Home Opinion Sheger City and Gadaa are Oromummaa’s Mirage of Castle in the Sky

Sheger City and Gadaa are Oromummaa’s Mirage of Castle in the Sky


Yonas Biru, PhD

Since elementary school, I have been taught to start an essay with an introduction, followed by the body of the essay and ended with a summary conclusion. Please allow me to violate what I have been taught since elementary school and start with the conclusion of my article: What a fucked-up bunch of idiots are leading the Oromo tribal land?

If Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed’s new palace and its opulent satellite city spreading across 503 hectares is estimated to cost $15.3 billion, one can imagine how much it would cost the Oromo tribal land to build Sheger City. Remember it is sprawling across an area of 1,600 square kilometers (160,000 hectares). To put the cost in perspective, the price tag for Egypt’s new city that covers 700 square kilometer (70,000 hectares) is $59 billion. Even if you assume Sheger will cost only 33 percent of that of the New Cairo per square kilometer, the cost can be well over $51 billion without taking inflation and foreign currency crunch into consideration. Anyone who believes that Sheger City is a real project is a gullible soul. 

Sheger City has two objectives. The first objective is to serve as a pretext to evict non-Oromos from the Oromo tribal land. According to the World Population Review, “close to half of the population of Addis Ababa is of the ethnic group Amhara, while the majority of the remaining population is split among the groups Oromo, Gurage, and Tigray.” The African Cities Research Consortium provides more specific data, showing Amhara (47%), Oromo (19.5%), Gurage (16.3%) and Tigray (6.2%) as the four largest tribal groups.

As the population of Addis Ababa grew, people spread outward and settled on its outskirts. It is, therefore, reasonable to assume the tribal demography on the outskirts of Addis Ababa will not be significantly different from that of Addis Ababa. This means around 80 percent of the people living on the outskirts of Addis Ababa are non-Oromo. 

Not all houses that the Oromo government demolished were built illegally, as the Ethiopian Human Rights Commission has reported. The demolition and eviction process are not motivated by the desire to establish law and order. Nor is it driven by a plan to build Ethiopia’s largest city. It is all about ethnic cleansing. 

Second, Shgere City is the equivalent of the delusional “Mekele Smart City” that TPLF was supposed to build. After TPLF left Addis Ababa and hankered in Mekele, the bustling Tigrayan economy that was supported with looted resources from the rest of the country started to cool off and eventually came to a halt. TPLF had to channel the energy and anger of the people (particularly the youth) by instilling a sense of Tigrayan nationalism. 

The TPLF strategy was to preoccupy the people with Tigrayan exceptionalism, exalting their culture, heroism, and virtues above all other tribes. The people of Tigray were made to believe they are the alpha tribe, the Israel of Africa. War, they were convinced, is their pastime. Their red flag with yellow emblem became part of their wardrobe, from their hats to their socks and everything in between. 

They started painting their cows, horses, and pets red and yellow. Even meetings of TPLF’s foreigner advisors (Martin Plaut, Alex de Waal, Kjetil Tronvoll, William Davidson, and Rashid Abdi) were decorated with Tigrayan flag. They used photoshoped smart city designs of Mekele with high-rises. They went as far as announcing The North Star Business Group was formed and ready with a “plan to establish #Tigray based airlines.” Pilots and hostesses attended the Business Groups meeting with Tigray Airlines pilot and hostess uniform. Mekele was touted to become the largest and most modern city in Ethiopia with its own international airlines. 

The people’s empty stomachs were desensitized by their adrenalin filled brains. Their decimated careers and businesses were compensated by their overhyped nationalist social psychology. Sadly, their dreams and hypes were crashed by the weight of hard reality. Today, neither the cows nor the people wear the red and yellow banner. 

The area designated for Sheger city is still in ጋሪ and ኩራዝ era. In reality, Sheger city is the equivalent of TPLF’s photoshoped smart city and international airline.

