Gada system, an indigenous democratic socio-political system of the Oromo, inscribed on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity

Gada system, an indigenous democratic socio-political system of the Oromo, inscribed on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity. This decision was made at the eleventh session of the Intergovernmental Committee for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage takes place in the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa Conference Centre in Addis Ababa, from 28 November to 2 December 2016.

Gada is a traditional system of governance used by the Oromo people in Ethiopia 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. It serves as a mechanism for enforcing moral conduct, building social cohesion, and expressing forms of community culture.

Gada is organized into five classes with one of these functioning as the ruling class consisting of a chairperson, officials and an assembly. Each class progresses through a series of grades before it can function in authority with the leadership changing on a rotational basis every eight years. Class membership is open to men, whose fathers are already members, while women are consulted for decision-making on protecting women’s rights. The classes are taught by oral historians covering history, laws, rituals, time reckoning, cosmology, myths, rules of conduct, and the function of the Gada system. Meetings and ceremonies take place under a sycamore tree (considered the Gada symbol) while major clans have established Gada centres and ceremonial spaces according to territory. Knowledge about the Gada system is transmitted to children in the home and at school.


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The #OromoProtests of 2015-16 constitute a milestone in the recent history of the Oromo nation.  More importantly, they are a continuation of a century of resistance the Oromo have mounted against a succession of ruling elites in Ethiopia who have denied Oromo nationhood, dismissed Oromo nationalism as an elite conspiracy and denigrated the Oromo people’s capacity for self-government. The #OromoProtests have proved that the Oromo are a nation unified in a common national purpose and able to pursue political goals through sophisticated civil action against a heavily armed military.

Furthermore, the heroic #OromoProtests have shown that Oromia is the epicenter of the struggle against totalitarian rule in Ethiopia. They have earned respect within and without for the young generation of Oromo and reaffirmed the longstanding observation that Oromo is a great African nation.

What has already been achieved bodes well for the challenges of the future. The Oromo people have embraced their national heritage and championed Oromummaa as a marker of dignity. The foundation of Oromo nationhood has been reestablished and the struggle for national liberation has advanced onto a higher plane.


We are now witnessing epochal events unfolding. The ancient Oromo nation is being reborn in our time in the womb of the historic #OromoProtests. A new generation of Oromo has risen with unprecedented heroism affirming the unity of the nation and in defense of Oromo national pride, heritage and civilization. The Oromo people have clearly expressed their demands for self-determination, popular sovereignty, democratic order, peace and respect for human dignity.

Oromo realize and embrace national unity as a sense of belonging and consciousness about their common values, knowledge, modes of thinking, aspirations, feelings, and behavior that bind people together.  The Oromo people inherited longstanding patterns from the gadaa civilization and are reclaiming them through an inexorable rise of national consciousness. The realization of sacred values has led to contemporary expressions of the Oromo national struggle that have united the Oromo people in Oromia to the stage that they have been able to mount a historic protest movement.

The Oromo nation has rebelled against a century-old experience of political exclusion, economic exploitation and cultural domination carried out by successive regimes. They have risen against the rule of violence with which a cabal springing from a minority group captured state power and suffocated them for many decades.  The unity that was forged at the crucible of the Oromo struggle against tyranny must now be sustained by unity held together through common heritage, common purpose and common destiny. The paradigm of Oromo nationalism is now shifting from articulating grievances to presenting forward-looking principles and demands for forming independent institutions that will become the foundation of a democratic state.


Therefore it has become imperative to call for an Oromo leadership convention. We expect the convention as a single gathering or a series of meetings of Oromos from all walks of life to gather and deliberate and issue foundational documents that will affirm the Oromo nation’s commitment to both Oromo gadaa principles of national unity and to the core precepts of gadaa governance, values and institutions in a free, democratic and self-reliant Oromia.  The following outcomes are expected.

1.  Declaration Affirming Principles of Oromo Unity and a National Consensus on Oromo Rights and Interests

This document will articulate the principles that have held the Oromo nation together in the face of colonial tyranny and a century of concerted effort to divide the Oromo along lines of region, religion and lineage. It will affirm the ways that Oromo unity is rooted in the Oromo heritage of gadaa systems-complex. This will ensure that the emergent Oromo nation is reborn of gadaaprinciples of the rule of law, commitment to equality and right of free expression for all persons, communal solidarity, collective land ownership, peacemaking and respect for human rights.

The document will articulate the Oromo nation’s commitment to the goals of democracy, sustainable and inclusive development, social peace and harmony, and fundamental human rights. Recalling that Ethiopian imperial conquests against the Oromo nation and the subsequent colonial subjugation were facilitated by Western support and technologies of coercion, the document will uphold and proclaim the Oromo nation’s self-sufficiency in terms of ideas and practices of governance and social cohesion. The Oromo national vision will exemplify our national heritage of gadaa principles of democratic governance, human development, peacemaking, and human rights.

 2.The Oromo National Charter of Freedom, Justice and Human Rights

Affirming gadaa values as a guide for a common future, the second document will restate the core demands expressed in the Oromo protest movement. In effect, it will operationalize the consensus of the Declaration in light of the current demands of the#OromoProtests. These demands include restoration of the practice of popular sovereignty, equality of individual and group rights, freedom of participation in work, industry and development, equal and unencumbered access to resources, equality before the law, freedom from oppressive rule by arbitrary decree, entitlement to personal security, protection of cultural rights and symbols, and adequate access to land, housing, education and standard of living.

