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HomeOpinionThe Death of Gadaa and Waaqeffanna: Murder or Natural Mortality?

The Death of Gadaa and Waaqeffanna: Murder or Natural Mortality?

Yonas Biru, PhD

The Oromummaa cult and political dogma ድሩ Gedaa፣ ማጉ Waaqeffanna፣ ቀመሩ ክህደት፣ ስብእናው ውሸት ነው:: Gedaa and Waaqeffanna are dead for all practical purposes. What is left of Oromummaa cult and political dogma is ክህደት and ውሸት. In a sort of a subversive way this can be attributed to the Amhara and Tigray intellectual class whose ድር and ማግ are inspired by a wayward political theology and weaved from a delusional rich tapestry of mythology. 

What is a priority of first order is the issue of the joint death of Gadaa and Waaqeffanna. Was it murder by “Abyssinian Occupiers” as Oromo tribal intellectuals lament, or was it death caused by natural mortality bound by the cycle of life and death? 

This is a critical issue because if they were killed by outside forces, it is possible to revive them. If their deaths were caused by natural mortality, any effort to revive them will be a futile exercise. The only way one will succeed is by taking the Oromo society backward to the 16th century and force it to live in small clans. Gadaa will be suitable for such a “back-to-the future” social engineering, but Oromo will be condemned to live a life fitting of the stone ages.

The Gadaa Hoopla

The Oxford Dictionary translates hoopla as “excitement surrounding an event or situation, especially when considered to be unnecessary fuss.” There is nothing that I can imagine as being more fuss than the Gadaa brouhaha. 

Gadaa was a 16th century social governance system. By the 17th century it was socially dead – more like a medically braindead person. Gadaa is not the first traditional system to die of natural causes. Thousands of similar traditional systems have perished after they served their purpose for the time they were intended and needed. 

Let us see what Oromo tribal intellectuals say. This is how Professor Endalkachew Lelisa Duressa puts it: “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.” 

This is echoed by Professor Jalata (the Godfather of Oromummaa) 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”.

Jawar Mohammed echoed the same sentiment, stating: The Gedaa system was weakened by “population expansion and the advent of migration.” The views expressed by Jawar Mohammed, Endalkacew Duressa and Asafa Jalata are consistent. This means Gadaa’s death certificate must show “Death by Natural Causes.” 

If this is the case, why are tribal Oromummaa intellectuals pumped up and puffed up to revive an already decomposed Oromo body politics? I submit that it is their intellectual right to do so, for as long as stupidity is not a constitutionally banned political sport. What is sad is their affinity to መላዘዝ and መሟዘዝ, making grievance politics an Oromo political theology. 

Of course, neither መላዘዝ nor መሟዘዝ is explicitly outlawed in the Ethiopian or Oromo tribal land constitutions. Sorry for English speaking readers the two words are hard to translate as they are unique to Ethiopian political intellectuals of the three ethnic tribes. 

The question is: If Asafa, Endalkachew and Jawar are right in their beliefs that Gadda is not up to snuff to serve the Oromo people past the 17th century, what is the hoopla and brouhaha about resurrecting a long-decomposed Oromo body politics to life? The answer resides in Tigray and Amhara culture of መላዘዝ and መሟዘዝ.

The Imperative Comparative: How Oromo Inherited መላዘዝ and መሟዘዝ from Amhara and Tigray

The መላዘዝ and መሟዘዝ Tigryan theology revolves around the Axumite Civilization that has died somewhere between the 4th and 6th century. Tigryan intellectuals are high smoking the scroll of the Axumite civilization they salvaged from anthropological and historical archives. The following are public statements of a Tigryan distinguished professor at the University of Chicago, one of America’s best higher learning institutions, no less. “Philosopher John Lock’s [1632-1704] philosophical writings influenced the US Declaration of Independence (1776). But Tigrayan Philosophers were ahead of John Lock… Tigryan history and heritage seems to be a problem to people to the South and North of Tigray.”

The Amhara መላዘዝ and መሟዘዝ theology is no less dramatic. It goes like this: “Ethiopia contributed to world civilization, arts and literature, astronomy, mathematics, architecture, and engineering and Ethiopians were the first to invent the science of stars and gave names to the planets, not at random and without meaning, but descriptive of the qualities which they conceived them to possess, and it was from them that this art passed the Egyptians.”

