ceremony
Cont…
• ‘Waaqa’ is said to have communicated with the
Oromo through the Qaalluu (messenger of
waaqa) and Qaalluu was responsible in
guiding the Oromo in their prayer for peace,
fertility and rain.
• Although Qaalluu handled the Gada
institutions that function with religious
activities in Gada political system also
Qaalluu plays greater role.
• As mentioned earlier, Qaalluu was the
guardian of ‘safuu’ (ethics) and ‘seera’ (law).
Cont…
• Hence, Qaalluu regulates the safe power transfer from one
Gadaa class to the next according to the law prescribed in the
Gada system.
• As many scholars indicated in their studies, in the Gada
system, every eight years power was transferred from one Gada
class to the next without violence or conflict.
• This is due to the presence of rule of law in the Gada system
of governance in which every individual must obey ‘safuu’ and
‘seera’ and we can see the role of Qaalluu in politics.
• Hence, Qaalluu plays crucial role in the election of candidates
of Gada officials and the process of power transfer
(Alemayehu, 2009).
Cont….
• Hence, in its religious context, the Qaalluu
institution is one of the main parts of the gada
institutions.
• According to Mohammed, Qaalluu is the
guardian of the history, culture and the law of
the nation.
• In the Seera Caffee (Oromo Customary law)
there is an expression, which explains more about
the nature of Qaalluu i,e Waaqa is said to have
communicated with the Oromo through the
Qaalluu which was responsible in guiding the
Oromo in their prayer of peace, fertility and rain
(Alemayehu, 2002).
Cont….
• Qaalluu institution can be viewed as one of the
causes for the emergence and continuity of
Gada system.
• In the other context, though Qaalluu handled
the Gada institution that functions with
religious activities, in the Gada political
system also Qaalluu also plays greater role.
• In the gada political system, as mentioned by
Alemayehu, Qaalluu is the guardian of safuu
(ethics) and seera (law). Because, Qaalluu is
considered as the representative of ‘waaqa’.
Cont…
• According to Oromo worldview, ‘waaqa’ is
regarded as the source of all laws.
• In such places and process of Gada
governance, Qaalluu is regarded as the
representative of ‘waaqa’ responsible too keep
peace and order in the society.
Cont…
• Here, what readers have to recognize is that
though the role of Qaalluu is concerned with
religious activities, the nature of structure of Gada
governance system shows that Qaalluu plays
essential role in politics (Alemayehu, 2009).
• Hence, one has to know the difference between
the Abbaa Gada and Qaalluu (Abbaa Muudaa).
• The ruling Gada officials every eight years had to
make pilgrimage to Abbaa Muudaa (Qaalluu) and
pilgrimage had been compulsory for qualification
for leadership in Gada governance.
Cont…
• The pilgrimage to ‘Abbaa Muudaa’ is known
as ‘Jila Muudaa’, journey to the house of
Abbaa Muudaa.
• Muudaa means the journey that elected Gada
officials or representatives of local caffee from
different groups of Oromo made to the
pilgrimage center.
• The Muudaa ceremony was performed once
every eight years.
• Every eight years, the newly elected Gada
officials had to make pilgrimage to the Abbaa
Muudaa.
Cont…
• Besides, pilgrimage by itself was considered as
blessing the source of laws for governance and
wash away from own sin.
• After pilgrimage, each pilgrim (the anointed,
legitimized and given myrrh) obtained
experience of how to perform rituals, blessing
and shared knowledge of how to guard the
laws of ‘waaqa’ and customs in the society.
• The pilgrims after anointment are known as
‘jila’ had the exclusive prerogative of
legitimizing the elected Gada officials (OCTB,
2016).
Cont….
• On their arrival at the land of Qaalluu (Abbaa Muudaa),
Abbaa Muudaa anoint the head of each pilgrim with
butter which signifies the blessing of Abbaa Muudaa and
Abba Muudaa again gives them Qumbi (myrrh), it
believed that Qumbi makes people speak the truth.
• Generally, the primary objective of pilgrimage to
‘Abbaa Muudaa’ and participation on ‘Muudaa’
ceremony was to get the blessing of ‘Abbaa Muudaa’
after which the pilgrims got ritual power or legitimacy for
religious activities in the Gada system.
Cont…
Gada Classes and Gada Grades
Gada Classes
 Gadaa classes are one of the fundamental pillars of
Gadaa structure.
 The Gadaa classes are five in number.
 In Oromo Gada system, Gada classes have different
names in different Oromo clans. For example, Guji
Oromo calls it ‘fincaan shanan’ or ‘baallii shanan’.
 In other Oromo groups, especially western Oromo it is
called miseensa (Asmarom, 1973, 2000; Alemayehu
1999; Dhadacha, 2006).
Cont…
 Among the Gujii they are known as: Muudana, Halchisa,
Dhallaana, Harmufa and Robale.
 All the five Gadaa classes assume the political authority for
eight years and once in every forty years.
Mudana
Halchisa
Dhallana
Harmufa
Robale
Cont…
• Gada Grades (Anthropologists call it as
“age-sets”)
Age is one of the building blocks of the Gadaa
system´s socio-political organization.
The Gada grades or age-grades,
according to Asmarom (2000), refer to
“the stages of development through
which the groups pass”.
Cont…
In another word, it is a conceptual scheme
that defines;
 the kind of activities,
rights, and
duties the groups assume successively
throughout their active careers.
Similarly, trainings in different aspects
were given based on age.
Cont…
Like Gada classes, age-grades have
different names in different parts of
Oromia as the result of;
Oromo expansion and
the establishment of different autonomous
administrative systems.
In Gada system, rights and
obligations/ responsibilities are
depending on the ages.
No. age-
grade
Years Title of age grades Duty/Roles
1. 1-8 - Dabballee (Borena and
Guji).
- Itti makoo (Tuulama)
- Kids/child which are dependent on their
family. Hence, there are no roles they
have in politics, economy and social
issues than playing. However, it is the
time children start to learn folk from
their family.
- The ceremony of name giving, Gubisa
will takes place at the end of Dabballe.
2. 9-16 - Gammee
didiqo/xixiqqoo
(Borena)
- Qarree Duraa (Guji)
- Dabballee (Tuulama)
- Looking after calves & horse. It is the
beginning to share responsibilities.
- Ritual of Nyachisa will takes place
(feasting for the member of this grade)
3. 17-24 - Gaammee guguddoo
(Borena)
- Qarree
Lammaffaa/Kuusa (Gujii)
- Foollee (Tuulama)
- Get military trainee, mostly
defense/Guardians of the family
herds.
- The ritual festival of Godiya which
mark the end of Gammee and
starting of Kuusa
4. 25-32 - Kuusa (Borena)
- Raaba (Gujii)
- Qondaala/Kuusa
(Tuulama)
- Junior warriors, militia, completes
military services.
- Bati- ritual which mark the end of
Kuusa
5. 33-40 - Doorii (Borena, Guji
and Tulama)
- Senior warriors, Training for
administration and Philosophy of Gada,
Fatherhood and family duties.
6. 41-48 - Gadaa (Borena,
Gujii)
- Luba (Tuulama)
Giving societal service, political and
ritual leadership (politically active)
7. 49-56 - Yuuba I (Borena,
Tuulama)
- Baatuu (Gujii)
Adviser (for active party) & solving
disputes/conflict
8. 57-64 - Yuuba II (Boorena,
Tulama)
- Yuuba (Gujii)
Adviser (for active party) & solving
disputes/conflict
9. 65-72 - Yuuba III (Borena,
Tuulama)
- Yuuba Guddaa (Gujii)
Adviser (for active party) &
solving disputes/conflict
10. 73-80 - Gadamoojjii (Borena,
Tuulama)
- Jaarsa Guduruu (Gujii)
Praying and working for Peace,
the terminal sacred
grade/similar to monks
11. 81
above
- Jaarsa (Borena, Tuulama)
- Jaarsa Qululluu (Gujii)
- Jaarsa Raqaya (89-96,
Gujii)
- Ginya (97 above, Gujii)
Final retirement
Cont…
• However, Gadaa grades and Gadaa classes are
two distinct concepts.
• The Gadaa grades are the phases of
development through which the members pass.
• Gadaa class refers to the group of people who
share the same status and who perform their
rites of passage together (Nicolas 2010,
Asmarom 1973).
Moities and Phratry/Descent
What does Descent mean?
 Descent is how individuals trace their own
ancestor.
Patrilineal descent, people automatically have
life-time membership in their father’s group.
With matrilineal descent, people join the
mother’s group automatically at birth and stay
members throughout life.
Tracing own descent either through father or
mother’s side is known as unilineal descent.
Generally, Oromo Society trace own descent via
father’s side, i.e. patrilineal descent.
Descent Groups
Lineage: Lineage is composed of several
families.
Clan: is a composed of lineage whose
members are unable to trace how they are
related, but who still believe themselves to be
clan.
Phratry: A Phratry (after the Greek word for
“brotherhood”).
It is composed of at least two clans that
supposedly share a common ancestry, whether
or not they really do.
Cont…
Moiety: is a composed of Phratry that
result from a division of a society into
two halves on the basis of descent.
• If the entire society is divided into only
two major descents groups, each group is
called a moiety (after the French word for
“half”).
• Moiety members also believe they share a
common ancestor.
Moities
Phratry
Clan
Lineage
Borena Barentu
Mecha Tulama
Jaawwii
Guduru
u
Horroo Daacci Bacho Jiille
Soddo
Obboo
Galan
Oromo
Kinship
Kinship: Kinship can be created via three ways.
 Through blood: this is the principle of Consanguines:
“Blood” relatives, or people related by birth. E.g. father and
son.
 Through Marriage: this is the principle of Affines: In-
laws, or people related by marriage. E.g. Husband and Wife
 Fictive kinship: in which individuals who are not actually
biological relatives act toward one another as if they were
kin.
Cont…
• Fictive kinship is a kind of relationship in
which two individuals create a kind of parent-
child relationship without any blood or marriage
ties.
Adoption (Guddifacha and Moggaasa) are
the most familiar examples.
• Oromo political and social institutions have been
built on the kinship system.
• The Oromo kinship system has been based on a
biological and social descent.
Cont…
• The Oromo call the largest kinship
system gosa, which is subdivided into
moiety, sub-moiety and qomoo
(clan).
• These subdivisions have lower-order
branches of kinship known as mana
(lineage), balbala (minor lineages),
and warra (minimal lineage or
extended family).
Cont…
• The Oromo recognize social ancestry and
avoid the distinction between the biological
and social descent since they know that the
formation of Oromo peoplehood was based on
the biological and social kinship.
• The Oromo have had a long history of cultural
contacts with non-Oromo through marriage,
economic relationship, and adoption
• Therefore, these three kinship system are there
in Oromo society.
Family
• A family is the basic unit of the social group.
• A family is a group of people (e.g., parents, children,
siblings, grandparents, grandchildren, etc….).
• Two common types of Family;
1. Nuclear Family: consists of a married couple
together with their unmarried children.
2. Extended Family: When two or more closely related
nuclear families cluster together in a large domestic
group, they form a unit known as the extended family.
• In Oromo context, these two types of family are
common.
Chapter Two
Gada and Cultural Heritage of
Humanity
Introduction
• This chapter describes Gadaa system, the intangible
cultural heritage of humanity.
• It surveys the major element of Gadaa system for its
inscription under UNESCO, its cultural values, religious
dimension, rituals and festivals attached to Gadaa system
and socio-economic of Gadaa system.
• Finally, the chapter also presents Gadaa as an example
of classical African civilization and offers preservation
and promotion of Gadaa, intangible cultural heritage of
the world.
Cont…
• The word ‘heritage’ itself comes from the French word
'heritor’, meaning inheritance or legacy.
• Heritage is our legacy from the past, what we live within the
present, and what we pass on to future generations to learn
from and enjoy.
• A dictionary definition of heritage
1. Property that is, or may be, inherited
2. Valued things such as historic buildings that have been
passed down from previous generations
3. A special or individual possession
(Concise Oxford Dictionary)
Cont…
• UNESCO also define heritage as they are consisting of
natural resources, works of art, architecture, traditions and
spiritual wealth which have permanent values.
• Heritage is generally classified as natural and cultural
heritages.
• Cultural heritage is the creative expression of a people’s
existence in the past and present.
• It tells us about the traditions, the beliefs and the
achievements of a country and its people.
Cont…
 According to the Ethiopian Research and Conservation of
Cultural Heritage Proclamation of No.209/2000, cultural
heritage is any tangible or intangible entity characterized by
the following features:
 The result of human activity and creativity
 Produced both in the prehistory and historic periods,
and
 Has a considerable value in its scientific, historical,
cultural and artistic and handicraft contents
 Cultural heritage is generally classified in to two as tangible
and intangible.
Cont…
Cont…
• The World Heritage Convention adopted by
the General Conference of UNESCO in 1972
classifies heritage resources into two major
categories; cultural and Natural.
• Accordingly, cultural heritage properties are
results of human past activities.