3.Grand Strategyfor a CoordinatedHumanitarian and Diplomatic Effort

The diaspora plays a critical supporting role for the watershed events that have now unfolded in Oromia. The Oromo in the diaspora have stood in solidarity with the Oromo protestors. Members of the diaspora have helped in making the voices of the protestors heard around the globe. The humanitarian support effort and the diplomatic work conducted so far are an encouraging measure of solidarity and shared purpose with the protests themselves. The work on all fronts needs to go forward with equal determination but in a much more coordinated network of groups and efforts. The Convention attendees will deliberate on how to build on best practices to cultivate Oromo national organizational capacity for liberation and democratic state building.


The Convention will be a gathering composed of leaders of Oromo community associations, civic, business and professional organizations, youth and women groups, artists, faith-based groups, liberation fronts and political parties, and notable individuals. The goal is to have as broad a representation as possible. Delegates will receive the documents ahead of the gathering. At the Convention, they will consider the documents, debate, provide recommendations, amend and take decisions. All delegates will have enough time to deliver remarks to contribute to shaping the yaa’ii’s final deliberations and resolutions.


The leadership convention will take place in Atlanta, Georgia, November 11-13, 2016.


Oromo Leadership Convention Organizers

Bule Hora University Awards Honorary Doctorate Degree to Oromo Elderly wisemen

Bula Hora University (Oromia, Ethiopia) has awarded honorary Doctorate to Abba Gadaa Aagaa Xanxannoo, former Abbaa Gadaa of Guji Oromoo & Borbor Bule, a renowned Oromo Gada scholar. I would like to thank Bula Hora University for the recognition it has given to these Oromo elders for their contribution to the revival of the Gada System. Last year, I had the opportunity to meet Borbor Bule when I traveled to Borena for a research work and this was what I wrote about him and shared h on facebook at that time.

Milkiisaa Cimdeessaa's photo.
Photo of Borbor Bule (after he received his honorary Doctorate Degree from Bule Hora University

“During my stay in Borena, I talked to the Borena elders, particularly, Borbor Bulle, the man who is known in the whole Borena for his knowledge of history, culture and values of the Borena Oromo. Many researchers, particularly, in the area of social anthropology, such as Professor Asmerom Legesse, Dr. Gemechu Megersa and many others have used this man as a key informant for writing their PhD theses and other researches on the Borena Oromo. Some people say he is a living book.

He knows every details about the Borena Oromo and its institutions. Ask him about the Gada System, and he will narrate it to you beautifully. Speak to him about marriage, and he will tell you about it more than what you need. What about traditional conflict resolution? He will explain it to you in an amazing way. Everybody knows him. Mention Borbor Bule to an ordinary Borena guy and he will say, ” Borbor Bule you are asking? He is the the Hayyu Duree (expert) of the history and culture of the Borena Oromo.” Even children as young as Naabeek (my four year old son) knows about Borbor Bulle. He has never been to a formal school, but he can read and write. He is never tired of talking about Borena and their culture. Any person/scholar who wants to conduct his study on the Borena Oromo, the first thing s/he needs to do is speaking to Borbor Bule.

Any research on Borena that doesn’t incorporate Obbo Borbor Bule’s narration is not worth reading. Obbo Borbor Bule is in his early 70’s, has seven children and lives in Dubuluk, a small town, about 60kms far from the capital, Yabello. He is physically huge and you can spot him from anywhere.

I am so happy that I have had the privilege to speak to Obbo Borbor Bule with whom I talked for more than two hours. Let Waaqaa give him more years to live so that he will share his endless knowledge to the young generation.”

Photo: With Borbor Bule @ Dubuluk, Borena (May2015)


Irreechaa: Color & Treasure of Oromo

Thank you so much Amensisa Ifa for the wonderful job you have done to promote Irreechaa. This documentry is the first of its kind that I have seen that attempts to bring Irreecha, The Thanks Giving Day, celeberated every year by millions of Oromos at Hora Arsedi in Bishoftu to the attention of the world.

Very little attention has been given to this colourful celeberation that we find nowhere in the world but Oromia. The media in the country that claim to be the voice of diversity (EBC, for example) have purposely ignored Irreecha though it deserves a live coverage, promotion and apprecaition. TV Oromiya, which is owned and operated by Oromia Regional state has done less than what is expected from it in promoting Irreechaa. This year what OBS TV did was very encouraging as its journalists followed the whole event and helped us see it at our homes.

Here comes, your documentry which I really liked watching because it is produced in such a way that it gives the picture of Irreecha to those who don’t know about it. We need to do a lot of promotion work as Irreecha has been nominated by UNESCO to be inscribed as the world intangible cultural heritage along with the Gada system. As an Oromo, I am very much proud of you, my brother, as you have set an example to all of us and we have learnt a lot from you.I hope that you will keep on doing what you are doing now. We will be on your side as this is not only your responsiblity; it is also our responsiblity to promote our culture, develop our language and rewrite our history. VIVA Amensisa Ifa!!RESPECT YOU!https: