Barara is not Addis Ababa

Barara is not Addis Ababa

By Guluma Gemeda (PhD), University of Michigan-Flint, November 22, 2018

Bruce Strachan (left) & Jalata Kagela hiking up Mt Yerer in search of the ‘Lost’ Medieval Capitol of Barara (c) B. Strachan 2010

Recently, unpublished, 49-page document entitled: Addis Ababa is Barara, and Barara is Addis Ababa’ has circulated on the internet. The name of the author(s) is not indicated but an organization called Amhara Professionals Union (Amba) claims to have sponsored it. The purpose of this document, as indicated in its introduction, is to counter a draft law prepared by the Ethiopian Council of Ministers’ regarding the special interests of the Oromia regional state in Addis Ababa (Finfinne). Although these rights are guaranteed in the 1995 Ethiopian constitution, the paper rejects them because Addis Ababa/Finfinnee is historically not an Oromo land. It argues that Addis Ababa was founded not even by Emperor Menilek II in 1887, but it was built as Barara by King Dawit (r. 1380-1412) in the fourteenth century.[1]  However this town was destroyed during the wars of Ahmad (Gragn) ibn Ibrahim in the 1530s.

In fact, there is nothing new about Barara. Although its specific location has not been positively identified yet, the existence of this town is very well known from the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries sources. Barara was reported to have existed in the vicinity of the Dukam River, west of the Yarar Mountain. As an academic exercise it is fine to do so. But, as indicated in its introduction, the paper is obviously written with clear political objective—to block any action on the implementation of the rights of Oromia in Addis Ababa (Finfinnee) that the Ethiopian constitution had promised in 1995. For this reason, it is easy to dismiss the paper as a propaganda piece and not consider it as a scholarly material worthy of a serious attention.

Although it is normally not necessary to take such paper seriously and comment on it, I have decided to write this response because some people have started publicizing it on social media and using it as a tool to undermine the historic claims of the Oromo on Addis Ababa (Finfinne). The paper is also been taken seriously by some politicians and media outlets such as Ethiopian Satellite Television (ESAT) as well. Political leaders have started quoting the paper as a credible document, while journalists and other writers, including even those with academic credentials, have begun commenting on it.[2] The concerted efforts of these commentators and the emerging social media buzz about the paper has started causing some confusion and inflaming the debate on the history, identity and ownership of the city of Finfinnee.

In response to these claims, I will attempt to clarify the relationship between the medieval town of Barara and Addis Ababa by contextualize the early expansion of the Abyssinian state to the central Shawan plateau and by highlighting the historical trajectory of the Oromo people and their legitimate rights to Addis Ababa (Finfinnee). In doing so, I will also show Barara was not a precursor of Addis Ababa, but it was probably a medieval town built on the land occupied by during the first Abyssinian conquest of the Shwan plateau in the fourteenth century.

First, the paper’s description of Barara is fairly accurate. Looking at the references made to support the paper (Addis Ababa is Barara) also appears to be a scholarly writing. But careful examination reveals its main argument unsubstantiated; and while claiming to be a scholarly investigation to uncover the facts and educate the public, the writing is aimed at the current political debate on Addis Ababa. The authors of the paper and others who endorse the story are confusing two towns/cities at different geographical locations and different historical periods. Also, either intentionally or due to lack of historical knowledge, they also mix history with propaganda. The conclusion—linking Barara to Addis Ababa—is based on papers written by amateur, non-specialist authors.[3]  Yet their views are preferred over those specialists who have studied Ethiopian history for a long time and published peer-reviewed articles and books on it.[4]

Second, the references are selective—they include only those which support the author(s) main argument and some very old, outdated sources. On the other hand, recent publications, particularly the works of Oromo scholars, are conspicuously absent. For example, two recently published books by Professors Mekuria Bulcha[5] and Mohammed Hassen,[6] which are very relevant for this discussion, are not mentioned at all. Third, the authors argue that Finfinnee did not exist in history, because it is not mentioned in any of the sources and dictionaries they consulted. But they avoided Ibsaa Guutama’s dictionary (Qooqaa Afan Oromoo – Afaan Oromo Special Dictionary, 2005)[7] where Finfinnee is mentioned. They also ignored the testimonies of nineteenth century European travelers and missionaries such as John L. Krapf and W.C. Harris,[8] who visited Finfinnee and reported on it. It appears that the authors seem to think any source that they did not see, or they have deliberately ignored because it contradicts their thesis, does not exist. However, neither lack of knowledge nor willful negligence constitutes scholarly standard. Scholarly argument requires honest and genuine search for truth, and logical conclusion based on all known facts. It also requires modesty and willingness to consider alternative explanations and readiness to embrace new conclusions, if emerging evidences warrant it.