• They are the legacy of physical artifacts and
intangible attributes of the society, believed
to have been inherited from past generation,
safeguarded and preserved in the present and
bestowed for the benefit of the future
generations
Cont…
Intangible Cultural Heritage
As the name indicates intangible cultural
heritages are those that cannot be felt by hands
but can be seen and heard them.
They embrace all forms of traditional and
popular or folk culture, which are transmitted
from generation to generation orally or by
gesture.
Unlike the tangible one, intangible cultural
heritages cannot be physically described for
they are only deposited in the human mind.
Cont…
• The human body is, thus, the main instrument for
the display of the intangible cultural heritages.
• Gadaa is a traditional system of governance used
by the Oromo developed from knowledge gained
by community experience over generations.
• The system regulates;
–political,
–economic,
–social and religious activities of the
community dealing with issues such as
conflict resolution, reparation and protecting
women’s rights.
Cont…
• Ethiopia hosted the 11th session of UNESCO’s
Intergovernmental Committee for the
Safeguarding of Intangible Cultural Heritage in
2016.
• On this session, Gada registered by UNESCO as
intangible cultural heritage.
Elements that make Gadaa system Intangible
Cultural Heritage
• According to the 2003 UNESCO convention, the following
heritages are listed under intangible cultural heritages.
 Oral traditions and expressions including language as a
medium of the intangible cultural heritage;
 Performing arts (such as traditional music, dance and
theatre);
 Social practices, rituals and festive events;
 Knowledge and practices concerning nature and the
universe, and
 Traditional craftsmanship
Cont…
After the inscription, the UNESCO wrote this on
its website about the element of Gadaa system:
• Gadaa is a traditional system of governance used by
the Oromo people developed from knowledge
gained by community experience over generations.
• Gadaa is organized into five classes.
• Gadaa system has the principles of checks and
balances;
– through periodic succession of every eight years,
and
– division of power (among executive, legislative,
and judicial branches),
– balanced opposition (among five parties), and
power sharing between higher and lower
administrative organs
Cont…
Other principles of the system include balanced
representation of;
all clans,
lineages, and,
Accountability of leaders, the settlement of disputes through
reconciliation, and the respect for basic rights and liberties.
Gadaa system has some prominent unique features when
compared to western democracies.
 Western democracies are very deficient in the distribution of
power across generations and age groups.
Cont…
• Another one of the distinctive features pointed
out is the testing period of elected leaders.
• Gadaa system greatly believes in rigorous
practical or actual testing of the candidates
before they assume office unlike western
democracy which in most cases exclusively relies
on election.
• The Gadaa grade not only defines the rights and
obligations of each classes but also initiations of
and period of work and performances.
• The roles and rules attached to the age grade
system are the most important elements that
regulate the Gadaa system.
Cont…
• When one passes from one grade to the other,
his roles and responsibilities in the community
also changes, in such a way, an individual or
group of individuals will be critically tested in
the system.
Inclusion of Gadaa system under UNESCO
• Criteria for the inclusion of cultural properties in the
World Heritage List
I. Represent a masterpiece of human creative genius; or
II. Exhibit an important interchange of human values, over
a span of time or within a cultural area of the world, on
developments in architecture or technology, monumental
arts, town-planning or landscape design; or
III. Bear a unique or at least exceptional testimony to a
cultural tradition or to a civilization which is living or which
has disappeared; or
Cont…
IV. Be directly or tangibly associated with events or living
traditions, with ideas, or with beliefs, with artistic and literary
works of outstanding universal significance
Cultural Values of Gada System
• Oromo cultural life is closely connected with the
Gadaa
• According to the Gadaa tradition and principle,
competing for a certain position is rewarding as
long as it brings benefits to the society as a whole.
• The culture has a strong influence over the people
in such a way that they show little or no passion to
acquire authority over others.
• The pattern of collectivism in Oromo social
relations helps to account for an ideal world of the
Gadaa system which does not allow people to
develop superior mentality and a sense of
personal glory.
Cont…
• The cultural emphasis in the interaction of the
society means there is nothing much to be
gained from seeking prerogative position to
enjoy unnatural relations.
• A strong sense of mutuality of feelings, moral
values and solidarity, which the society has
acquired for years.
• The Gadaa egalitarian principle always
checks each individual in the society not to be
tempted to acquire a reputation for dominant
interaction and a desire for aberrant behavior
in general.
Cont…
• A man who seeks to promote himself through
misconduct is not only severely reprimanded
and punished, but also ostracized.
• Whenever a general meeting takes place,
the ‘Gadaa Assembly’ (Caffee) re-
examines the law of the land,
• reviews the conduct and personal qualities
of the authorities (Gadaa Councils) and
• removes any member who fails to meet
moral standards and the law from office
Cont…
• Guddifacha vs Moggaasa
– Guddifacha is the process of taking another
family’s child and making him/her a member of
the family with all privileges, and responsibilities.
– The main reason for guddifacha is to enable
childless couples to have children.
– Would be father and would be mother, hold
Kallachaa, Caaccuu and also honey in central
Oromia during the guddifacha ritual.
– As a result, the guddifacha child is referred to as,
‘ilmoo Kallacha’, ‘Caaccuu’ or Dammaa’ to
mean that the child is born legally to the family.
Cont…
Moggaasa: practice that gives new name to
individuals and clan to integrate to the society
is known as Moggaasa.
Historically, the incorporation or assimilation of
other ethnic groups under moggaasa is unique and
significant cultural feature in Oromo society.
The ceremony was undertaken by Abbaa Gadaa
on behalf of his clan at Gadaa centers.
Individual or groups came to Oromo through the
moggaasa (collective adoption) institution
received Oromo identity by dropping the
biological identity.
Cont…
• In the ceremony of adoption, the groups to be
adopted used to take ‘unbreakable’ Oath in
front of Abbaa Gadaa.
• After the ceremony it is said that the adopted
groups were called ‘ilma gosa’, sons of a clan.
• Through the new genealogy, the new members
now become part of the Oromo people
counting their ancestors several generations’
back to the ethnic Oromo.
Religious Dimension of Gada System
• In the Gadaa system, the ceremonies and rituals are
religious in nature, not only a system of social
organization and political leadership.
• Oromo religion played a significant role in identity
maintenance among the Oromo.
• There was intimate contact between the Qaalluu
institution and the Gada system since most of Gadaa
candidates were recruited by Qaalluu.
Cont…
• There were possible cases of contact
between the Gadaa leaders and the
Qaalluu when he states that the Abba
Gadaa was buttered by the Qaalluu.
• Many writers conclude that without the
part played by the Qaalluu institution, the
Gadaa system could be regarded
wrongly.
Rituals and Festivals attached to Gada
system
• Ritualistic life in the context of the Gadaa
system functions as ideological discourse and
serves as a tool for;
– influencing,
– fostering benevolence and
– the regulation of inner life of the society.
• Therefore, the role and/or functions of ritual
performance can be explained in terms of
human needs- to maintain social regulation.
Cont…
• Oromo have developed sophisticated ritual
practices, which enable them to demonstrate
moral strength, spiritual values and religious
convictions.
• The traditional ritual ceremonies and festivals
are led by Qaalluu (Abbaa Muudaa), who was
elected on the basis of his intelligence, sound
judgment, honesty and spiritual quality.
Cont…
• One of the well-known festivals of the Gada ritualized
tradition is the ‘Ateetee’ or the goddess fertility/richness.
• The Ateetee is popularly known as Aayyoo or Aayyole,
literally the mother, who is a symbol of forgiveness.
• This ritual ceremony targets the blessing of God and the
continuity of peaceful orderly life and fertility in the
household- for both cattle and people.
• The most common symbols of fertility in the Oromo
Ateetee include, milk, butter, beads (callee), and green
grasses (Irreessa)
Cont…
• There is a constant use of butter in ‘Ateetee’ is
intended not only to keep people healthy, but also
to keep them wet, that is, fertile.
• In terms of economy, butter as a symbol of
abundance has a deeper meaning in the life of
traditional Oromo.
• During the Ateetee ritual ceremony, the elder
blesses the barren women by spraying daadhii
over them.
• In Gujii Oromo, the senior member of the Gadaa
system, the ‘Yuuba,’ blesses the barren woman
saying, “Gadaan tee haa jiitu,” literally ‘may
your Gadaa be wet.’ It also means ‘may your
womb be fertile.’
Cont…
• Ateetee ritual is practiced by women. Whenever natural disasters
occur, women gather and perform the ritual.
• Oromo women used to practice Ateetee as a way of strengthening
their solidarity and as a tool to counter atrocities staged against them
by men.
• The Ateetee practiced by women is one part of a belief system
that women are intermediary figures between Waaqa (God) and the
physical world or humans.
• Similarly there was a check and balance mechanism built into
the Gadaa system by which siiqqee was institutionalized and women
formed parallel organizations of their own which actively excluded
men.
Cont…
• Thanksgiving (Irreecha) occasions had become
part of the national culture and ritual institutions
until the proscription of a democratic tradition of
the Gada.
• The Oromo society is popularly known for their
Irreechaa (also spelled Irreessa).
• Irreecha is the most important cultural festival of
Oromos who gather to celebrate the end of the
rainy season and welcome the harvest season
(Bishoftu).
• It is one of the most popular festivals which
aimed at glorifying God and Giving Thanks to
him for the harvest, prosperity, fertility, rain and
peace.
Cont…
• There is no clear difference between the political
functions of the Gadaa system and the ritual
function.
• Political power in the system is held corporately.
• Although the Gadaa system is political, providing
a governing body, it also is very ritualistic and
has significant religious importance.
• At the end of the transfer of power the Abbaa
Gadaa (father of the gadaa power) passes off the
Bokkuu (symbol of power) to the incoming Abbaa
Gadaa, a ritual sacrifice is performed. It is Known
as ‘Buttaa’ ceremony,
Socio-economic aspects of Gada System
• Gadaa values are mainly oriented towards
stability and cohesion of the society.
• Gadaa system has several importance for
overall system of the Oromo society.
• In line with this, Gadaa was highly
endowed with moral and legal values,
• Among the Oromo, it created peaceful
setting and kept social order by prohibiting
injustice, social evils and political chaos.
• This helped them to have harmonious and
stable social interaction
Cont…
• Social values highly promote diversification
and multiplication of living alternatives.
• They engage in variety of livelihood strategy
so as to maximize their survival and prosperity.
• Furthermore, community spirit under Gadaa
system is very strong.
• For this reason, people would like to look out
for one another and care for each other with
full trust.
Cont…
• The Oromos resource utilization and resource
management highly interlinked with social
values and custom.
• Moreover, social values and custom of the
society appreciate cooperation and coordination
among themselves.
Cont..
• Every Oromo of specific age-grade is expected
to perform a certain function according to
specified rules and regulations.
Chapter Three
Overview of Gadaa System and Nature
 Gadaa System and Natural Environment
 Gadaa system is not only Oromo peoples’ political,
social, economic and religious life in entirety, but
also highly embedded in natural environment in
one way or another.
 The embedment of Gadaa system in various natural
features of physical environment is emanated from
the Oromo worldviews that state ‘Waaqaa’ (God) as
creator of all living and non-living things.
Cont….
• In Oromo cosmology, this belief system is
used as a basic ground for complicated nexus
between Gadaa system and natural
environment.
• Practically, the link and embedment of Gadaa
system to natural features can be understood in
different dimensions and contexts.
• For instance, the practices and rituals in Gadaa
system are interlinked with natural features
such as land, forests, tree, domestic animals
and wild animals.
Gadaa System and Land
• According to Gadaa system, land is a mother
of all creatures that have been living on it.
• All living things and non-living things are
sprouted and based on it since the land
formation.
• Land is respected and treated in due respect
since it gives livelihoods for survival of human
kinds and animals.
• There is the saying that “waaqni ulfaadha,
lafti ulfoodha”.
Cont…
• As a result, land is seen as the most precious
and sacred gift that Waaqaa gave to human
societies so that they would carefully utilize
and manage it.
• According to Oromo narrations in Gadaa
system “Waaqaafi lafti hangafa waan
hundaati” meaning God and land are senior of
all things in the universe.
• This can philosophically be understood in
terms of infinite age, powerful grace and
everlasting nature of land and God.
Cont..
• Due to its everlasting nature, among Oromo,
people make oath and vow (promise) to
ascertain something in the name of land and
God.
• For instance, they vow like, “If I had
committed this crime, this land would swig
down me now and God would punish me”.
• Even though land is perceived as a great gift
for human kinds from Waaqaa, there are some
areas of land that are set aside for special
practices and rituals of Gadaa system since
the time immemorial.
Cont…
• The process of setting some natural areas aside
for cultural purposes in Gadaa system is known as
Woyyoonsuu, meaning sacralization.
• The land sacralized in this way is usually known
as Ardaalee Jilee or lafa Woyyuu that its meaning
may go beyond sacred natural sites and
sometimes termed as sacred shrines.
