Who Owns Addis Ababa?

Addissu Admas

I am not sure what the claim “Addis Ababa belongs to Oromia” means or implies. Does it mean that all non-Oromo Addis Abebans should now pack-up their belongings, load them up on buses, trains, mules, donkeys, and God knows what else, and vacate the city and trudge to their respective ethnic enclaves? Does it mean that beginning a certain date Addis Abebans will become resident aliens in their own native city and must apply to the Oromia Killil for permission to stay in the Capital? Does it mean that, not only Addis Ababa will, from now on, be known as Finfinne, but Oromiffa will become its only official language? Does it mean Addis Ababa will be entirely under Oromia’s jurisdiction, with all the consequences that such status dictates? And as a consequence of this will the federal government become a “host” of Oromia Killil? The questions, as one can clearly see don’t end here; there are many more that need answers.

I think that native Addis Abebans are owed an explanation by the radicals and provocateurs who appear to be solely intent at destabilizing an already destabilized nation. The simple fact of the matter is that as long as Ethiopia remains a nation composed of federal states (Killils), the current constitution has determined that Addis Ababa remain an independent Killil with no particular ethnicity to claim it as its own. From the historical perspective, the claim that the land upon which Addis Ababa was built belonged to Oromos from time immemorial is hardly a defensible one. The history of the entire region is one of a constant movement and resettlement of peoples. The question should not be one of “who owned the land first” but “how can we come together to forge a peaceful co-existence”. The primary cause of war in history has been claims over lands that could have been shared peaceably. And wars have rarely settled land issues permanently. They have in fact exacerbated existing enmities. The ugly belligerence displayed by some extremist Oromo individuals and parties can only galvanize non-Oromos to respond in kind. To hope for a solution to come out from confrontation, hostility, or outright war rather than from dialogue and negotiation is a pernicious delusion.

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One thing that those extremist Oromo nationalists must understand is that cities, especially large capitals of nations, are not only multiethnic, but are in most cases cosmopolitan by necessity. Capital and large cities have never belonged de facto to any one particular “ethnicity”. By their very constitution they are meant to be spaces in which all humanity can come together, interact, intermingle, intermarry, etc… To claim them as belonging to an ethnic group is as retrograde as it is narrow-minded. The fact that a language prevails in a large or capital city is most often the result of historical happenstance than the consequence of deliberate policy. Trying to change such state of affair is a pure exercise in futility.

I am not here to belittle the injustices suffered by the Oromo people and their quest for a more equitable political arrangement. My issues are with the unreasonable demands made by the more extremist Oromo leaders and groups. I do not believe that it is unreasonable nor unjustifiable, on the other hand (and I have stated this before elsewhere) that Oromiffa become a second official language not only in Addis Ababa but in Ethiopia at large. We have many examples from around the world where such practice has done a great deal in promoting the peaceful coexistence of people of diverse ethnicities.

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As any large capital city, Addis Ababa will inevitably be expanding even faster than in previous decades; and land will become an even bigger issue than it has been so far. Instead of arrogantly and dismissively dealing with the Oromo people of the hinterland, as the previous Woyane dominated administration has done, the government of Addis Ababa along with the federal government should seek to find an equitable solution to the problem. In essence, the city of Addis Ababa must consider itself quite simply as any individual purchaser of land willing to pay at market value land it wants to annex. Or better yet, to allow private and corporate parties to purchase land directly from the people in the hinterland with the proviso that it remain under the jurisdiction of Addis Ababa.

Unfortunately, these alternatives are the only ones we can envision under the current constitutional arrangements, which, not ironically, are at the source of the whole problem. Ideally, a more rational and lasting solution can only come with the complete overhaul of the current constitution. And it appears that not much has been debated on this crucial issue, i.e. the need to re-work or re-write the constitution, which in effect will determine – hopefully positively – the future of the country.

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  1. The owner of Finfinne is the great Oromo nation. The social, economic and political right’s of its residents will be fully respected. The thesis of greedy  politicians cannot change historical facts. One of the hard dying Anti-Oromo individuals are the so called Eskinder Nega,  Ermias Legesse (the chameleon) and the ignorant Reyot Alemu. They  are toxic and hatemongers. 

    Finfinne is not an island and cannot stand by itself. It depends in all aspects on Oromia. Mind you: Without Oromia no Finfinne! Without the whole Oromia including Finfinne there will be no Ethiopia. Thus, it is your choice to live with this great nation in peace or to face unnecessary confrontation. Your noises can not change the truth of ownership and natural rights of the Oromo nation.

    You are new comers to the region. Read the following short piece: According to Dr. Eduard Glaser, a renowned Austrian epigraphist and historian, Habeshas were originally from Southeastern Yemen who lived east of the Hadhramaut kingdom in the modern district of Mahra. He believed the etymology of Habesha must have derived from the Mahri language which means “gatherers” (as in gatherers of incense). He asserted that the Mahrites and their language should be regarded as the descendants of the people and speech of ancient Habeshas.