Fourth, the authors argue that the Oromo did not live in Shawa or in the neighboring regions before the sixteenth century, and Addis Ababa—or its predecessor, Barara—does not belong to them. However, this argument ignores many historical facts and the results of recent research in archaeology, history, historical linguistics and sociology.

To justify their claim the authors of Addis Ababa is Barara cite the works of respected scholars such Taddesse Tamrat, Steven Kaplan and Marie-Laure Derat who have studied the medieval period.[9]  But nowhere in their works do these scholars identify Barara with Addis Ababa. Obviously, the authors of Addis Ababa is Barara are confusing a different medieval twon at different geographical site with the modern city of Addis Ababa for current political reasons.[10]  To start with, as indicated earlier, Barara (በራራ) is found in some fifteenth-and sixteenth-century sources, including Fra Mauro’s map and in Shihab ad-Din Ahmad’s Futuh al-Habasha. But, in this paper, it is corrupted to sound like an Amharic name (በረራ). Apparently, the actual name is Baraaraa (በራራ), an obvious Oromo name.[11]

Contrary to the speculation of the authors of Addis Ababa is Barara, the exact location of this town is not yet known. Breternitz Hartwig and Richard Pankhurst, who made extensive survey of the land between the Wachahcha Mountain range and Mount Yarar, could not locate it there. Their survey indicates Barara was not located at the present site of Addis Ababa. Instead, they concluded, Barara “was not built on a prominent, well-fortified hilltop; it seems much more likely that the “city” was of a relatively modest structure.” [12]  Samuel Walker, who is currently working on the ‘lost cities’ of Ethiopia, also rejects the identification of Barara with Addis Ababa/Finfinnee. He argues that the claim that “the various ruins in and around Entoto are evidence of Barara is demonstrably false, contrary to true archaeological practice, and remain unfounded and disingenuous.”[13]

However, Habtamu Tegegne, Assistant Professor of History at Rutgers University, takes Mr. Walker to task for disputing the association of Barara with Addis Ababa. He accuses him of misunderstanding medieval Ethiopian history and for making strong conclusions based on cursory surveys without intensive archaeological excavations. Dr. Tegegne is right insisting on conducting “archaeological digs around Addis Ababa” before making a “confident scholarly conclusion about Barara,” and the need to resist any “attempt to silence the competing discourses surrounding Entoto.”[14] But he sounds like attempting to suppress an alternative explanation.

While attacking Mr. Walker’s credentials, Habtamu relies on unpublished reports of Marco Vigano and Bruce Strachan. They identify a defense ditch on the Entoto Mountain with the ruins of Barara, cannot be taken seriously. But although cited as experts, both Marco Vigano and Bruce Strachan are less qualified to comment on such issues due to their amateurish work without any formal training in Ethiopian history and archaeology. They have neither the academic training nor sufficient archaeological practice to determine the location of Barara. It is not even clear with legitimate authority they are allowed to deal with sensitive heritage sites in the country.[15] Their reports, based on ‘touristic’ surveys, confuse the facts and misrepresent the evidence. In fact, Dr. Tegegne’s characterization of Mr. Walker applies very well to Marco Vigano and Bruce Strachan who are cited as reliable sources by the authors of ‘Addis Ababa is Barara’.[16]

In this case, Mr. Walker is right in concluding Barara is not Addis Ababa. Although Barara appears to be part of (Bacho) Warab on Fra Mauro’s map,[17] from the descriptions in Shihab ad-Din Ahmad, Futuh al-Habesha, geographically, Barara was not part of Warab(a), and the latter did not extend to area where Addis Ababa is currently located. Warab (Bacho-Warab) was located west of the Wachacha Mountain and extended to the western side of the Awash River, while Barara was apparently located to the southeastern part of Addis Ababa.