• In Oromo worldviews, the land once sacralized
and identified for rituals and traditions of Gadaa
system can never be utilized for other purposes
like farm and other activities except for grazing.
• This shows how Oromo Gadaa system is
connected to livestock. Numerous sacred shrines
of Oromo community exist in various parts of
Oromo land.
Cont…
• For instance, in Gujii case, various rituals and
events of Gadaa system are organized as per
the tradition in more than three hundred
seventy six sacred shrine.
• The major sacred shrine of Guji Oromo where
Gada power transition is peacefully performed
in 8 year is known as Me’e Bokko.
• The ritual like thanks giving, supplications,
formulation of customary laws and making
oral declarations are made at Oromo sacred
shrines.
Cont…
• In sacred places, activities like urinating,
defecating, having sexual intercourse,
farming, burning the area, burying dead
body, quarrelling with someone and crying
for dead person are strictly forbidden at
Oromo sacred land.
• Gadaa system Versus Trees and Forests
• In Oromo Gadaa system, single trees as well as
dense forests are deemed as a wear of land
that was given by Waaqaa to cover its
nakedness.
Cont…
• Gadaa system usually underpins the conservation
of forests through customary practices, belief
systems, taboos and traditional laws.
• Basically, in Gadaa system, forests are conserved
for different economical and socio-cultural
importance.
• Economically, the forests are protected for
sheltering of livestock and serving as source of
fodder during drought.
• The Oromo pastoral communities move their
livestock through the forest areas during long dry
season and drought to save their livestock from
drought driven problems.
Cont…
• In addition to economic importance, forests have
medicinal value among Oromo people since the
different woods, plants, bushes and tendrils exist
in.
• Not only forests, but also single trees have
special values in Gadaa system.
• Trees are vital natural feature and cultural element
in Gadaa system. Some of the trees are considered
as sacred due to their traditional importance.
• For instance, Odaa tree is believed as sacred and
respected in Oromo Gadaa system, due the
mythical backgrounds and cultural significances it
entails.
Cont…
• The shadow of Odaa is considered as both central
government hall where Gadaa assembly met and
sacred place where ritual activities are organized.
Gadaa System and Water
 Water has cultural values in Oromo Gadaa
system.
 The Oromo people believe that water and its
courses are among the highly respected areas in
the Gadaa system.
 The respect for the water is emanated from the
valuable functions it offers to human societies
and animals in multidimensional ways.
Cont…
• Of course, water is a source of survival for all
living things.
• As a result, Oromo govern and conserve the
water points and its courses by customary laws
and indigenous declarations.
• For instance, while Gadaa power transferring
at Me’ee Bokko, the elected Gada officials of
Guji Oromo declare the customary laws
regarding protection and management of
Malkaa (water points and its courses).
Cont….
• They say “Malkaan Woyyuu santi seera”
meaning Malkaa is sacred, that is a law.
• This law is declared in the moment of power
transition at sacred natural sites.
• Not only water, but also trees and forests
around the water areas are treated as integral
part of Malkaa in Oromo Gadaa system,
because the forests and trees serve as shadow
for bushes and grasses as well as place where
livestock stay for some times after drinking
a water well particularly in pastoral
community context.
Cont…
• On the other hand, Malkaa is a center for
different rituals such as Dhibaayyuu (libation)
and Irreechaa (thanks giving ritual) in Gadaa
system.
• Dhibaayyuu is a ritual of Oromo whereby
Milk, Honey, Barley and Coffee beans are
poured down at the sacred place and
watercourses while Yaa’aa (Gadaa councilors)
cross the Malkaa.
Gadaa System and Animals
• Gadaa system is connected to either domestic
or wild animals in multiple ways.
• The rituals in Gadaa system such as;
slaughtering for sacrifice (qalmaa),
supplication (hariirtii),
libation (dhibaayyuu),
foretelling what would happen in the future (Faroo
Himuu),
giving back sacred power to Waaqaa (Haaganaa
galchuu) and others rituals are linked to animals in
one way or another.
Cont…
• The Hariirtii (supplication) ritual is similar
with slaughtering one, but it is performed
before slaughtering a given bull or Billy goat
for particular cultural purpose.
• For instance, the Gadaa elders who are
authorized to perform the ritual can slightly
move the scepter stick over the back of the
bull between its head and tail by blessing
Waaqaa for his care and praying to him to
escape from the potential evil.
Cont…
• After the Hariirtii ritual is conducted, the
slaughtering of the prepared bull will take place.
• This shows that the Hariirtii and Qalmaa rituals
are interconnected with one another and both are
similarly performed by slaughtering the domestic
animals particularly the bulls.
• Libation (dhibaayyuu) ritual is also performed
by products of cattle, particularly, by milk.
• The milk is typical element used for libation ritual
in Oromo Gadaa system. While crossing the
Malkaa, Gadaa councils pour down fresh milk in
the water and bless Waaqa.
Cont….
• This ritual is usually connected with cattle milk
in the manner that demonstrate inextricable link
between Gadaa system and cattle.
• Another important element is knowledge of
forecasting the happenings of something based
on symbols attached to wrestling of harbinger
birds, and appearing of other wild animals in
some occasions.
• If Gadaa councilors observe some wild animals
during their journey and sojourn across sacred
sites or move for particular events, there will be
implication for something to happen.
Cont…
• This means Oromo people have been practicing
the knowledge of foretelling to identify the
potential threats like;
 drought,
war, prosperity,
peace, and abundance and so on.
• This does not necessarily mean the so-called
misconceptions as the westerners imposed
stereotyped connotations for some African
traditions and practices,
• but it is a science of the people that clearly
indicates the link that Oromo people have with
their physical environments in general and
living things on in it in particular.
Cont..
Sacred Natural Site (Ardaa Jilaa) and Its
Practices
• Sacred natural site implies a part of physical
environment, which is identified for socio-
cultural practices and rituals across the globe.
• Even though the rituals and other cultural
events attached to sacred natural sites are
varied across the space and through the time,
the concept of setting aside the sites is
common global culture.
Cont…
• This means different sacred natural sites serve
different functions as indicated in experience of the
world communities. For instance, sacred natural
sites could serve as;
– historical and cultural heritage, c
– enter of ancestral commemorations,
– center of worship,
– center for purification traditions as well as
– center for rituals.
Cont…
• There are numerous sacred natural sites locally
known as Ardaalee Jilaa or Lafa Woyyuu in
Oromia region.
• For instance as early discussed even in two
Guji zones, more than three hundred
seventy six (376) sacred natural sites have
been registered by zonal culture and tourism
offices.
• The Oromo sacred natural sites are very
respected and treated as the shrines, because
over all traditions and rituals in Gadaa system
are performed at these sites.
Cont…
• For instance, the Guji Oromo Gadaa power
transitions is conducted at Me’ee Bokko in
Annaa Sorraa district in every eight years,
• whereas the Boorana Oromo Gadaa power
transition is made at Ardaa jilaa Badhaasaa in
Arero district.
• The customary laws are formulated and declared
at these sacred sites.
• In additions, different rituals in Gadaa system are
performed in the sites.
• Similarly, in all zones of Oromia region, Oromo
people have the sacred natural sites where Gadaa
practices are performed since the time
immemorial.
Law of Protecting the Environments
• In Gadaa system, the customary laws are
formulated and amended by Gumii – Gadaa
assemble at sacred sites.
• These laws regulate the human-environmental,
human-to-human as well as human to
supernatural relations.
• Law of protecting the environment is selected
among the customary laws made by Gadaa
councils at sacred sites.
• According to this law, natural environment in
general and natural features on it in particular are
sacred and belonged to Waaqaa, so that everyone
should protect and preserve the environment.
Cont…
• Particularly, degrading the forest, cutting
down big trees, closing the ways to water
points (Daandii Malkaa), killing wild animals
are few examples among highly forbidden
actions in Gadaa system.
• The violation of this law is punishable as
stated in Gadaa system.
• In case if someone settled in sacred natural
sites or negligently degrade the natural forests,
Gadaa bring the violator to the customary
court (Hayyuu) to deal the issue and pass the
decision.
Cont…
Sacredness of Gadaa Leaders and Symbolic
Materials
 Based on the sacred philosophies of Gadaa
system, the Gadaa leaders are considered
sacred.
 In Gadaa structure, Abbaa Gadas and Yaa’aa
(Gadaa councils) are the most sacred
individuals who owe special respect.
 Abbaa Gadaa is usually approached
respectfully in humble approach; no one is
expected to disdain/disregard or disrespect
him.
Cont…
• He is considered as the man who has mystical
power that can make curses and blesses
effective.
• According to belief in Gadaa system, the special
mystical power of Waaqaa is always with Abbaa
Gadaa and so that Waaqa will respond every
supplication of Abbaa Gadaa about, his people
and land.
• Hence, it is strictly forbidden to insult, abject,
simplify, humiliate and gossip Abbaa Gadaa and
his councils in the system, even with absence of
them, because the Waaqaa who hears the evil
words spoken against Abbaa Gadaa would punish
the person.
Cont…
• There are respecting words used only for Abbaa
Gadas for their sacredness.
• Abbaa Gadaa has different symbolic materials
like, Kallachaa (phallic material tied on
forehead), bokkuu (sacred scepter stick)
sometimes known as Horooraa and different
ornamental materials on his hand.
• These materials are symbolically, demonstrate
different representations in Oromo culture. For
instance, Kallacha indicates power of being Gadaa
leader or reign.
Cont…
Gadaa and Peace
 Gadaa system is system of peace, peace sustaining
and peace building.
 In Oromo Gadaa system, peace is not lack of war, but
it is a holistic harmony of people with the local
fellows, natural environments and Waaqaa.
• The conception of peace in Oromo people is quite
different from the mainstream definition and
understanding about the peace.
• In Oromo Gadaa system, peace is not a free gift rather
there must be a continuous aspiration and prayer for
existence and sustainability of peace by the community.
Cont…
• Some rituals are made to supplicate Waaqaa
for prevalence of;
– human beings peace,
– livestock peace, and environmental peace.
• Human being peace is the peace that exists in
family setting, among neighbors and local
context,
• whereas livestock peace is prosperity and
fertility of livestock, abundant pastureland
with safe grazing system and availability of
milks and butter in the expected manner.
Cont….
• The environmental peace indicates the absence of damaging, absence
of wildfire that damage niches, absence or farness of wild carnivores’
animals that would eat cattle, goat, sheep, donkey and other domestic
animals.
• In Gadaa system, Oromo believe that people as individual person and
groups have to build and sustain peace with Waaqaa, and then Waaqaa
would offer them;
• healthy life,
• abundant properties,
• fertility of person and peaceful life.
• Generally, Oromo Gadaa system entails peace and gives priorities to it
all the time.
Chapter Four
The Gadaa Pluralism
 Oromo had been ruled by a democratic system
even before discovery of America (1492) .
 Watson (1974) wrote “in many European
countries after 1918, the democratic system had
no roots, and the people have little experience of
such a system”.
 However, indeed, democracy has been conceived
within the Oromo indigenous institutions where
people have centuries-old experience of working
together within a sophisticated form of
government far before the Westerns started
exercising multi-party politics.
Cont…
• Therefore, it can be summarized that, as far as
democracy is concerned, Gadaa System is
unprecedented and unparalleled multi-
party politics that has been practiced by the
Oromo nation for centuries.
The Gadaa: A Real Multi-Party System of
Administration
• Gadaa party (classes) are one of the
fundamental pillars of Gadaa structure.
• The Gadaa classes (party) are five in number.
Gada Party
Muudana
Halchisa
Dhallana
Harmuufa
Roobalee
Cont…
• The Oromo has five party in which all
individuals belong to one.
• Each and every party in the Gada system
has its own sub-division in order to
prevent a party in power from abusing its
office.
• To conclude, Gada is a real multi-party
system that five parties power share turn
by turn every eight years.
• It is not under only one party
leadership.
Cont…
The Gadaa: A Government with Real Power
Balances
 The gadaa system has the principles of checks
and balances (through periodic succession of
every eight years), and
 Division of power (among executive,
legislative, and judicial branches), balanced
opposition (among five parties), and
 Power sharing between higher and lower
administrative organs to prevent power from
falling into the hands of despots.
Cont…
• Power within Gada structure can only be
acquired by passing through different social
roles at different times as it is calculated and
regulated within age-set and Gada laws.
• The access to formal political office or power
is based on individual skill not on the kinship
system.
• According to Gada system, any position
cannot or should not be inherited, except
Qaallu (spiritual or religion position).
Cont…
• Power corruption is systematically
avoided through the collective and
triangular system of checks and
balances.
• It is among the five party that power, in
Gada system, is peacefully transferred
through the principle of a rotating
presidency every eight years.
• The system operates through the
principle of political and power rotation.
Cont…
• Hence, Gada system understood as a
system of check and balance of power.
• Gadaa system is also decentralized social
organization where there is no central
government and calls for all stakeholders
to make decision in their life.
• The power under the Gadaa system was
classified both horizontally and
vertically within the society.
