Gadaa

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Gadaa (in older spelling: Gada) is the traditional social stratification system of Oromo males in Ethiopia and northern Kenya; it is also practiced by the Gedeo people of southern Ethiopia. Each class, or luba, consists of all of the sons of the men in another particular class. The entire class progresses through eleven different grades, each based on an eight-year cycle, and each with its own set of rights and responsibilities.

As of 1990, Gadaa had active adherents only among the Borana and Guji groups near the Ethiopian-Kenyan border. Though the Gadaa system itself is no longer widely practiced, it remains influential in Oromo society at large. Historically, it has been seen as a better method of governing than other forms in the region. However, the Gadaa had all the shortcoming and problems like that of the monarchial Oromo and monarchial non-Oromo Ethiopian systems of governance.[citation needed] In regions where the Oromo immigrated and conquested, including around the Sidama and Somali, the Gadaa system was oppressive in practice, though proclaimed as democratic and just in Oromo oral tradition. According to ethnohistorian Ulrich Braukämper, minorities and those who assimilated, like the Hadiyya, were "considered to be of a lower social status than the 'pure' Oromo and did not possess equal rights in the Gadaa system."[1]

Research[edit]

A number of scholars have studied Gadaa. Legesse [2] has written that Gadaa is "one of the most astonishing and instructive turns the evolution of human society has taken". In addition to his Harvard PhD dissertation, Legesse has published a book [3] positioning Gadaa as an African democracy that could inform constitutional thinkers. The late Donald Levine has said[4] that Gadaa is "one of the most complex systems of social organization ever devised by the human imagination". For Jalata, Gadaa represents "the totality of Oromo civilization".

Current Status[edit]

Considering the symbolic significance of Gadaa for the Oromo, and taking into account its structural innovations, researchers in law, indigenous studies, and pan-Africanism are exploring how the system could be utilized in the 21st century. For example, a thesis by Z. Sirna[5] entitled "Ethiopia: When the Gadaa Democracy Rules in a Federal State" explores how the system could be integrated with the contemporary federal structure of Ethiopia, serving as a governance mechanism for the Oromia Regional National State. A political party known as GSAP (Gadaa System Advancement Party) bases its ideology on the principles of Gadaa. A futuristic, governance 2.0 project called BitGadaa[6] draws inspiration from the principles and structure of Gadaa.

Criticisms[edit]

Gadaa has been criticized for being patriarchal, as it exludes women from political affairs. This, according to Legesse,[7] is the main shortcoming of Oromo Democracy. Other shortcomings include rigidity of rules, and the question of scaling Gadaa to millions of people.

References[edit]

  1. ^ Braukämper, Ulrich. Layers Islamic History and Culture in Southern Ethiopia (2003)
  2. ^ Asmarom Legesse, "Gadaa: Three Approaches to the Study of African Society", 1973
  3. ^ Asmarom Legesse, "Oromo Democracy: an Indigenous African Political System", 2006
  4. ^ Donald Levine, "Greater Ethiopia: The Evolution of a Multiethnic Society", 1974
  5. ^ Z. Sirna, "Ethiopia: When the Gadaa Democracy Rules in a Federal State", 2012
  6. ^ https://bitgadaa.org
  7. ^ Asmarom Legesse, "Oromo Democracy: an Indigenous African Political System", 2006

Bibliography[edit]

  • Ulrich Braukämper, Layers Islamic History and Culture in Southern Ethiopia (2003)
  • Joseph Van de Loo, "Guji Oromo Culture in Southern Ethiopia." Berlin: Reimer, 1991.
  • Asmarom Legesse, "Gadaa: Three Approaches to the Study of African Society", 1973
  • Donald Levine, "Greater Ethiopia: The Evolution of a Multiethnic Society", 1974
  • Asmarom Legesse, "Oromo Democracy: an Indigenous African Political System", 2006
  • Asafa Jalata, Gadaa (Oromo Democracy): An Example of Classical African Civilization, Journal of Pan-African Studies (2012)
  • Z. Sirna, "Ethiopia: When the Gadaa Democracy Rules in a Federal State", 2012