The Oromo government’s strategy is to preoccupy the restive unemployed Oromo youth with Oromo nationalism. President Shimelis’ touts the imaginary city as the largest city in Ethiopia with a potential to produce Africa’s largest GDP. Imagine a small area in the Oromo tribal land having the potential to produce Africa’s largest GDP, overpassing Nigeria, Egypt, and South Africa. The Chinese have a proverb: “Don’t tell obvious lies that make you look stupid.”

Trying to Go Forward in a Reverse Gear with Gadaa

Gadaa is a 16th century Oromo governance system that was practiced in limited areas of the Oromo tribal land. Successive Oromo intellectuals including advocates of Oromummaa acknowledge it has died of a natural death like thousands of old traditional systems had died around the world.  Professor Endalkachew Lelisa Duressa wrote the eulogy of Gadda as follows: “Due to the geographical expansion of the Oromo territory and an increasing population, the central Gadaa government declined beginning in the mid-17th century and autonomous regional and local republics took its place.”

Professor Asafa Jalata, the God father of Oromummaa explains how Gadaa is incompetent for the 21st century as follows: “The nonfederal nature of the Gadaa System, lack of Strong Central government, lack of regular meeting of Gadaa official and long distance of Gumii (assembly) from political center made Gadaa system less Competent”.

Today, the Oromummaa community and Oromo-PP led by Shimelis Abdissa are trying to resurrect Gadaa from the dead. Shimelis declared: “Gadaa is the Future of Ethiopia”, falsely claiming it is “a holistic and deep philosophy with thousands of years practice in human life and strong institutions.” At best Gadaa lasted from 16th century to the beginning of 19th century (300 years). The claim of “thousands of years” is a blatant lie. Did I mention that the Chinese have a proverb: “Don’t tell obvious lies that make you look stupid!”

The question is: If Gadaa lost its competence centuries ago, as Professor Jalata acknowledged, how can it be of interest in the 21st century? It is not only the Oromo government that is aspiring to make Ethiopia under the Gadaa system. One of the leading Oromo elites envisions that Ethiopia will be “slowly, but surely, transformed to Gadaa democratic Ethiopia, i.e. de facto Great Oromia.” 

Neither the Oromo government nor its tribal intellectual coteries are able to come to terms that Gadaa is a 16th century tradition whose time has long expired. Gadaa belongs to anthropological books because it is incompatible with the 21st century complex social, political, and economic developments. The Oromo government and Oromummaa intellectuals are not worried about the development of the Oromo tribal land. Their interest is building Oromo nationalism, touting Gadda as “an example of classical African civilization.”

Rather than spending billions to teach the Oromo youth math and science and prepare it for the future, the Oromo government is resurrecting the ghosts of Gadaa to help it overcome the scientific challenges of the 21st century with 16th century tools. The people of Oromo are already suffering the consequences. 

In the most resent college entrance national exams, the Oromo tribal homeland lagged behind the national average. For example, the average scores for all subjects by regions were, Addis Ababa (38.46%), Harari (32.88), Dire Dawa (31.42%), Amhara (30.37%), Sidama (28.34), Southern People (28.17), and Oromo (27.96). Oromo performed below Amhara in almost all areas. Of the top 5 best performing high schools in the nation, three were in Amhara and one in Oromo. Further, Amhara performed better than the national average by 9 percentage points. Oromo was under by 41 percentage points.

Japan and China had far more developed and sophisticated traditional institutions and governance infrastructures than Gadaa. However, Japan under the Meiji Restoration Period and China under Deng Xiaoping figured out one cannot go forward in a reverse gear. They adopted western practices, just like the founding fathers of the US in the 18th century modeled their democracy after Greece’s system of self-government. It is sad to see Oromo tribalists embracing an expired village ritual when modern societies are exploring best practices from around the world.

It is hard to blame the Oromo alone. The sense of “we have the best tradition” is a chronic problem throughout Ethiopia. We need to remember “Tigryan exceptionalism” is what led to a spectacularly exceptional self-destruction of the TPLF. It is the same mindset that has chained hermitized Amhara intellectuals to distant centuries. 