Cont….
These include:
– Caffee/ Gumii Gayyoo (general assembly),
– Abbaa Bokku/Abba Gada (the father of
scepter),
– Abbaa Duula (chief of the army),
– Abbaa Seera (judge/ lawyer),
– Abbaa sa’a (head of economy), and
– Hadhaa Siiqqee (women’s cross-cutting power
in the Gadaa system).
• Hence, this way the system minimizes the
possibility of concentration of power on the
hands of individuals or a centralized authority.
Cont…
• This shows the mechanism through
which Gadaa system serve as symbol of
decentralization and
• Therefore, Gadaa system promotes rule
of law through check and balance
among these actors where people have
ultimate and final power (popular
sovereignty).
Cont…
• Other principles of the system have included;
–balanced representation of all clans,
lineages, regions and confederacies,
–Accountability of leaders, the
settlement of disputes through
reconciliation, and the respect for basic
rights and liberties.
–Various distnict public offices of Gada
system are held by different individuals
in order to avoid concentration of
power on the hands of one person.
Cont…
Gada: A Real Federal System of Administration
• In particular, as Ethiopia seeks to strengthen
federal state established on plural societies it
is plausible to recognize and accommodate
indigenous institutions of governance in to
mainstream political systems.
• However, as a matter of fact, Oromia regional
state commitment to ground its indigenous
governance values and institutions into
modern systems while adapting to changing
realities was not gratifying.
Cont…
• Hence, obviously, Gada is differing from modern
of institutions of governance.
• Self rule is highly encouraged in Gada system.
However, Nowhere in the Constitution of the
State of Oromia Gadaa principles are emulated.
• The gadaa federation appears to be different
from the contemporary notion of federalism—
there are some distinct essences in all types of
federal systems.
• Most definitions of federalism include one of
its most significant features; that is, division of
power.
Cont…
• Various studies indicate that the Oromo
gadaa system has been taking a form of
confederation and/or federation.
• The gadaa system, which has elected
leaders within each generation and an
orderly succession to various positions
of political office, has also been dividing
power among moieties, sub-moieties,
clans, and sub-clans.
Cont…
 There are several principles that shows as Gada
system is a real federalism system of administration
– Rule of Law
– Principle of Division and Separation of Power.
– Period of Testing and Different Electoral View.
– The Principle of Accountability
– Principle of Single Term Office.
– Majority rule and minority rights.
 Generally, the Oromo used to practice the system of
federalism in the structure of governance in which
each clan plays a significant rules in the Gada
administration.
Cont…
Gada: An administration with full check and
Balance system.
 Checks and balances are various procedures set
in place to reduce mistakes, prevent improper
behavior, or decrease the risk of centralization
of power.
 The Gada system of government is a system in
which the Gada parties functioned through check
and balance starting from lower level of Gada
grades all through the higher active and passive
stages.
 Members of one Gada party criticized and
advised the rules of the consecutive members of
Gada party based on seera and safuu of the
society.
Cont…
Generally, Gada system has the principles
of checks and balances through;
–Periodic succession of every 8 years.
–Division of power (among executive,
legislative and judiciary branches).
–Balanced oppositions (among five
parties)
–Balanced representation of all clans,
lineages.
Cont….
Gada: In comparative view vs
multi-party system
 The Gadaa system is a system of
governance in which people are
grouped and organized into five Gadaa
parties and govern themselves in
rounds by circulating power every eight
years.
This serve as multi-party composition
in the system and the member of each
party could have an opportunity to
exercise power once in its life time.
Cont…
Thus, Gadaa system allows positive
competition based on consolidated
cooperation among these parties for the
good will of the whole community.
Moreover, the irreversible/permanent
cycle of power transition give equal
chances to all parties and creates higher
social bond in the society because it
allows for “loyal opposition and a fixed
rotative office”.
Cont…
Gada: Complete System of Government
Gada as a political institution is a
systematically organized form of government.
When it is compared with modern form of
government system, it has similar structure
which is composed of three main political
organs: These are;
legislative,
executive and
judiciary with clear division of labour and
system of check and balance.
Cont…
Gada government
Legislative (General assembly) (Gumii)
Executive (Gadaa Officials)
Judiciary (Hayyuu)
Cont…
1. The (Gumi) Gada general assembly: is a
supreme legislative authority. Its function
includes (but not limited) to review laws at
work, to proclaim new laws.
• For instance, Gumii Bokkoo is the only
law-making body in Guji Gada system.
• Similarly, Gumii Bokkoo is the body that
makes/ introduces new law, amend and
change if needed.
Cont…
2. Gada officials (The Executive):
As an executive organ, Gada plays the following
roles;
– It maintains a form of rational order,
–The duty of defending its territory and
–To protect the population....controls
and effects the aiming and proper
managing of the entire Gada cycle.
Cont…
3. The Judiciary (Hayyuu)
• For instance, the Gujii judiciary body is
composed of Worra, Fira/Gosa, Yaa’a, Gumi.
• Therefore, the disputes are entertained first at
family level (Worra) in which the heads of
family called together.
–The elders who address the issue at Worra
level should reach the leadership position
(Hayyuu) must guide them. This level serves
as first instance court.
Cont….
• The second level at which the disputes are
settled is at Fira/Gosa level. The trend is
similar with the first one.
• If the disputes/conflict did not solve at two
above mentioned levels, the case will come to
Yaa’a (Abba and his counselors).
• Finally, if the conflict/disputes not solved at
Abba Gada and his counselors, the case will
come to Gumi Bokko (Final decision-making
organ).
Cont…
• The Gujii say “worra gowwaa dubbiin fira
dhaxxi; fira gowwaa dubbiin yaa’a dhaxxi’’ to
indicate attempting ‘to deal with the cases
before levels.
• As a system, the Gada system has system of
check and balance between branches of
governance and has decentralized governance
for keeping peace at different levels.
• This institutional arrangement serves as a
mechanism for assertive peace making
process among the judiciary, the legislature,
and executive branches.
Cont….
Gada in Conflict Resolution, Protecting
Human Rights and Peace-building
Conflict starts as a perception in the mind of one
of the party to the conflict when s/he perceives
the other party has invaded his/her rights.
As an Oromo, the first step is to discuss among
themselves and solve it peacefully without
resorting to violence or retaliation.
If they cannot resolve it by themselves, still they
should not resort to violence; rather should bring
their case to the attention of elders' council.
Cont…
• Therefore, the Oromo Gada system is a peace
making and peace building system that has
philosophies, beliefs, values, traditions, and
institutions that promotes and sustains peace
culture.
• The Gada system is also based on principles of
freedom, justice, and democracy, all human
rights, tolerance and solidarity that rejects
violence and prevents conflicts.
• The Oromo Gada system has established these
principles long before the western world.
• Freedom is the key principle of gada system.
Cont…
• Peacemaking or conflict resolution
tradition of Oromo society is a truth
finding process based on the Oromo
belief of truth.
• Oromo believes that "Dhugaan kan
waaqaati. Oromoon dhugaatti bula.
Bakka dhugaan hin jirre nageenyi hin
jiru;
• This means “truth belongs to God.
Oromo people live by truth. Where there
is no truth there is no peace”.
Cont…
Gada System Compared to Western Democracy
Gada system has some prominent unique
features when compared to western
democracies. For instance;
The distribution of power across age and
generations groups. Western democracy is very
deficient in the distribution of power across
generation and age groups.
 The testing period of elected leaders. Gada
system greatly believes in rigorous practical or
actual testing of candidates before takeover
power unlike western democracy.
Cont…
• It is possible to consider Gadaa system as an
unwritten form of the nation’s covenant or
constitution in modern sense.
• Gadaa system is the well-crafted and nurtured
traditional system of governance which protects
the human rights, ensures democratic
governance, rule of law and constitutionalism.
• Far before the invention of all these concepts of
human rights and democratic administrations
and earlier than their incorporation in the well-
known Human Rights Declarations and others in
human history.
• Gadaa system recognizes, enforces, and fulfills all
these concepts of human rights and
constitutionalism.
Cont…
• For instance, in 16th century, when human
beings were hunted, made slave and sold like
property, the Oromo people had been
committed to the protection of human rights.
• Therefore, the researcher strongly argued that it
is possible to take account of the Gadaa system
into modern constitution to strengthen and have
a viable federal system of government in multi-
diversified countries like Ethiopia.
• Generally, it contains genuinely African solution
for some of the problems that democracies
everywhere have had face”.

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Introduction to the Gada System of the Oromo People

  • 1. Introduction to Gada System Kebede Lemu B. Department of Social Anthropology 2020
  • 2. Chapter One 1. Basic Concepts of Gada System  The term ‘Gada’ cannot be given univocal interpretation.  It stands for several related ideas. Gada is a comprehensive phenomenon by its nature contains political, religious ritual and cultural dimensions.  Hence, it is difficult to define and easily the meaning gada unless we split it into the religious, political and cultural institutions (Alemayehu, 2009). What does Gada means?
  • 3. Cont…  According to the meaning given by the scholars who studied Gada for long, Gada has various meanings.  More specifically, it refers to any period of eight years during which a class stays in power.  It refers to a specific grade (VI) through which every class pass (Asmarom, 1973).  Asmerom Legesse (1973) who has studied Gada system for a long period expressed it as follows; …….Gada is a system of generation classes that succeed each other every eight years in assuming political, military, judicial, legislative and ritual responsibilities.
  • 4. Cont… • Here, the definitions given by Asmerom gave attention to the nature of Gada system and the ways generation class could participate. • From the above text, it is clear that Gada is a complex system which encompassed the political, administrative, judiciary etc. institutions. • Among scholars who studied Gada system, Asmerom’s study gives detail information on the nature and function of the Gada system.
  • 5. Cont… • Gada does not only refers to changes of grades every eight years. • It also includes institutions like;  Moggaasa (Naturalization) and Guddifacha (adoption),  Araara (conflict resolution),  Gumaa (blood compensation),  Rakoo (marriage law),  Waaqeffannaa (Oromo indigenous religion),  Irreecha (thanks giving festival) etc. make up Gada system.
  • 6. Cont… Guddifacha: - It is an institution in which one family adopts somebody from other Oromo clan(s) or within clan.  The first purpose of Guddifacha (adoption) which could be concluded between relatives was to have children for a family that did not have children.  According to the rules of adoption (Guddifacha) any adopted individual or group had equal social, political and other rights to the adopting group. This was a method of becoming one member of Oromo clan.  Also it believed that a method of getting children and means of solving various problems with the neighboring clans.  The process of adoption could be performed in two ways; adopting to a family and to a clan.  No need of changing the name of the adopted person. The adopted person has full rights to participate and share as their own offspring.
  • 7. Cont… Moggaasa: - It is Oromization or Oromsuu (From non-Oromo to Oromo).  It is necessary to change the name of the adopted person. In another words, it is the method of incorporating to Oromo.  As it can be understood from its name, Oromsuu was naturalizing non-Oromo individuals who were included to the Oromo society due to various reasons.  Oromization may because of natural or manmade problems.  Oromo did not simply accept them. There are some investigations to accept.
  • 8. Cont… • In the same manner, various scholars have forwarded different meanings. Gada is a complex socio-political, religions and economic system. It has broad meaning. As Mohammed (1984) defined it, …….the term Gada is very difficult to define precisely. It is a term loosely used for so many varied concepts that it has lost any single meaning. The dividing line between the various definitions is very shadow and indistinct unless term is used. This is because the interpretations of Oromo terms, idiomatic expression and proverbs related to Gada have extra meaning other than their surface meanings….
  • 9. Cont… • As we can understand from the above text, it is very difficult to give a precise meaning and definition of Gada. • It appears that the term Gada came to have different meanings through time. • Gada is a calendar. It is also the name given to the men reached on the six stage. • Hence, to understand Gada, it is necessary to know each and every social, political and religious practices of the society. • Gada is a big instrument to examine and understand the cultural and historical experience of the Oromo people.
  • 10. Cont… • Gada system is a democratic system that has been shaping and guiding the lives, modes of governance, socio-economic conditions, philosophical outlooks etc., and • which has enabled to ensure unity and solidarity among the people as well as the practice of peaceful conflict resolution strategies (Sheleme, 2016). • In the same manner, Dereje (2012) stated that Gadaa is an indigenous socio-political democratic system of the Oromo people that regulated; – political stability, – economic development, – social activities, – cultural obligations, – moral responsibility, and – the philosophy of religious order of the society.
  • 11. Cont… • To conclude the definition of Gada system, Oromia culture and tourism bureau (2016) stated that; – the Gada system is a time-honored age and generation-set system practiced among the Oromo people who regarded the system as their common heritage and as one of their major identity makers. • Gada organizes society via councils (yaa’aa), laws and orders, outlining rights and duties of its members.
  • 12. Cont… • The Oromo recognized the Gada System as part of their cultural heritage and as a system of governance. • The political philosophy of Gadaa is based on three main values:  terms of eight years,  balanced opposition between parties, and  power sharing between higher and lower levels. • Hence, gadaa consisted of five-fixed party system. • Generally, the Oromo culture is deeply rooted in the Gada system.