During his imperial expansion, Emperor Menilek II was eager to find relics of medieval Christian kingdom around Entoto to justify his occupation as a re-conquest and for the consolidation of imperial rule. When he established his camp at Entoto in 1881, for example, he relied on unfounded stories that the site held the ruins of late fourteenth-and early fifteenth- century King Dawit (r. 1380-1412).[18] To support this claim, which was advanced by the dabtara (clergy), Menelik authorized some excavations by individuals who did not have any archaeological training. However, although medieval artefacts did exist in region, no ruins of fourteenth century palace were discovered at Entoto by recent archeological research. A defense ditch observed by Count Edward Gleichen in 1897, and currently presented as part of the ruins of a medieval palace or a church, is apparently not that old.[19] The ditch “was constructed by Menilek to protect his court from Oromo cavalry raids” when he established his camp at the site in 1881.[20] In this context, the current effort to identify Barara with Addis Ababa is completely unfounded. It is an argument aimed at undermining the historical claims of the Oromo who were displaced when the modern city was built as an imperial capital in the late nineteenth century.

To clarify this confusion, it is necessary to provide a brief account of the history of the expansion of the Christian kingdom to the Shawan plateau in the fourteenth century and an earlier presence of the Oromo in the same region before the tenth century CE.

Expansion of the Christian Kingdom to the Central Shawa in the 14th and 15th Centuries

Both modern linguistic and written sources from the medieval period indicate that a small group of people speaking the South Ethio-Semitic languages had spread to the Shawan region by the fourteenth century. However, although early Christian communities had been trickling down to the region south of the Jama River for a long time, the nature of their migration and settlement in the Shawan plateau before the thirteenth century is not very well known. For example, most historians associate the arrival of Amharic speakers in Shawa with the expansion of the Christian state during the late Zagwe period and early Solomonic dynasty. They believe that these early Christian settlers were military colonists.[21] As Professor Taddesse Tamrat indicated, “slow movement of isolated Christian families from Amhara to the region of the Shawan plateau” took place before the fourteenth century.[22] But even by the late thirteenth century, the Shawan plateau “contained only scattered Christian settlements.”[23]

Historical linguists suggest an earlier penetration of the South Ethio-Semitic speakers (such as the Gurage, Argoba and Harari) into the upper and across the middle Awash Valley. However, these linguists—such as Christopher Ehret and Harold Fleming—have indicated that the eastern and southern Cushitic speaking populations, including the Oromo, preceded the South Ethio-Semitic speakers in central and southern Ethiopia.[24] The South Ethio-Semitic speakers infiltrated into an area already settled by the Eastern Cushitic communities long before their arrival.[25] Additionally, not all of South Ethio-Semitic speakers who moved south before the thirteenth century were converted to Christianity; they were converted later when their Christianized relatives arrived. On the other hand, neither these small and isolated Christian communities, the Highland Eastern Cushitic speakers, nor the Muslims merchants and clerics who introduced Islam to the people who lived in middle Awash Valley were the builders of older fortified structures in the Shawan plateau before thirteenth century.

Ethiopianist scholars argue that the ‘Sidama’ people preceded the Semitic speakers in the Shawan plateau.[26] But who were these ‘Sidama’ people?  Earlier, the term Sidama was used very loosely to include both Highland Eastern Cushitic and Omotic speakers who lived south of the Blue Nile and along the Rift Valley.[27] Due to its linguistic and ethnic ambiguities, the term is now abandoned.[28]  At any rate, the so called Sidama did not inhabit the Shawa plateau before the arrival of the South Ethio-Semites or before the coming of the Christian communities to the region in the thirteenth century.

Then, who inhabited the central Shawan plains before the tenth century or before the arrival of the South Ethio-Semitic speakers? Who were the Galan and Yay(a) who encountered the Christian communities when they arrived, as mentioned in the hagiographic accounts of medieval Ethiopian saints? Who built the pre-Christian fortified settlements, identified by surveys and recent archaeological excavations in central Shawan plateau?  Were these fortifications built as defensive mechanisms in response to the early incursions of the Christian kingdom from the north? More research is still needed to answer these questions.

The Oromo in Central Shawan Plateau before the fourteenth Century

So far, Ethiopianist scholars are reluctant to revisit the dominant meta-narrative of Ethiopian history which single-mindedly focuses primarily on the Christian civilization and the unitary state of Ethio-Semitic speaking people. This approach, however, had largely ignored the Cushitic and Omotic speaking peoples of the south and the speakers of the Nilo-Saharan languages on the western and southwestern peripheries.