    The demands of the Oromo people are the ownership of the city itself and the development of afaan Oromoo and Oromo culture in the city. Of course the basic human rights and all social, cultural and economic rights of the residents of the Finfinne city will be respected at the individual and group levels fully. Beyond that the self rule of the city will be respected. But it should not contradict itself with the interests of the Oromo nation. The main problem is not about the rights of the residents in Finfinne but about Oromo phobia. Some stone minded individuals hate the Oromo people ever day.

    Ethiopia cannot go back to the old era. Nobody can impose it’s hagemoy more in Oromia. The integrity of Oromia including Finfinnee will be untouchable. The Oromo nation has been fighting injustice and subjugation in it’s homeland, Oromia in order to regain it’s human dignity as one of the great nations of East Africa.You can keep crying and insulting. But it will not bring back the inhuman eras of the rotten and eradicated systems. They have gone for good and will not came back again.

  2. First within the next two years we plan to make Afan Oromo the official working language in Finnfinne.Within five years from now we know Afan Oromo will be the official national language.Whoever that donot like this idea we urge them to be civilised about it and refrain from useless resistance.We donot have any room for those that try to sabotage us, so yes we might even send those that don’t behave out of Finfinne. We fought to make this happen for generations that is why we will not let it slip out of our hand.

    • Dear Olana,
      An English proverb says, “If wishes were horses, poor people would have ridden them.”You tried to tell us that the Habeshas came from Yemen and were immigrants while Oromo people were indigenous. Your wishes depended on blatant fallacies: 1) First of all, Ethiopians by large were indigenous; more people migrated to other countries than immigrated to Ethiopia;
      2) If you believe that the Habeshas are alien, the Oromo people are Habeshas, unless you want to deny the Kushitic queens and kings that ruled Ethiopia before and after the birth of Jesus Christ, and saying all of us are immigrants. The other fact that you can go back only a few hundred years and prove from history is that Oromo people did not live not only in Shewa, but also in Wellega, Jimma, and even Bale before families of Barthuma and Borana moved westwards first to Bale and then to other parts of the country before which time Ethiopian kings ruled as far as Indian ocean and Red Sea from Shewa, and most of the “Oromo” people of today do not belong to Barthuma and Borana families’ blood assimilated people not belonging to indigenous other Ethiopians. If this history is not in your mind, the whole world knows and this past history cannot be changed by wishes.
      3) I do not support such arguments since such tribal demarcation is narrow and undemocratic by nature that does not move human progress forward but backward. What you simply try to advocate is development of Oromo language which can only be through development of the economy and culture.

  3. It was the area up-to Bale that was under The Zagwe Dynasty which was the great Abyssinian (Amara, Tigress, Ago, And Beth Israel ). By this Time The Oromo ( former Galla )did not start its immigration to the present lands. It moved B/c of land pressure and change of climatic conditions. The Oromo ( Galla ) didn’t start its movement from Haro Wollabo to cross the source of Wabi and Genale rivers. It was under complete control the Shewa Region beginning 12 century under the capital city Yerer which is now near Nazareth. There were many other, too,established the christian kingdom from invading Moslims by the help of Turks, These were Tegulet and bulga, Entoto, Furi, Mt. Ziquala, Lake Haike in Wollo,Furi, Menagesha,Wechecha, and Menz, It means there were ten of them moving capital cities, for the purpose of war strategy and protection of the area from in coming invaders, like especially in from Muslims resistances beginning 12th century who were responsible for the immigration of Oromo ( former Galla) This was confirmed by By Aleka Tekle Eyesus Wakjira WHO wrote the history of ethiopia. Mohamed Gragn Betiyit sigeder endih ale ” Bimotem Ayikochegnim Gallan tekichalehu”.So,” Wusha bekeded JIb yigebal”. It does not mean Galla is not Ethiopians, acceding me, but never the Oromoes ( Gallas) own the Abyssinian’s land and Addis Ababa, too. By that time they were under primitive life just started pastoral farming while the Abyssinian’s were both pastoral and Agriculturists. Please meddling and deleting hisory as we see in an internet is morally corrupt and unacceptable. The present Oromos Are writing their history beginning 18thand 19th century in an internet. I adivce them-if they go back simlpe hisory that was written by Dr, Lapiso and Larebo. Or go back on research what Abba Bahrey wrote in 1593 and stop the hisory of oromo writton by SElay Missionaries ( eg Krapf), Diplomats who were preparing you for colonialists. THe name Galla is as good as the word Oromo. There was no reason to change it. I grew and born in Guji zone, I do have my own findings after making my own research. Tsegaty and Eskael are myth writers and poor interview participants.

  4. Addis Ababa will remain a Federal Territory no matter what! Addis Ababa existed since time immemorial. Finfinne came yesterday. End of story.

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