  • 13. Cont… • The ideological foundation of Gada system is based on the principle of; • 1) security and identity, • 2) unity, • 3) equality and • 4) egalitarianism. • According to Gada ideology, all Oromos have the duty to protect those four principles, regardless of any political difference among the five Gada parties and different clans (Geremew, 2012).
  • 14. Gada as Indigenous Knowledge • As the role of indigenous systems of governance is becoming so vital in democratization globally, • It is necessary to depict the role that Gadaa institutions play in good governance and peaceful coexistence (Tesema, 2016). • Gadaa system is essentially a home-grown (indigenous) democratic socio-political organization of the Oromoo people. • Historically, gadaa has been considered as a democratic and just system than other forms of governance in the region.
  • 15. Cont… • A number of scholars who have studied Oromo gadaa system positioned gadaa as an African democracy that could inform constitutional thinkers. • Asmarom (2000), one of the scholars who have accurately studied the gadaa system, described this uniquely democratic system of the Oromoo people as: • One of those remarkable creations of the human mind that evolved into a full-fledged system of government. It contains genuinely African solution for some of the problems that democracies everywhere have had to face.
  • 16. Cont… • According to Donald Levin (1974), the culture of the Oromo people with regard to equality and democracy remains an exemplary one to the remaining world. • It is because the Gada system represents one of the most complex systems of social organization ever devised by the human imagination. • There is no human society like that of Oromo in our world that has created such an extraordinary/astonishing system of government (Carter, 1976).
  • 17. Cont… • In another words, the indigenous Oromo Gada system incorporates; – elements of contemporary peace building approaches to maintain social harmony and – peaceful coexistence notions such as culture of peace, gender equality, solidarity, peacemaking, development, human rights, justice, natural resource and environmental management (Dereje, 2012).
  • 18. Cont… Historical Background of Gada: Past, Present and Future of Gada  The indigenous gadaa system organized and ordered society around political, economic, social, cultural, and religious institutions (Baissa, 1971, 1993; Legesse, 1973).  We do not know when and how this system emerged. However, we know that it existed as a full-fledged system at the beginning of the sixteenth century.  During this century, the Oromo were under one gadaa administration (Baissa, 1993).
  • 19. Cont… • However, due to the development of class within Oromo society in some areas and external factors, and spread of different religions undermined the political, military, and ritual/spiritual roles of the gadaa system in some parts of Oromia. As a result, the institutions were weakened. • In its modified form, the system is still practiced among the Boorana, Guji, and Tuulama, helping in maintaining peace, exchanging knowledge of society, and practicing rituals among some moieties and groups (Asafa, 2009).
  • 20. Cont… • Ehret's study on African civilization tries to give some explanation on the evolution and development of Gada system. • According to his study, the age-set type of organization or social organization might have begun when the society needed to sustain social order among themselves and to defend their rivals that were competing with them for land, water and power. • It might have begun when the concept of common descent, the concept of peace and cooperation among the society developed.
  • 21. Cont… • It is such concepts that express some deep sense of solidarity and feeling of people perhaps also this might have happened when Cushitic speaking peoples were distinguished and began to form different cultural and national identity (Ehret, 1976). • Regarding Gada practices, there are some revivals of the Gada System. • Some of the Gada values are being put in place by the region. This can show that the future of the Gada is bright.
  • 22. Cont… Similarities and Differences of Gada System across Oromos  All Oromos lived under one gadaa administration.  The system has long been practiced by the Borena, Guji, Karayu, Tulama, Arsi, Ittu, Humbana, Afran Qallo, Mecha etc clans of Oromo.
  • 23. Cont… • Between 1522- 1618, with their increased population and extended territories, different Oromo groups started to form autonomous Gadaa governments (Asaffa, 2009). • In another words, Oromo clans have established the centers of their Gada at several places based on their territorial settlement (Aregash, 2019). • Also, parties in Gadaa have different names in different parts of Oromia as the result of Oromo expansion and the establishment of different autonomous administrative systems.
  • 24. Cont… Tuulama - Birmajii - Michillee (Muudana) - Duuloo (Halchiisa) - Meelbaa (Horata) - Roobalee Arsii - Birmajii - Bultuma - Bahara - Horata - Roobalee Gujii - Muudana - Halchisa - Dhallaana - Harmuufa - Roobalee Ituu - Horata - Sabbaqa - Dibbessa - Fadata - Darara Boorana - Moggisa - Sabaqa - Libasa - Darara - Mardiida
  • 25. Cont…. • Across Oromos, these clans have own centers around their territorial settlement. Borana and Gabra Oromo established their Gada centers at Gumi Gayo and Arero in Borena zone. • The Guji Me’e Bokko and the Nura in Guji Zone, The Tulama at Oda Nabe and • The Karrayu at Hora Sama in East Shewa zone, the Mecha at Oda Bisil and Oda Buluk in West shewa and East Wellega respectively, • The Arsi at Oda Roba in Bale zone, the Ittu and Humbanna at Oda Bultum in West Hararge and etc (OCTB, 2016).
  • 26. Qaalluu vs Gadaa • In most literature, the Qaalluu institution was referred to as ‘Abbaa Muudaa’. • The term is derived from the ritual ‘Muudaa’ in which the Qaalluu was the principal figure. Hence, Abba Muudaa’ means simply ‘father’ or owner of ‘Muudaa’ ceremony. • Therefore, it is important to realize that the name Qaalluu and ‘Abbaa Muudaa’ refer to the same type of ritual leader in the Gada institution. • In the long period of Oromo history, the ‘Abbaa Muudaa’ used to deal with the Gada system and office was hereditary (Asmerom, 2000, Dhinsa, 1975).
  • 27. Cont… • However, the general myth concerning the origin of Qaalluu, almost among the different Oromo groups is similar in content. • It is said to has been originally descended from the heaven. • According to Mohammed (1990), Qaalluu is the guardian of the history, culture and law of nations and considered as spiritual leader.
  • 28. Cont… • In ‘seera caffee’ (Oromo customary law) there was an expression who explains more about the nature of Qaalluu; • Qaalluun ganama Qaalluu appeared with creation • Qaalluun waaqa keessaa bu’e Qaalluu descended from heaven • Qaalluun hangafa Qaalluu is the eldest • Qaalluun Abbaa Oromooti Qaalluu is the father of Oromo • Qaalluun Boorana Qaalluu is Boorana • Qaalluun Qulqulluudha Qaalluu is Pure • Qaalluun Abbaa Muudati Qaalluu is the father of ceremony
  • 29. Cont… • ‘Waaqa’ is said to have communicated with the Oromo through the Qaalluu (messenger of waaqa) and Qaalluu was responsible in guiding the Oromo in their prayer for peace, fertility and rain. • Although Qaalluu handled the Gada institutions that function with religious activities in Gada political system also Qaalluu plays greater role. • As mentioned earlier, Qaalluu was the guardian of ‘safuu’ (ethics) and ‘seera’ (law).
  • 30. Cont… • Hence, Qaalluu regulates the safe power transfer from one Gadaa class to the next according to the law prescribed in the Gada system. • As many scholars indicated in their studies, in the Gada system, every eight years power was transferred from one Gada class to the next without violence or conflict. • This is due to the presence of rule of law in the Gada system of governance in which every individual must obey ‘safuu’ and ‘seera’ and we can see the role of Qaalluu in politics. • Hence, Qaalluu plays crucial role in the election of candidates of Gada officials and the process of power transfer (Alemayehu, 2009).
  • 31. Cont…. • Hence, in its religious context, the Qaalluu institution is one of the main parts of the gada institutions. • According to Mohammed, Qaalluu is the guardian of the history, culture and the law of the nation. • In the Seera Caffee (Oromo Customary law) there is an expression, which explains more about the nature of Qaalluu i,e Waaqa is said to have communicated with the Oromo through the Qaalluu which was responsible in guiding the Oromo in their prayer of peace, fertility and rain (Alemayehu, 2002).
  • 32. Cont…. • Qaalluu institution can be viewed as one of the causes for the emergence and continuity of Gada system. • In the other context, though Qaalluu handled the Gada institution that functions with religious activities, in the Gada political system also Qaalluu also plays greater role. • In the gada political system, as mentioned by Alemayehu, Qaalluu is the guardian of safuu (ethics) and seera (law). Because, Qaalluu is considered as the representative of ‘waaqa’.
  • 33. Cont… • According to Oromo worldview, ‘waaqa’ is regarded as the source of all laws. • In such places and process of Gada governance, Qaalluu is regarded as the representative of ‘waaqa’ responsible too keep peace and order in the society.
  • 34. Cont… • Here, what readers have to recognize is that though the role of Qaalluu is concerned with religious activities, the nature of structure of Gada governance system shows that Qaalluu plays essential role in politics (Alemayehu, 2009). • Hence, one has to know the difference between the Abbaa Gada and Qaalluu (Abbaa Muudaa). • The ruling Gada officials every eight years had to make pilgrimage to Abbaa Muudaa (Qaalluu) and pilgrimage had been compulsory for qualification for leadership in Gada governance.
  • 35. Cont… • The pilgrimage to ‘Abbaa Muudaa’ is known as ‘Jila Muudaa’, journey to the house of Abbaa Muudaa. • Muudaa means the journey that elected Gada officials or representatives of local caffee from different groups of Oromo made to the pilgrimage center. • The Muudaa ceremony was performed once every eight years. • Every eight years, the newly elected Gada officials had to make pilgrimage to the Abbaa Muudaa.
  • 36. Cont… • Besides, pilgrimage by itself was considered as blessing the source of laws for governance and wash away from own sin. • After pilgrimage, each pilgrim (the anointed, legitimized and given myrrh) obtained experience of how to perform rituals, blessing and shared knowledge of how to guard the laws of ‘waaqa’ and customs in the society. • The pilgrims after anointment are known as ‘jila’ had the exclusive prerogative of legitimizing the elected Gada officials (OCTB, 2016).
  • 37. Cont…. • On their arrival at the land of Qaalluu (Abbaa Muudaa), Abbaa Muudaa anoint the head of each pilgrim with butter which signifies the blessing of Abbaa Muudaa and Abba Muudaa again gives them Qumbi (myrrh), it believed that Qumbi makes people speak the truth. • Generally, the primary objective of pilgrimage to ‘Abbaa Muudaa’ and participation on ‘Muudaa’ ceremony was to get the blessing of ‘Abbaa Muudaa’ after which the pilgrims got ritual power or legitimacy for religious activities in the Gada system.
  • 38. Cont… Gada Classes and Gada Grades Gada Classes  Gadaa classes are one of the fundamental pillars of Gadaa structure.  The Gadaa classes are five in number.  In Oromo Gada system, Gada classes have different names in different Oromo clans. For example, Guji Oromo calls it ‘fincaan shanan’ or ‘baallii shanan’.  In other Oromo groups, especially western Oromo it is called miseensa (Asmarom, 1973, 2000; Alemayehu 1999; Dhadacha, 2006).
  • 39. Cont…  Among the Gujii they are known as: Muudana, Halchisa, Dhallaana, Harmufa and Robale.  All the five Gadaa classes assume the political authority for eight years and once in every forty years. Mudana Halchisa Dhallana Harmufa Robale
  • 40. Cont… • Gada Grades (Anthropologists call it as “age-sets”) Age is one of the building blocks of the Gadaa system´s socio-political organization. The Gada grades or age-grades, according to Asmarom (2000), refer to “the stages of development through which the groups pass”.
  • 41. Cont… In another word, it is a conceptual scheme that defines;  the kind of activities, rights, and duties the groups assume successively throughout their active careers. Similarly, trainings in different aspects were given based on age.
  • 42. Cont… Like Gada classes, age-grades have different names in different parts of Oromia as the result of; Oromo expansion and the establishment of different autonomous administrative systems. In Gada system, rights and obligations/ responsibilities are depending on the ages.
  • 43. No. age- grade Years Title of age grades Duty/Roles 1. 1-8 - Dabballee (Borena and Guji). - Itti makoo (Tuulama) - Kids/child which are dependent on their family. Hence, there are no roles they have in politics, economy and social issues than playing. However, it is the time children start to learn folk from their family. - The ceremony of name giving, Gubisa will takes place at the end of Dabballe. 2. 9-16 - Gammee didiqo/xixiqqoo (Borena) - Qarree Duraa (Guji) - Dabballee (Tuulama) - Looking after calves & horse. It is the beginning to share responsibilities. - Ritual of Nyachisa will takes place (feasting for the member of this grade)
  • 44. 3. 17-24 - Gaammee guguddoo (Borena) - Qarree Lammaffaa/Kuusa (Gujii) - Foollee (Tuulama) - Get military trainee, mostly defense/Guardians of the family herds. - The ritual festival of Godiya which mark the end of Gammee and starting of Kuusa 4. 25-32 - Kuusa (Borena) - Raaba (Gujii) - Qondaala/Kuusa (Tuulama) - Junior warriors, militia, completes military services. - Bati- ritual which mark the end of Kuusa 5. 33-40 - Doorii (Borena, Guji and Tulama) - Senior warriors, Training for administration and Philosophy of Gada, Fatherhood and family duties.