We, the people of Ethiopia are cursed with imagined greatness with stories of glorious past that are not relevant to the present or future challenges of Ethiopia. I cannot think of anything of significance that we have contributed to the World, outside of two plant-based medicines, including ድንገተኛ. Our people still use ድንገተኛ because they do not have access to, or they cannot afford, amoxicillin. The Oromo fictional greatness of Gadaa is the equivalence of ድንገተኛ in a world where health science is advancing at a dizzying speed in gene therapy, telemedicine, artificial intelligence, and neurotechnology. 

In Conclusion

What a fucked-up bunch of idiots are leading the Oromo tribal land.

Editor’s note : Views in the article do not necessarily reflect the views of borkena.com 


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  1. Where are the so called hermitized Amhara intellectuals the past half century , Dr Yonas ? Dispossessed of their meager resource during land to the tiller campaign , killed in mass during the brutal Derg regime mostly made up , in retrospect , of one tribal group leadership co-opting the student movement of the 1960’s , they left the country and have settled in the West.
    Many if not most are what you call the hermitized Amhara intellectuals. The marginalization of the same group has continued during the TPLF regime and continued with vengeance under the Abiy’s Oroma tribal team.
    Let us see what happened during the purported golden age of Amhara rule under Menilik and Haile Sillassie : Introduction of secular education , the first modern hospitals , the first colleges and universities , the first rail road , telecommunications , the use of electricity, the founding of Ethiopian Airlines, becoming the founding member of the UN , serving in Korea and Congo under the UN banner , bringing OAU to Addis Abeba.
    This what was accomplished by people who you have label as hermitized Amhara intellectuals. Dr Yonas, you have lived long enough to know that they considered themselves to be Ethiopians , not tribal this or tribal that.
    Your writing appears to be an attempt to be provocative. However, it has become an epitome of false equivalence.

  2. I am not sure where we are heading with all the nonsense that is taking place today in Ethiopia. It seems that we have gone from bad to worse in the past 50 years thanks to our tribalist intelligentsia. I am convinced that our presumed “uneducated” ancestors had more good sense than all our graduates from prestigious and not so prestigious western universities. What the modern so called educated class has engaged in is how to re-hash and exacerbate old and new, real or imagined, grievances. “The responsibility of intellectuals is not only to speak the truth and to expose lies”, as is often sated, but also to find the best political and social arrangements to a peaceful, equitable and just society. In the grip of hubris, tribalist intellectuals are not only propagating an ideology of hate and resentment, but promising unrealizable and imaginary greatness for their respective constituents. No one is against ethnic equity and recognition. Why not work for them, instead of vengeance, dominance and expropriation. We know where these will lead: to civil strife, hatred, and ultimate destruction. Whether you call it Amhara historic eminence, Oromummaa, or Tigrean exceptionalism, it matters not one wit. They will all lead ultimately lead to a failed state.