That ain’t enough. Amhara politicians are just as intoxicated with the idea of resurrecting the “Geez civilization” from the ashes, rinse it up a bit and make Geez an international language to benefit the world at large. There were many international conferences to make Amharic Africa’s official language and peddle Geez as the best language since humans started talking. The leading intellectual is a distinguished professor in South Africa and a senior research associate at the Oxford University and formerly the director of research center on development studies at Aalborg University in Denmark.

The good professor believes “Ethiopia has a unique place in the universe for empowering those that were disempowered, for humanizing those that were dehumanized, spiritualizing those that were denied their right to worship God and inspiring and strengthening those oppressed to resist oppression.” He is currently spearheading a campaign to make the “Ethiopian Ge’ez alphabet as the flag and language of the new federated and united Africa.” 

The Gadaa መላዘዝ and መሟዘዝ emanates from the Ethiopian social theology of ከማን አንሼ. Asafa Jalata, the God father of Oromummaa fiction, calls Gadaa as a “Classical African Civilization.” For the good Oromo professor, Gadaa is also a global “political project.” He believes “global Oromummaa” is important in the “promotion of a global humanity that is free of all forms oppression and exploitation.” 

Ethiopian intellectuals compete in who comes up with the craziest fiction, not on who can come up with better economic model to get their people out of poverty. They talk shit about “promotion of global humanity” (Oromo), “empowering people of the world who are disempowered” (Amhara) and “influencing the US Declaration of Independence in 1776” (Tigray). Meanwhile, their people are the poorest in the world, they share drinking water with domestic and wild animals, their children drop dead like flies before they reach the age of five from diseases that can be cured with antibiotic. 

What is saddening is that each group insists that its narrative is true, but the narratives from its adversaries are false. 

 The Waaqeffanna Phenomena 

Waaqeffanna is an indigenous Oromo religion. It was the dominant religion during the Gadda reign. Today is it followed by 3.3 percent of the population in the Oromo tribal land. 

Religions like civilizations, sneakers, haircut and ጠላ (Ethiopian Beer) depend on demand and supply. Those attracting more followers or consumers grow. Those failing to do so, perish. Nations who understand this and cultures who accept this as a natural process of the cycle of life and death evolve. Those who cling to life as they knew it in centuries past find themselves in a quagmire of poverty and ደዌ, as Amhara, Oromo and Tigray do. 

Let us go back to the Waaqeffanna phenomena. In general, very little is known about it. Dr. Gemechu Megersa, a dinosaur intellectual of a sort, is the iconic defender of Waaqeffanna and Gadda. He is a tad clownish and a tad lunatic but entertaining all around. I like the guy as much as I like comedian Filfelu. Both are great in small doses if they keep their skit to two minutes.  

In a series of enlightening interviews with LTV Show, Betty asked Dr. Gemechu to explain Waaqeffanna, including if it has a holy book, an institutional setting equivalent to Churches or Mosques, bishops and priests or religious practices such as lenting and fasting. 

Dr. Megersa dodged the question four times. Finally, he said Waaqeffanna does not have institutions because they were not allowed to have Oromo institutions by successive Ethiopian governments. This is, of course, a lie. Waaqeffanna was around for over 400 years before non-Oromo governments ruled the Oromo tribal land. 

Asafa Jalata has a different explanation: The terrorist acts of Christianity and Islam “suppressed indigenous Oromo religion in order to psychologically control and dominate them.” The same sentiments are reflected in books published by the Oromo government.

Let us call upon Jawar Mohammed to shed light on this important issue. In a 76-page Oromo manifesto, Jawar asserts: “የኦሮሞ ትግልን ብንመለከት፤ ከምኒልክ ወረራ በፊት ያለው ዘመን የነፃነት እና የብልጽግና ተደርጎ ይወሰዳል።” [Before Menilik’s invasion, Oromo was free and prosperous and Gedaa was the emblem of our pride.]  Menelik’s reign was between the end of 19th century and the beginning of 20th century.  

How is Menilik and successive Ethiopian leaders after him (most of whom are of Oromo construct including Emperor Haile Selassie and Mengistu) responsible for something that happened over 400 years before they came to power? This is Oromo politics characterized by የክህደት ቀመር and የውሸት ስብእና. 

Waaqeffanna perished centuries before Menilik came to power because the supply and demand thingy favored Islam and Christianity. Truth be told, it is a cow not Ethiopian governments that did Waaqeffanna wrong. 

One thing is for sure. Waaqeffanna does not have scriptures or a holy book. Professor Tesema Ta’a, one of the leading Oromummaa intellectuals, brought to light a research work that documented: “The Whites, the Arabs and the Abyssinians [Ethiopians], each one has a book given to them by God. In the beginning Waaqa also gave the Oromo a book but a cow swallowed it. Waaqa got angry and did not give them a second book.” 