  • 45. 6. 41-48 - Gadaa (Borena, Gujii) - Luba (Tuulama) Giving societal service, political and ritual leadership (politically active) 7. 49-56 - Yuuba I (Borena, Tuulama) - Baatuu (Gujii) Adviser (for active party) & solving disputes/conflict 8. 57-64 - Yuuba II (Boorena, Tulama) - Yuuba (Gujii) Adviser (for active party) & solving disputes/conflict
  • 46. 9. 65-72 - Yuuba III (Borena, Tuulama) - Yuuba Guddaa (Gujii) Adviser (for active party) & solving disputes/conflict 10. 73-80 - Gadamoojjii (Borena, Tuulama) - Jaarsa Guduruu (Gujii) Praying and working for Peace, the terminal sacred grade/similar to monks 11. 81 above - Jaarsa (Borena, Tuulama) - Jaarsa Qululluu (Gujii) - Jaarsa Raqaya (89-96, Gujii) - Ginya (97 above, Gujii) Final retirement
  • 47. Cont… • However, Gadaa grades and Gadaa classes are two distinct concepts. • The Gadaa grades are the phases of development through which the members pass. • Gadaa class refers to the group of people who share the same status and who perform their rites of passage together (Nicolas 2010, Asmarom 1973).
  • 48. Moities and Phratry/Descent What does Descent mean?  Descent is how individuals trace their own ancestor. Patrilineal descent, people automatically have life-time membership in their father’s group. With matrilineal descent, people join the mother’s group automatically at birth and stay members throughout life. Tracing own descent either through father or mother’s side is known as unilineal descent. Generally, Oromo Society trace own descent via father’s side, i.e. patrilineal descent.
  • 49. Descent Groups Lineage: Lineage is composed of several families. Clan: is a composed of lineage whose members are unable to trace how they are related, but who still believe themselves to be clan. Phratry: A Phratry (after the Greek word for “brotherhood”). It is composed of at least two clans that supposedly share a common ancestry, whether or not they really do.
  • 50. Cont… Moiety: is a composed of Phratry that result from a division of a society into two halves on the basis of descent. • If the entire society is divided into only two major descents groups, each group is called a moiety (after the French word for “half”). • Moiety members also believe they share a common ancestor.
  • 52. Kinship Kinship: Kinship can be created via three ways.  Through blood: this is the principle of Consanguines: “Blood” relatives, or people related by birth. E.g. father and son.  Through Marriage: this is the principle of Affines: In- laws, or people related by marriage. E.g. Husband and Wife  Fictive kinship: in which individuals who are not actually biological relatives act toward one another as if they were kin.
  • 53. Cont… • Fictive kinship is a kind of relationship in which two individuals create a kind of parent- child relationship without any blood or marriage ties. Adoption (Guddifacha and Moggaasa) are the most familiar examples. • Oromo political and social institutions have been built on the kinship system. • The Oromo kinship system has been based on a biological and social descent.
  • 54. Cont… • The Oromo call the largest kinship system gosa, which is subdivided into moiety, sub-moiety and qomoo (clan). • These subdivisions have lower-order branches of kinship known as mana (lineage), balbala (minor lineages), and warra (minimal lineage or extended family).
  • 55. Cont… • The Oromo recognize social ancestry and avoid the distinction between the biological and social descent since they know that the formation of Oromo peoplehood was based on the biological and social kinship. • The Oromo have had a long history of cultural contacts with non-Oromo through marriage, economic relationship, and adoption • Therefore, these three kinship system are there in Oromo society.
  • 56. Family • A family is the basic unit of the social group. • A family is a group of people (e.g., parents, children, siblings, grandparents, grandchildren, etc….). • Two common types of Family; 1. Nuclear Family: consists of a married couple together with their unmarried children. 2. Extended Family: When two or more closely related nuclear families cluster together in a large domestic group, they form a unit known as the extended family. • In Oromo context, these two types of family are common.
  • 57. Chapter Two Gada and Cultural Heritage of Humanity
  • 58. Introduction • This chapter describes Gadaa system, the intangible cultural heritage of humanity. • It surveys the major element of Gadaa system for its inscription under UNESCO, its cultural values, religious dimension, rituals and festivals attached to Gadaa system and socio-economic of Gadaa system. • Finally, the chapter also presents Gadaa as an example of classical African civilization and offers preservation and promotion of Gadaa, intangible cultural heritage of the world.
  • 59. Cont… • The word ‘heritage’ itself comes from the French word 'heritor’, meaning inheritance or legacy. • Heritage is our legacy from the past, what we live within the present, and what we pass on to future generations to learn from and enjoy. • A dictionary definition of heritage 1. Property that is, or may be, inherited 2. Valued things such as historic buildings that have been passed down from previous generations 3. A special or individual possession (Concise Oxford Dictionary)
  • 60. Cont… • UNESCO also define heritage as they are consisting of natural resources, works of art, architecture, traditions and spiritual wealth which have permanent values. • Heritage is generally classified as natural and cultural heritages. • Cultural heritage is the creative expression of a people’s existence in the past and present. • It tells us about the traditions, the beliefs and the achievements of a country and its people.
  • 61. Cont…  According to the Ethiopian Research and Conservation of Cultural Heritage Proclamation of No.209/2000, cultural heritage is any tangible or intangible entity characterized by the following features:  The result of human activity and creativity  Produced both in the prehistory and historic periods, and  Has a considerable value in its scientific, historical, cultural and artistic and handicraft contents  Cultural heritage is generally classified in to two as tangible and intangible.
  • 63. Cont… • The World Heritage Convention adopted by the General Conference of UNESCO in 1972 classifies heritage resources into two major categories; cultural and Natural. • Accordingly, cultural heritage properties are results of human past activities. • They are the legacy of physical artifacts and intangible attributes of the society, believed to have been inherited from past generation, safeguarded and preserved in the present and bestowed for the benefit of the future generations
  • 64. Cont… Intangible Cultural Heritage As the name indicates intangible cultural heritages are those that cannot be felt by hands but can be seen and heard them. They embrace all forms of traditional and popular or folk culture, which are transmitted from generation to generation orally or by gesture. Unlike the tangible one, intangible cultural heritages cannot be physically described for they are only deposited in the human mind.
  • 65. Cont… • The human body is, thus, the main instrument for the display of the intangible cultural heritages. • Gadaa is a traditional system of governance used by the Oromo developed from knowledge gained by community experience over generations. • The system regulates; –political, –economic, –social and religious activities of the community dealing with issues such as conflict resolution, reparation and protecting women’s rights.
  • 66. Cont… • Ethiopia hosted the 11th session of UNESCO’s Intergovernmental Committee for the Safeguarding of Intangible Cultural Heritage in 2016. • On this session, Gada registered by UNESCO as intangible cultural heritage.
  • 67. Elements that make Gadaa system Intangible Cultural Heritage • According to the 2003 UNESCO convention, the following heritages are listed under intangible cultural heritages.  Oral traditions and expressions including language as a medium of the intangible cultural heritage;  Performing arts (such as traditional music, dance and theatre);  Social practices, rituals and festive events;  Knowledge and practices concerning nature and the universe, and  Traditional craftsmanship
  • 68. Cont… After the inscription, the UNESCO wrote this on its website about the element of Gadaa system: • Gadaa is a traditional system of governance used by the Oromo people developed from knowledge gained by community experience over generations. • Gadaa is organized into five classes. • Gadaa system has the principles of checks and balances; – through periodic succession of every eight years, and – division of power (among executive, legislative, and judicial branches), – balanced opposition (among five parties), and power sharing between higher and lower administrative organs
  • 69. Cont… Other principles of the system include balanced representation of; all clans, lineages, and, Accountability of leaders, the settlement of disputes through reconciliation, and the respect for basic rights and liberties. Gadaa system has some prominent unique features when compared to western democracies.  Western democracies are very deficient in the distribution of power across generations and age groups.
  • 70. Cont… • Another one of the distinctive features pointed out is the testing period of elected leaders. • Gadaa system greatly believes in rigorous practical or actual testing of the candidates before they assume office unlike western democracy which in most cases exclusively relies on election. • The Gadaa grade not only defines the rights and obligations of each classes but also initiations of and period of work and performances. • The roles and rules attached to the age grade system are the most important elements that regulate the Gadaa system.
  • 71. Cont… • When one passes from one grade to the other, his roles and responsibilities in the community also changes, in such a way, an individual or group of individuals will be critically tested in the system.
  • 72. Inclusion of Gadaa system under UNESCO • Criteria for the inclusion of cultural properties in the World Heritage List I. Represent a masterpiece of human creative genius; or II. Exhibit an important interchange of human values, over a span of time or within a cultural area of the world, on developments in architecture or technology, monumental arts, town-planning or landscape design; or III. Bear a unique or at least exceptional testimony to a cultural tradition or to a civilization which is living or which has disappeared; or
  • 73. Cont… IV. Be directly or tangibly associated with events or living traditions, with ideas, or with beliefs, with artistic and literary works of outstanding universal significance
  • 74. Cultural Values of Gada System • Oromo cultural life is closely connected with the Gadaa • According to the Gadaa tradition and principle, competing for a certain position is rewarding as long as it brings benefits to the society as a whole. • The culture has a strong influence over the people in such a way that they show little or no passion to acquire authority over others. • The pattern of collectivism in Oromo social relations helps to account for an ideal world of the Gadaa system which does not allow people to develop superior mentality and a sense of personal glory.
  • 75. Cont… • The cultural emphasis in the interaction of the society means there is nothing much to be gained from seeking prerogative position to enjoy unnatural relations. • A strong sense of mutuality of feelings, moral values and solidarity, which the society has acquired for years. • The Gadaa egalitarian principle always checks each individual in the society not to be tempted to acquire a reputation for dominant interaction and a desire for aberrant behavior in general.
  • 76. Cont… • A man who seeks to promote himself through misconduct is not only severely reprimanded and punished, but also ostracized. • Whenever a general meeting takes place, the ‘Gadaa Assembly’ (Caffee) re- examines the law of the land, • reviews the conduct and personal qualities of the authorities (Gadaa Councils) and • removes any member who fails to meet moral standards and the law from office
  • 77. Cont… • Guddifacha vs Moggaasa – Guddifacha is the process of taking another family’s child and making him/her a member of the family with all privileges, and responsibilities. – The main reason for guddifacha is to enable childless couples to have children. – Would be father and would be mother, hold Kallachaa, Caaccuu and also honey in central Oromia during the guddifacha ritual. – As a result, the guddifacha child is referred to as, ‘ilmoo Kallacha’, ‘Caaccuu’ or Dammaa’ to mean that the child is born legally to the family.
  • 78. Cont… Moggaasa: practice that gives new name to individuals and clan to integrate to the society is known as Moggaasa. Historically, the incorporation or assimilation of other ethnic groups under moggaasa is unique and significant cultural feature in Oromo society. The ceremony was undertaken by Abbaa Gadaa on behalf of his clan at Gadaa centers. Individual or groups came to Oromo through the moggaasa (collective adoption) institution received Oromo identity by dropping the biological identity.
  • 79. Cont… • In the ceremony of adoption, the groups to be adopted used to take ‘unbreakable’ Oath in front of Abbaa Gadaa. • After the ceremony it is said that the adopted groups were called ‘ilma gosa’, sons of a clan. • Through the new genealogy, the new members now become part of the Oromo people counting their ancestors several generations’ back to the ethnic Oromo.
  • 80. Religious Dimension of Gada System • In the Gadaa system, the ceremonies and rituals are religious in nature, not only a system of social organization and political leadership. • Oromo religion played a significant role in identity maintenance among the Oromo. • There was intimate contact between the Qaalluu institution and the Gada system since most of Gadaa candidates were recruited by Qaalluu.
  • 81. Cont… • There were possible cases of contact between the Gadaa leaders and the Qaalluu when he states that the Abba Gadaa was buttered by the Qaalluu. • Many writers conclude that without the part played by the Qaalluu institution, the Gadaa system could be regarded wrongly.
  • 82. Rituals and Festivals attached to Gada system • Ritualistic life in the context of the Gadaa system functions as ideological discourse and serves as a tool for; – influencing, – fostering benevolence and – the regulation of inner life of the society. • Therefore, the role and/or functions of ritual performance can be explained in terms of human needs- to maintain social regulation.
  • 83. Cont… • Oromo have developed sophisticated ritual practices, which enable them to demonstrate moral strength, spiritual values and religious convictions. • The traditional ritual ceremonies and festivals are led by Qaalluu (Abbaa Muudaa), who was elected on the basis of his intelligence, sound judgment, honesty and spiritual quality.