  3. My phone is ringing.

    Hello! Who is this?
    Hi Ittu, it is me.
    Hi there Af-mishar.
    I just remember something I did not talk about last time
    What was that?
    It is about citizenship as it applies to Ethiopia.
    What about it?
    There is no such thing about it. There is no status called Ethiopian citizenship. I am not alone on that discovery. I have my friend from Eritrea here with me. He was educated in Ethiopia but now lives here among us. His name is Know It All.
    Okay, put him on.
    Hi Ittu.
    Hi there! What is your name again?
    Know It All. I am the only one who knows about the non-existing Ethiopia and the airtight united Eritrea. My Eritrea has a solid sense national citizenship for and by its citizens which Ethiopia does not.
    How do you come up with this biased conclusion? No wonder why you call yourself Know It All.
    There is no such thing as Ethiopian citizenship. Ethiopia was created by force.
    Well, wasn’t the present day Eritrea founded by force? What was a decade old and bloody conflict/war between ELF and EPLF? Wasn’t that for ‘unity’?
    Ittu. I think Af-mishar was right. You have been spending too much time with Amharas and Tigres.
    What is the problem with that?
    I don’t like those two and anything that has Ethiopia in it. What my EPLF did in 1980-82 by driving out ELF was 100% right but what Amharas, Tigres and Gobena’s Oromos did in the 1880’s was wrong for creating unity by force. Both Tedros and Menelik were not emperors but overlords. Look at what you folks to Italians and my ancestors at Adwa in 1896?
    We kicked their sorry asses for invading our country.
    Ittu, stop saying ‘our country’. The Italians were there with good intentions.
    What was that?
    To civilize you folks. A decade earlier those Italians came to my Eritrea and told us they were there to civilize us. We said ‘of course. Come on in’. The rest is history. Look at us now. If you talk to any Eritrean it won’t take you too long to find out that we are far more advanced in a way we think and communicate. We are more civilized than anyone in the continent. That is the reason why we have been uneasy about joining IGAD and the AU. We make the best lasagna and sugo alla bolognese in the world. Our wine is the finest in the world. Our espresso is rated the best in the history of coffee drinking. Eat your hearts out Ittu. There is no such thing as Ethiopian citizenship. But my Eritrea has a solid citizenship. Period!
    Take a friggin’ walk bigot!!! Take your Know It All asses back to the dumpsite in Al-Qahirah where you have been scavenging for decades. I’m glad to know Brother Isaias has been kicking your tails so bad that you thought you were caught robbing a bank.

  4. QUOTE: “They will all lead ultimately lead to a failed state” UNQUOTE

    Unfortunately and sadly, you hit the nail. and the admirable history of Ethiopia is definitely heading to a bad END!!!



  5. A pie in the sky indeed. The obsession with tlsuch destructive and backward looking project of particular tribal greatness by the Oromumaa disciples is not only preposterous and absurd but it is also hurting even more and very destructive idea economically, psychologically and realistically for the Ethiopian masses including the poverty-stricken average Oromo folks. Modern and civilized society with a complex set of socio-economic, politico and ethnic make up cannot function with it, if not to the contrary. There must an alternative and forward looking option for a holistic and realistic solutions as per current problems and for future development as nation. Nothing positive and progress would come out from destruction of holy sites, desecrating of religious heritage, bulldozing tin and wooden huts and whole shabby neighborhoods teeming up with millions of poverty-ridden citizens. Whoever come with this idea is either in state of grandeur delusion, or has idiotic state of mindsets or has nefarious and destructive agendas in mind. Only time will tell of which one.

  6. A pie in the sky indeed. The obsession with such destructive and backward looking project of particular tribal greatness by the Oromumaa disciples is not only preposterous and absurd but it is also hurting even more and very destructive idea economically, psychologically and realistically to the Ethiopian masses including the poverty-stricken average Oromo folks. Modern and civilized society with a complex set of socio-economic, politico and ethnic make up cannot function with it, if not to the contrary true. There must an alternative and forward looking option for any holistic and realistic solutions as per current problems and for future development as a nation. Nothing positive and progress would come out from destruction of holy sites, desecrating of religious heritage and bulldozing tin/wooden huts and whole shabby neighborhoods teeming up with millions of poverty-ridden citizens. Whoever come with this idea is either in a state of grandeur delusion, or has an idiotic state of mindsets or has nefarious and sinister destructive agendas in mind. Only time will tell of which one.

  7. During the announcement of so called sheger city construction and development, the murderous thug and hoodlum aka regional president shimeles abdissa, said the following comical and absurd grandeur of delusion : “ in 50 years sheger city will become the leading economic center of Africa”. The thug pulled all these predictions out of his sorry ***without any factual basis- and the people clapped.

    So called sheger city will be the only city in the entire world built in advance to be settled afterwards. The incompetence and stupidity of these thugs, their lack of grasp of even the rudiments of responsible administration, management, and public service is mind boggling.