The bigger questions are: Did the naughty cow also eat the book of Oromo commonsense along with the holy book of Waaqeffanna? Did it also eat the book of Oromo ቀመር and ስብእና?

KaTefahu YiQrta 

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


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  1. What a gibberish! This guy is nonsensical. I don’t understand why he mumbo jumbo about the Oromuma intellectuals and the non-existent Amhara equivalents while Ethiopian is burning down to ashes.

  2. Well written, entertaining, and timely opinion on the debilitating pride-archeology that afflicts us at large beyond the scope of the piece. Enjoyed it. Thank you, Dr Yonas Biru.

    Let me add a-not-so-funny anecdote that had almost lighted another religious war in Abyssinia in the late 1770s. James Bruce narrates that sometime after his arrival in Gonder, he observed some deep commotion among the priests and dignitaries. He asks his confident why all these commotion, hadn’t the religious war resolved a century or so ago. His confident answers him saying, this was huge much bigger than any other Abyssinia faced before. Bruce insisted to know. The confident tells him: a well known monk from debre-libanos monastry insisted for Nabuchadenzzar (ናቡከደናጾር) to be declared Saint. The knowlegeable Itchege (እጨጌ) in Gondar refused saying Nabuchadenzzar was a pagan….. The king called Bruce to give his opinion in which he responded skillfully without taking side (I believe, writting from memory). At the end the Itchege prevailed and no war happened because of that issue.

  3. You are too wordy. Apparently, you have plenty of time on your hand. Whether those elites you mentioned are Oromo or Amhara or Tigray, each have concocted a narrative for political gain. Because it is largely a concoction (an little or no evidence) no one could make heads or tails of it–including you.

  4. Thank you for taking me back to the age of enlightenment. I had a distorted view of the Gadaa system as pseudo liberal. In fact the majority of booksh Ethiopian learned person has a habit of sleeping in the past. The majority were an outcome of “talk and chalk” education system, they lucks practicality and application of sophisticated calculus in daily life. Instead they go back to their dead ancestor old narrative and write it in modern language. They get Phd not for the content quality their writing but for ignorance of the institute who evaluate the paper.
    million thanks

    • Tarik,
      True that. It is kind of a knee jerk reaction for us to go back to histroy and draw pride in it if we hit a wall in any endevour. .At some level we end up loving any history- even if its accuracy is questionable- and we defend it even if we know fully it does not hold any water. As the old adage goes- unlearning old stuff is more difficult than learning new things.

  5. Awesome,
    Lots of haha and more of aha. So juicy. Gotta love such a rare satire with perfect blend of entertainment, bold opinion and serious messages. Some ruffled feathers are already discounting the messages, but so be it, it’s like a reward. I hope you continue swinging on the pinata of a plethora of fictitious, non-existent, mythological, and gibberish historicties and narratives that unfortunately deluded the society/elites and held them in perpetual phantom complexes.

    “Mythological and historical truths are illusions which we have forgotten are illusions” (Nietzsche)

  6. It saddens me to my core to see losing the brother in the murky and destructive narratives of ethnic name calling. Some one may try to tell me that he has no choice because others have been calling countrymen like him names. My response to that kind silly excuse is why do you have to come down to their filthy level? I have called them bigots since they started bedeviling noble people going back to the 1970’s. So why come down to their level? What we and read here is the author has degraded himself to a level devoid of any intellectual material. He is not alone. There are others on the boat so tied up with a business of denigrating others. It is really disheartening to see many intellectuals among us who are the products of those noble people going astray. Those upright people who are being besieged on all sides do not expect from those who they paid for their schools to come back to them steeped with animosity and bigotry to their historical neighbors. All I can do is go down on my knees and pray for them so they can rehab themselves back to the constructive ways. I really mean it. May The Almighty Our Creator Save That Gem of The Colored!!! Insha’Allah!!!

  7. Dr. Yonas again came up with one his anti-oromo diatribes. The historical facts he put together to fit his on going narratives about Oromo may sound plausible and convincing. I don’t see them that way. He uses them to foment discord between Amhara and Oromo intellectuals. His last paragraph is testimony to that thinking process of his. I hope many readers will see this and stay away from any unnecessary polemics. Today we have a new set of problems which requires a united efforts to solve them. We need to resist putting ourselves to dwell in the 17th century(as Dr. Yonas want us), instead focus on our current common predicaments.


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