  • 84. Cont… • One of the well-known festivals of the Gada ritualized tradition is the ‘Ateetee’ or the goddess fertility/richness. • The Ateetee is popularly known as Aayyoo or Aayyole, literally the mother, who is a symbol of forgiveness. • This ritual ceremony targets the blessing of God and the continuity of peaceful orderly life and fertility in the household- for both cattle and people. • The most common symbols of fertility in the Oromo Ateetee include, milk, butter, beads (callee), and green grasses (Irreessa)
  • 85. Cont… • There is a constant use of butter in ‘Ateetee’ is intended not only to keep people healthy, but also to keep them wet, that is, fertile. • In terms of economy, butter as a symbol of abundance has a deeper meaning in the life of traditional Oromo. • During the Ateetee ritual ceremony, the elder blesses the barren women by spraying daadhii over them. • In Gujii Oromo, the senior member of the Gadaa system, the ‘Yuuba,’ blesses the barren woman saying, “Gadaan tee haa jiitu,” literally ‘may your Gadaa be wet.’ It also means ‘may your womb be fertile.’
  • 86. Cont… • Ateetee ritual is practiced by women. Whenever natural disasters occur, women gather and perform the ritual. • Oromo women used to practice Ateetee as a way of strengthening their solidarity and as a tool to counter atrocities staged against them by men. • The Ateetee practiced by women is one part of a belief system that women are intermediary figures between Waaqa (God) and the physical world or humans. • Similarly there was a check and balance mechanism built into the Gadaa system by which siiqqee was institutionalized and women formed parallel organizations of their own which actively excluded men.
  • 87. Cont… • Thanksgiving (Irreecha) occasions had become part of the national culture and ritual institutions until the proscription of a democratic tradition of the Gada. • The Oromo society is popularly known for their Irreechaa (also spelled Irreessa). • Irreecha is the most important cultural festival of Oromos who gather to celebrate the end of the rainy season and welcome the harvest season (Bishoftu). • It is one of the most popular festivals which aimed at glorifying God and Giving Thanks to him for the harvest, prosperity, fertility, rain and peace.
  • 88. Cont… • There is no clear difference between the political functions of the Gadaa system and the ritual function. • Political power in the system is held corporately. • Although the Gadaa system is political, providing a governing body, it also is very ritualistic and has significant religious importance. • At the end of the transfer of power the Abbaa Gadaa (father of the gadaa power) passes off the Bokkuu (symbol of power) to the incoming Abbaa Gadaa, a ritual sacrifice is performed. It is Known as ‘Buttaa’ ceremony,
  • 89. Socio-economic aspects of Gada System • Gadaa values are mainly oriented towards stability and cohesion of the society. • Gadaa system has several importance for overall system of the Oromo society. • In line with this, Gadaa was highly endowed with moral and legal values, • Among the Oromo, it created peaceful setting and kept social order by prohibiting injustice, social evils and political chaos. • This helped them to have harmonious and stable social interaction
  • 90. Cont… • Social values highly promote diversification and multiplication of living alternatives. • They engage in variety of livelihood strategy so as to maximize their survival and prosperity. • Furthermore, community spirit under Gadaa system is very strong. • For this reason, people would like to look out for one another and care for each other with full trust.
  • 91. Cont… • The Oromos resource utilization and resource management highly interlinked with social values and custom. • Moreover, social values and custom of the society appreciate cooperation and coordination among themselves.
  • 92. Cont.. • Every Oromo of specific age-grade is expected to perform a certain function according to specified rules and regulations.
  • 93. Chapter Three Overview of Gadaa System and Nature  Gadaa System and Natural Environment  Gadaa system is not only Oromo peoples’ political, social, economic and religious life in entirety, but also highly embedded in natural environment in one way or another.  The embedment of Gadaa system in various natural features of physical environment is emanated from the Oromo worldviews that state ‘Waaqaa’ (God) as creator of all living and non-living things.
  • 94. Cont…. • In Oromo cosmology, this belief system is used as a basic ground for complicated nexus between Gadaa system and natural environment. • Practically, the link and embedment of Gadaa system to natural features can be understood in different dimensions and contexts. • For instance, the practices and rituals in Gadaa system are interlinked with natural features such as land, forests, tree, domestic animals and wild animals.
  • 95. Gadaa System and Land • According to Gadaa system, land is a mother of all creatures that have been living on it. • All living things and non-living things are sprouted and based on it since the land formation. • Land is respected and treated in due respect since it gives livelihoods for survival of human kinds and animals. • There is the saying that “waaqni ulfaadha, lafti ulfoodha”.
  • 96. Cont… • As a result, land is seen as the most precious and sacred gift that Waaqaa gave to human societies so that they would carefully utilize and manage it. • According to Oromo narrations in Gadaa system “Waaqaafi lafti hangafa waan hundaati” meaning God and land are senior of all things in the universe. • This can philosophically be understood in terms of infinite age, powerful grace and everlasting nature of land and God.
  • 97. Cont.. • Due to its everlasting nature, among Oromo, people make oath and vow (promise) to ascertain something in the name of land and God. • For instance, they vow like, “If I had committed this crime, this land would swig down me now and God would punish me”. • Even though land is perceived as a great gift for human kinds from Waaqaa, there are some areas of land that are set aside for special practices and rituals of Gadaa system since the time immemorial.
  • 98. Cont… • The process of setting some natural areas aside for cultural purposes in Gadaa system is known as Woyyoonsuu, meaning sacralization. • The land sacralized in this way is usually known as Ardaalee Jilee or lafa Woyyuu that its meaning may go beyond sacred natural sites and sometimes termed as sacred shrines. • In Oromo worldviews, the land once sacralized and identified for rituals and traditions of Gadaa system can never be utilized for other purposes like farm and other activities except for grazing. • This shows how Oromo Gadaa system is connected to livestock. Numerous sacred shrines of Oromo community exist in various parts of Oromo land.
  • 99. Cont… • For instance, in Gujii case, various rituals and events of Gadaa system are organized as per the tradition in more than three hundred seventy six sacred shrine. • The major sacred shrine of Guji Oromo where Gada power transition is peacefully performed in 8 year is known as Me’e Bokko. • The ritual like thanks giving, supplications, formulation of customary laws and making oral declarations are made at Oromo sacred shrines.
  • 100. Cont… • In sacred places, activities like urinating, defecating, having sexual intercourse, farming, burning the area, burying dead body, quarrelling with someone and crying for dead person are strictly forbidden at Oromo sacred land. • Gadaa system Versus Trees and Forests • In Oromo Gadaa system, single trees as well as dense forests are deemed as a wear of land that was given by Waaqaa to cover its nakedness.
  • 101. Cont… • Gadaa system usually underpins the conservation of forests through customary practices, belief systems, taboos and traditional laws. • Basically, in Gadaa system, forests are conserved for different economical and socio-cultural importance. • Economically, the forests are protected for sheltering of livestock and serving as source of fodder during drought. • The Oromo pastoral communities move their livestock through the forest areas during long dry season and drought to save their livestock from drought driven problems.
  • 102. Cont… • In addition to economic importance, forests have medicinal value among Oromo people since the different woods, plants, bushes and tendrils exist in. • Not only forests, but also single trees have special values in Gadaa system. • Trees are vital natural feature and cultural element in Gadaa system. Some of the trees are considered as sacred due to their traditional importance. • For instance, Odaa tree is believed as sacred and respected in Oromo Gadaa system, due the mythical backgrounds and cultural significances it entails.
  • 103. Cont… • The shadow of Odaa is considered as both central government hall where Gadaa assembly met and sacred place where ritual activities are organized. Gadaa System and Water  Water has cultural values in Oromo Gadaa system.  The Oromo people believe that water and its courses are among the highly respected areas in the Gadaa system.  The respect for the water is emanated from the valuable functions it offers to human societies and animals in multidimensional ways.
  • 104. Cont… • Of course, water is a source of survival for all living things. • As a result, Oromo govern and conserve the water points and its courses by customary laws and indigenous declarations. • For instance, while Gadaa power transferring at Me’ee Bokko, the elected Gada officials of Guji Oromo declare the customary laws regarding protection and management of Malkaa (water points and its courses).
  • 105. Cont…. • They say “Malkaan Woyyuu santi seera” meaning Malkaa is sacred, that is a law. • This law is declared in the moment of power transition at sacred natural sites. • Not only water, but also trees and forests around the water areas are treated as integral part of Malkaa in Oromo Gadaa system, because the forests and trees serve as shadow for bushes and grasses as well as place where livestock stay for some times after drinking a water well particularly in pastoral community context.
  • 106. Cont… • On the other hand, Malkaa is a center for different rituals such as Dhibaayyuu (libation) and Irreechaa (thanks giving ritual) in Gadaa system. • Dhibaayyuu is a ritual of Oromo whereby Milk, Honey, Barley and Coffee beans are poured down at the sacred place and watercourses while Yaa’aa (Gadaa councilors) cross the Malkaa.
  • 107. Gadaa System and Animals • Gadaa system is connected to either domestic or wild animals in multiple ways. • The rituals in Gadaa system such as; slaughtering for sacrifice (qalmaa), supplication (hariirtii), libation (dhibaayyuu), foretelling what would happen in the future (Faroo Himuu), giving back sacred power to Waaqaa (Haaganaa galchuu) and others rituals are linked to animals in one way or another.
  • 108. Cont… • The Hariirtii (supplication) ritual is similar with slaughtering one, but it is performed before slaughtering a given bull or Billy goat for particular cultural purpose. • For instance, the Gadaa elders who are authorized to perform the ritual can slightly move the scepter stick over the back of the bull between its head and tail by blessing Waaqaa for his care and praying to him to escape from the potential evil.
  • 109. Cont… • After the Hariirtii ritual is conducted, the slaughtering of the prepared bull will take place. • This shows that the Hariirtii and Qalmaa rituals are interconnected with one another and both are similarly performed by slaughtering the domestic animals particularly the bulls. • Libation (dhibaayyuu) ritual is also performed by products of cattle, particularly, by milk. • The milk is typical element used for libation ritual in Oromo Gadaa system. While crossing the Malkaa, Gadaa councils pour down fresh milk in the water and bless Waaqa.
  • 110. Cont…. • This ritual is usually connected with cattle milk in the manner that demonstrate inextricable link between Gadaa system and cattle. • Another important element is knowledge of forecasting the happenings of something based on symbols attached to wrestling of harbinger birds, and appearing of other wild animals in some occasions. • If Gadaa councilors observe some wild animals during their journey and sojourn across sacred sites or move for particular events, there will be implication for something to happen.
  • 111. Cont… • This means Oromo people have been practicing the knowledge of foretelling to identify the potential threats like;  drought, war, prosperity, peace, and abundance and so on. • This does not necessarily mean the so-called misconceptions as the westerners imposed stereotyped connotations for some African traditions and practices, • but it is a science of the people that clearly indicates the link that Oromo people have with their physical environments in general and living things on in it in particular.
  • 112. Cont.. Sacred Natural Site (Ardaa Jilaa) and Its Practices • Sacred natural site implies a part of physical environment, which is identified for socio- cultural practices and rituals across the globe. • Even though the rituals and other cultural events attached to sacred natural sites are varied across the space and through the time, the concept of setting aside the sites is common global culture.
  • 113. Cont… • This means different sacred natural sites serve different functions as indicated in experience of the world communities. For instance, sacred natural sites could serve as; – historical and cultural heritage, c – enter of ancestral commemorations, – center of worship, – center for purification traditions as well as – center for rituals.
  • 114. Cont… • There are numerous sacred natural sites locally known as Ardaalee Jilaa or Lafa Woyyuu in Oromia region. • For instance as early discussed even in two Guji zones, more than three hundred seventy six (376) sacred natural sites have been registered by zonal culture and tourism offices. • The Oromo sacred natural sites are very respected and treated as the shrines, because over all traditions and rituals in Gadaa system are performed at these sites.
  • 115. Cont… • For instance, the Guji Oromo Gadaa power transitions is conducted at Me’ee Bokko in Annaa Sorraa district in every eight years, • whereas the Boorana Oromo Gadaa power transition is made at Ardaa jilaa Badhaasaa in Arero district. • The customary laws are formulated and declared at these sacred sites. • In additions, different rituals in Gadaa system are performed in the sites. • Similarly, in all zones of Oromia region, Oromo people have the sacred natural sites where Gadaa practices are performed since the time immemorial.
  • 116. Law of Protecting the Environments • In Gadaa system, the customary laws are formulated and amended by Gumii – Gadaa assemble at sacred sites. • These laws regulate the human-environmental, human-to-human as well as human to supernatural relations. • Law of protecting the environment is selected among the customary laws made by Gadaa councils at sacred sites. • According to this law, natural environment in general and natural features on it in particular are sacred and belonged to Waaqaa, so that everyone should protect and preserve the environment.