    Cities and towns are living and bustling creations of human settlements. The establishment and development of cities and towns arise out of the needs for basic necessities by none other the city dwellers : the police force, fire brigades, schools, religious centers, roads, water plants, waste disposal centers, hospitals and on and on all are constructed by the people for the people. Yes even the job post of a mayor was created by city inhabitants. In the developed world, mayoral posts are the most challenging and demanding administrative positions in city governments. The public expects much from mayors. Also it is the public i.e. the resident of a city that determines whether a mayor is fit to live in the city, not the mayor deciding who has the right to live in a city.

    በሰለጠነው አለም እንድ አዳነች አበቤ ያለ የዘቀጠና ተራ ፖለቲካ አራማጅ የኦሮሙማ ካድሬና ምንደኛ አዲስ አበባ ሳትወለድ: ሳታድግ በማታውቀው በማያገባት ከተማ ሁሉንልሰልጥቅ ልዋጥ ባይ ቅብዝብዝ ለአንዲት ቀንም ቢሆን በዚህ ሁሉ ነውረኛ ተግባሯ ህዝብ ላይ እንደ መዠገርና እንደ ትኳን ተጣብቃ ህዝቡን አትበዘብም ነበር:: ቀጥታ ስተዘርፍ የህዝብ ሃብት ስታዘርፍ ከስልጣኗ ተወግዳ ዘብ ጥያ በህግ ፊት orange suit ለብሳ በሽቦ በታጠረው የእስር ቤቷ በህዝብ ፍርድ ቤት የተጎናጨችውን ፅዋ ትጎነጭ ነበር::

    አሁንም ቢሆን በህገ መንግስቱ አንቀፅ 12 ንዑስ አንቀፅ 1:2: እና 3 መሰረት በማድረግ ከስልጣኗ መነሳት ወይንም recallመደረግ አለባት::

    The modern sewage processing and waste disposal system of London still in effect, was the creation of Engineer Joseph Bazalgette, who in the 1850s worked on a practical problem, “the Great Stink” and transformed London into the modern bustling international capital of today.

    ከንቲባ ተብዬዋን ህዝብ መጠየቅ: የጋዜጣና መገናኛ ብዙሃን ሁሉ ላይ መነሳት ያለበቻው ጉዳዮች:

    1) የአዲስ አበባ ህዝብ ውሃ ፍላጎት
    2) ያልተቋረጠ የኤሌክትሪክ አገልግሎት ማግኘት
    3) የተጨመላለቀው የትራፊክ እና መንገድ ትንቅንቅ መፍትሄ
    4) የህዝቡ በሰላም ገብቶ መውጣት ዋስትና
    5) የዳቦ ዋጋ
    6) ወዘተ ነው

    የኦሮሙማ አባ ገዳዮች በ21 ኛው ክፍለ ዘመን evolution የዛሬ 400 አምት በፊት አሃክ እንትፍ ብሎ የተፋውንና የታራክ ማህደር ውስጥ shelf አድርጎ ያስቀመጠውን የገዳ ስርአት እንደገና በሁሉም ህዝብ ላይ እንጭናለን የሚል ቅዠት ለአዲስ አበቤውም ሆነ ለሌላው ማህበረሰብ ፋይዳ ቢስእንቶ ፈንቶ ነው::

    ዘመናዊ የወንጀል ምርመራ ሳይንስ በተስፋፋበት ዘመን forensic science, criminology ባሉበት ዘመን አፈርሳታ አውጫጭኝ እንደማይታለም ሁሉ የግዳም ስርአት ዲሞክራሲን ይበልጣል ብሎ የሚጃጃለውን የኦሮሙማ “ቆሞ ቀር” አባ ገዳይ ምን ይሉታል?????

    እውነትም “ቆሞ ቀር”. 16ኛው ክፍለ ዘመን ላይ ተጣብቆ ተለጥፎ የቀረ አባ ገዳይ ብቻ!!!!!!