  • 117. Cont… • Particularly, degrading the forest, cutting down big trees, closing the ways to water points (Daandii Malkaa), killing wild animals are few examples among highly forbidden actions in Gadaa system. • The violation of this law is punishable as stated in Gadaa system. • In case if someone settled in sacred natural sites or negligently degrade the natural forests, Gadaa bring the violator to the customary court (Hayyuu) to deal the issue and pass the decision.
  • 118. Cont… Sacredness of Gadaa Leaders and Symbolic Materials  Based on the sacred philosophies of Gadaa system, the Gadaa leaders are considered sacred.  In Gadaa structure, Abbaa Gadas and Yaa’aa (Gadaa councils) are the most sacred individuals who owe special respect.  Abbaa Gadaa is usually approached respectfully in humble approach; no one is expected to disdain/disregard or disrespect him.
  • 119. Cont… • He is considered as the man who has mystical power that can make curses and blesses effective. • According to belief in Gadaa system, the special mystical power of Waaqaa is always with Abbaa Gadaa and so that Waaqa will respond every supplication of Abbaa Gadaa about, his people and land. • Hence, it is strictly forbidden to insult, abject, simplify, humiliate and gossip Abbaa Gadaa and his councils in the system, even with absence of them, because the Waaqaa who hears the evil words spoken against Abbaa Gadaa would punish the person.
  • 120. Cont… • There are respecting words used only for Abbaa Gadas for their sacredness. • Abbaa Gadaa has different symbolic materials like, Kallachaa (phallic material tied on forehead), bokkuu (sacred scepter stick) sometimes known as Horooraa and different ornamental materials on his hand. • These materials are symbolically, demonstrate different representations in Oromo culture. For instance, Kallacha indicates power of being Gadaa leader or reign.
  • 121. Cont… Gadaa and Peace  Gadaa system is system of peace, peace sustaining and peace building.  In Oromo Gadaa system, peace is not lack of war, but it is a holistic harmony of people with the local fellows, natural environments and Waaqaa. • The conception of peace in Oromo people is quite different from the mainstream definition and understanding about the peace. • In Oromo Gadaa system, peace is not a free gift rather there must be a continuous aspiration and prayer for existence and sustainability of peace by the community.
  • 122. Cont… • Some rituals are made to supplicate Waaqaa for prevalence of; – human beings peace, – livestock peace, and environmental peace. • Human being peace is the peace that exists in family setting, among neighbors and local context, • whereas livestock peace is prosperity and fertility of livestock, abundant pastureland with safe grazing system and availability of milks and butter in the expected manner.
  • 123. Cont…. • The environmental peace indicates the absence of damaging, absence of wildfire that damage niches, absence or farness of wild carnivores’ animals that would eat cattle, goat, sheep, donkey and other domestic animals. • In Gadaa system, Oromo believe that people as individual person and groups have to build and sustain peace with Waaqaa, and then Waaqaa would offer them; • healthy life, • abundant properties, • fertility of person and peaceful life. • Generally, Oromo Gadaa system entails peace and gives priorities to it all the time.
  • 124. Chapter Four The Gadaa Pluralism  Oromo had been ruled by a democratic system even before discovery of America (1492) .  Watson (1974) wrote “in many European countries after 1918, the democratic system had no roots, and the people have little experience of such a system”.  However, indeed, democracy has been conceived within the Oromo indigenous institutions where people have centuries-old experience of working together within a sophisticated form of government far before the Westerns started exercising multi-party politics.
  • 125. Cont… • Therefore, it can be summarized that, as far as democracy is concerned, Gadaa System is unprecedented and unparalleled multi- party politics that has been practiced by the Oromo nation for centuries. The Gadaa: A Real Multi-Party System of Administration • Gadaa party (classes) are one of the fundamental pillars of Gadaa structure. • The Gadaa classes (party) are five in number.
  • 127. Cont… • The Oromo has five party in which all individuals belong to one. • Each and every party in the Gada system has its own sub-division in order to prevent a party in power from abusing its office. • To conclude, Gada is a real multi-party system that five parties power share turn by turn every eight years. • It is not under only one party leadership.
  • 128. Cont… The Gadaa: A Government with Real Power Balances  The gadaa system has the principles of checks and balances (through periodic succession of every eight years), and  Division of power (among executive, legislative, and judicial branches), balanced opposition (among five parties), and  Power sharing between higher and lower administrative organs to prevent power from falling into the hands of despots.
  • 129. Cont… • Power within Gada structure can only be acquired by passing through different social roles at different times as it is calculated and regulated within age-set and Gada laws. • The access to formal political office or power is based on individual skill not on the kinship system. • According to Gada system, any position cannot or should not be inherited, except Qaallu (spiritual or religion position).
  • 130. Cont… • Power corruption is systematically avoided through the collective and triangular system of checks and balances. • It is among the five party that power, in Gada system, is peacefully transferred through the principle of a rotating presidency every eight years. • The system operates through the principle of political and power rotation.
  • 131. Cont… • Hence, Gada system understood as a system of check and balance of power. • Gadaa system is also decentralized social organization where there is no central government and calls for all stakeholders to make decision in their life. • The power under the Gadaa system was classified both horizontally and vertically within the society.
  • 132. Cont…. These include: – Caffee/ Gumii Gayyoo (general assembly), – Abbaa Bokku/Abba Gada (the father of scepter), – Abbaa Duula (chief of the army), – Abbaa Seera (judge/ lawyer), – Abbaa sa’a (head of economy), and – Hadhaa Siiqqee (women’s cross-cutting power in the Gadaa system). • Hence, this way the system minimizes the possibility of concentration of power on the hands of individuals or a centralized authority.
  • 133. Cont… • This shows the mechanism through which Gadaa system serve as symbol of decentralization and • Therefore, Gadaa system promotes rule of law through check and balance among these actors where people have ultimate and final power (popular sovereignty).
  • 134. Cont… • Other principles of the system have included; –balanced representation of all clans, lineages, regions and confederacies, –Accountability of leaders, the settlement of disputes through reconciliation, and the respect for basic rights and liberties. –Various distnict public offices of Gada system are held by different individuals in order to avoid concentration of power on the hands of one person.
  • 135. Cont… Gada: A Real Federal System of Administration • In particular, as Ethiopia seeks to strengthen federal state established on plural societies it is plausible to recognize and accommodate indigenous institutions of governance in to mainstream political systems. • However, as a matter of fact, Oromia regional state commitment to ground its indigenous governance values and institutions into modern systems while adapting to changing realities was not gratifying.
  • 136. Cont… • Hence, obviously, Gada is differing from modern of institutions of governance. • Self rule is highly encouraged in Gada system. However, Nowhere in the Constitution of the State of Oromia Gadaa principles are emulated. • The gadaa federation appears to be different from the contemporary notion of federalism— there are some distinct essences in all types of federal systems. • Most definitions of federalism include one of its most significant features; that is, division of power.
  • 137. Cont… • Various studies indicate that the Oromo gadaa system has been taking a form of confederation and/or federation. • The gadaa system, which has elected leaders within each generation and an orderly succession to various positions of political office, has also been dividing power among moieties, sub-moieties, clans, and sub-clans.
  • 138. Cont…  There are several principles that shows as Gada system is a real federalism system of administration – Rule of Law – Principle of Division and Separation of Power. – Period of Testing and Different Electoral View. – The Principle of Accountability – Principle of Single Term Office. – Majority rule and minority rights.  Generally, the Oromo used to practice the system of federalism in the structure of governance in which each clan plays a significant rules in the Gada administration.
  • 139. Cont… Gada: An administration with full check and Balance system.  Checks and balances are various procedures set in place to reduce mistakes, prevent improper behavior, or decrease the risk of centralization of power.  The Gada system of government is a system in which the Gada parties functioned through check and balance starting from lower level of Gada grades all through the higher active and passive stages.  Members of one Gada party criticized and advised the rules of the consecutive members of Gada party based on seera and safuu of the society.
  • 140. Cont… Generally, Gada system has the principles of checks and balances through; –Periodic succession of every 8 years. –Division of power (among executive, legislative and judiciary branches). –Balanced oppositions (among five parties) –Balanced representation of all clans, lineages.
  • 141. Cont…. Gada: In comparative view vs multi-party system  The Gadaa system is a system of governance in which people are grouped and organized into five Gadaa parties and govern themselves in rounds by circulating power every eight years. This serve as multi-party composition in the system and the member of each party could have an opportunity to exercise power once in its life time.
  • 142. Cont… Thus, Gadaa system allows positive competition based on consolidated cooperation among these parties for the good will of the whole community. Moreover, the irreversible/permanent cycle of power transition give equal chances to all parties and creates higher social bond in the society because it allows for “loyal opposition and a fixed rotative office”.
  • 143. Cont… Gada: Complete System of Government Gada as a political institution is a systematically organized form of government. When it is compared with modern form of government system, it has similar structure which is composed of three main political organs: These are; legislative, executive and judiciary with clear division of labour and system of check and balance.
  • 144. Cont… Gada government Legislative (General assembly) (Gumii) Executive (Gadaa Officials) Judiciary (Hayyuu)
  • 145. Cont… 1. The (Gumi) Gada general assembly: is a supreme legislative authority. Its function includes (but not limited) to review laws at work, to proclaim new laws. • For instance, Gumii Bokkoo is the only law-making body in Guji Gada system. • Similarly, Gumii Bokkoo is the body that makes/ introduces new law, amend and change if needed.
  • 146. Cont… 2. Gada officials (The Executive): As an executive organ, Gada plays the following roles; – It maintains a form of rational order, –The duty of defending its territory and –To protect the population....controls and effects the aiming and proper managing of the entire Gada cycle.
  • 147. Cont… 3. The Judiciary (Hayyuu) • For instance, the Gujii judiciary body is composed of Worra, Fira/Gosa, Yaa’a, Gumi. • Therefore, the disputes are entertained first at family level (Worra) in which the heads of family called together. –The elders who address the issue at Worra level should reach the leadership position (Hayyuu) must guide them. This level serves as first instance court.
  • 148. Cont…. • The second level at which the disputes are settled is at Fira/Gosa level. The trend is similar with the first one. • If the disputes/conflict did not solve at two above mentioned levels, the case will come to Yaa’a (Abba and his counselors). • Finally, if the conflict/disputes not solved at Abba Gada and his counselors, the case will come to Gumi Bokko (Final decision-making organ).
  • 149. Cont… • The Gujii say “worra gowwaa dubbiin fira dhaxxi; fira gowwaa dubbiin yaa’a dhaxxi’’ to indicate attempting ‘to deal with the cases before levels. • As a system, the Gada system has system of check and balance between branches of governance and has decentralized governance for keeping peace at different levels. • This institutional arrangement serves as a mechanism for assertive peace making process among the judiciary, the legislature, and executive branches.
  • 150. Cont…. Gada in Conflict Resolution, Protecting Human Rights and Peace-building Conflict starts as a perception in the mind of one of the party to the conflict when s/he perceives the other party has invaded his/her rights. As an Oromo, the first step is to discuss among themselves and solve it peacefully without resorting to violence or retaliation. If they cannot resolve it by themselves, still they should not resort to violence; rather should bring their case to the attention of elders' council.
  • 151. Cont… • Therefore, the Oromo Gada system is a peace making and peace building system that has philosophies, beliefs, values, traditions, and institutions that promotes and sustains peace culture. • The Gada system is also based on principles of freedom, justice, and democracy, all human rights, tolerance and solidarity that rejects violence and prevents conflicts. • The Oromo Gada system has established these principles long before the western world. • Freedom is the key principle of gada system.
  • 152. Cont… • Peacemaking or conflict resolution tradition of Oromo society is a truth finding process based on the Oromo belief of truth. • Oromo believes that "Dhugaan kan waaqaati. Oromoon dhugaatti bula. Bakka dhugaan hin jirre nageenyi hin jiru; • This means “truth belongs to God. Oromo people live by truth. Where there is no truth there is no peace”.
  • 153. Cont… Gada System Compared to Western Democracy Gada system has some prominent unique features when compared to western democracies. For instance; The distribution of power across age and generations groups. Western democracy is very deficient in the distribution of power across generation and age groups.  The testing period of elected leaders. Gada system greatly believes in rigorous practical or actual testing of candidates before takeover power unlike western democracy.
  • 154. Cont… • It is possible to consider Gadaa system as an unwritten form of the nation’s covenant or constitution in modern sense. • Gadaa system is the well-crafted and nurtured traditional system of governance which protects the human rights, ensures democratic governance, rule of law and constitutionalism. • Far before the invention of all these concepts of human rights and democratic administrations and earlier than their incorporation in the well- known Human Rights Declarations and others in human history. • Gadaa system recognizes, enforces, and fulfills all these concepts of human rights and constitutionalism.
  • 155. Cont… • For instance, in 16th century, when human beings were hunted, made slave and sold like property, the Oromo people had been committed to the protection of human rights. • Therefore, the researcher strongly argued that it is possible to take account of the Gadaa system into modern constitution to strengthen and have a viable federal system of government in multi- diversified countries like Ethiopia. • Generally, it contains genuinely African solution for some of the problems that democracies everywhere have had face”.