  8. The writer of this commentary Dr. Yonas Biru should know and accept the truth that Tigrayans are exceptional and are people with a long and unique history. To describe Tigray as a tribal land and lump it together with tribes with low level of social and cultural developments is totally wrong. Because Tgray is one of the oldest nations in the world and its ancient territories extended beyond the red sea. Tigray was a major power in the Red Sea and had a powerful naval force and presence there.

  9. How dare you call Menelik as the Great? How dare you? This is it! I just got ordained as a leader of a temple and had moved it to Minnesota. I am gonna summon all my followers there and I will order every one of my 15,000 believers to commit a mass suicide because you call Menelik as the Great. I will leave a note for the FBI to charge you for murdering me and my followers. How dare you call Menelik ‘The Great Emperor’? In fact, we have already committed suicide this morning at dawn right at the center of St. Paul and Minneapolis and were joined by professors in Virginia, Michigan, Tennessee and Gourdie from Down Under. Af-mishar, Pants On Fire and Know-It-All were also with us when committing the mass exodus to oblivion. Because you called Menelik ‘The Great Emperor’ you will be held responsible as an accessory for the mass suicide.
    Btw, Knot-It-All had asked me to tell you this before he committed suicide with us. ‘There is no country Ethiopia as such. There is no citizenship in Ethiopia because there has never been a sense of citizenship in Ethiopia. There will never be a nation-state. But his country of Secondo Italia is all that’. Hey, don’t be mad at me for that. I am just passing along his message. Don’t kill a messenger here.

  10. Quote ‘The cities in Ethiopia are unattractive because they are not like the cities in Eritrea and Somalia.’ and unquote ala Af-mishar and Know-It-All.

  11. Excellent piece. The parallel between Tigray and Oromo nationalism is so on point. Where to go from here? The ones holding all levers of power are hell bent on an ethnic cleansing campaign. They are on a mission of cultural Jihad and they will not change course unless they are pressured to a breaking point. And I think the best pressure point is with the Amara. It will take a big sacrifice, but the rank and file leadership has to step up and remove the top leadership; and break from the PP alliance. I say the rank and file because the top leadership has lost credibility and the confidence of the people. Some are neck deep into corruption. Corrupt or not, all of them are scared shitless of meeting the same fate as Girma YeshiTla, The low-level leadership on the other hand feel the pain and wrath of their constituents. So they must organize to force a resignation of the top leadership and take over on their next ጉባኤ. Having done so, they must immediately declare they are parting ways from the parent PP. It is this change in the balance of power that will bring Abiy to his knees and be forced to renegotiate the future of Ethiopia with all its stakeholders anew. I can see a good role in support of this goal by the “intellectual class” the author is obsessed with.

  12. Dear Editors,

    Amidst all this wrangling going around on about this and about that regarding the old country I want to bring your attention to one bright spot nobody is talking about. It is about a feat that will live as legendary for generations to come. It is about the unmatched accomplishment by our very dear daughter/sister Dr. Lia bint Tadesse. She has brought the deadly pathogen down to its knees since it arrived at that gem of the colored 3 years ago. She faced off the demon and that was Covid-19 that blinked. The last one month daily data is the evidence. More than 90% of the days the daily count has been like this:
    Daily New Case = Goose egg
    Daily Death = Zilch
    Daily Severe Cases = Nada
    In the country of more than 125 million people, as of today, there are only 5,200 active cases.
    This shows how our women are natural born problem solvers and geniuses. Please join me in nominating Dr. Lia bint Tadesse for the highest honor that country can bestow.
    That country was extremely lucky that the job of leading the fight against this deadly pandemic was not given to one of those men. It could have been a blood bath.
    Btw, there were more than 5 new cases one of those days a few weeks ago. I bet you all of them were some of those commies from Beijing who entered the country illegally to steal that country’s gold and other precious metals.

  13. Failed country, that’s all i am going to say, it’s really a shame! 21 century


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