On the other hand, Oromo Studies scholars have begun to reexamine medieval Ethiopian history. Based on extensive collection of oral traditions, researchers at Oromia Culture and Tourism Bureau (OCTB) have concluded that the Oromo had lived in central Shawan plateau long before the tenth century CE. During this early period, the Oromo held their central gadaa assembly at Odaa Nabee, the same place where the Oromo people now celebrate the great Irreecha festival annually.[29] Despite some methodological issues, the OCTB survey provides ample data to prove the early settlement of the Oromo north of the Awash River before the southward expansion of the South Ethio-Semitic speakers.    

Similarly, two new publications by Mekuria Bulcha and Mohammed Hassen have thoroughly revised the traditional historiography of medieval Shawa and have ‘written in’ the Oromo into the landscape from where they had been ‘erased’ in the standard Ethiopian history textbooks in the past. In his first book, the Oromo of Ethiopia, published in 1990, Mohammed Hassen argued that “there is conclusive evidence which demonstrates beyond the shadow of a doubt that some settled sedentary agricultural Oromo groups lived in and to the south of what is today the administrative region of Shawa before the fourteenth century.”[30]  He has also suggested that the Oromo practiced both agriculture and pastoralism before the sixteenth century. While those who resided in the Shawan plateau practiced agriculture in the medieval period, Mohammed Hassen argued, the pastoralist Oromos joined them there in the sixteenth century. He has now elaborated more on this thesis in his second book, The Oromo and the Christian Kingdom (2015).[31]

Additionally, in in his book, Contours of the Emergent and Ancient Oromo Nation (2011), Mekuria Bulcha argues that the Oromo inhabited the central Shawan plateau before the fourteenth century.[32] Mekuria’s hypothesis is even bolder than any scholar has suggested so far. He argues that actually the Shawan plateau was the ‘cradle of Oromo civilization’. Mekuria makes the point that the conquest of the Oromo in Shawa by Christian monarchs in the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries was the first attempt to displace them from their lands which they had occupied for many centuries earlier. In fact, conquest led to the displacement of some of the Oromos from the Shawa plateau and their settlement on the southern plateau of Arsi and Bale, outside the reach of Muslim and Christian rivals. There, they regrouped and reorganized their military power under a reformed gadaa system to retake their lands. In this context, the sixteenth century movement of the Oromo into the Shawan plateau and to north-central Ethiopian highlands was not a new phenomenon, but the return of previously displaced people to their rightful holdings. Of course, the returnees rejoined their relatives who may have had remained behind during the fifteenth century conflicts.

Although more research is needed to confirm Mekuria’s thesis that the Shawan plateau was the cradle of Oromo civilization, their presence in the region before the arrival of the speakers of the South Ethio-Semitic languages is highly plausible. The argument that the Oromo lived in central Shawa, long before the Amahra spread to the area starting in late tenth century and the conquest of King Amda Tseyon’s (r. 1313-44) in the fourteenth century, is convincing. As Mekuria has shown, this argument is supported by numerous Oromo place and clan names mentioned in the royal chronicles and hagiographies of medieval Ethiopian saints. The chronicle of Amda Tseyon and the hagiography (gadl) of Abba Qawestos, fourteenth century Ethiopian saint, for example, mention such Oromo names as Galan, Jidda, Yay(a), Mandida, Marfata, Gorefo [Gorfo?], Mahagel [Magal?] Mati (Maxii], Fantale, Qacema and many others[33] The reference to the people of Galan and Yay[a] is particularly interesting for it distinctly places these Oromo clans on the ground before the Amhara conquest of the fourteenth century. The distinctly Oromo place names such as Mandida at the same place where the town of the same name is currently located clearly confirm the Oromo settlement in the region before fourteenth century. Other hagiographies from the medieval period and the chronicle of Ahmad ‘Grangn’, Futuh al-Habasha, also refer to Fantale, Bosato, Lama and Dera (Dheera).[34] The reference to Dheera is another interesting point.[35]  Some of these clan and place names were corrupted to sound like Amharic names. Place names such as Barara and Badeqe (apparently a corruption of ‘Baraaraa’ and Baddaa-Qe’ee’, respectively) represent such cases. The descendants of these Oromo clans still live in the same locality.

Therefore, if we carefully examine the medieval sources, the Oromo presence in the Shawan region in pre-Christian times is unmistakable. Many sites which could provide ample evidence have not been excavated so far. However, even limited surveys and excavations at some sites have yielded tantalizing results. For example, the archaeologist, Samuel Walker made an interesting discovery of an ancient pre-Christian site called Sadai (Siida) west of the Wachacha Mountain.[36] This place and Masara to the west of it were mentioned in Fra Mauro’s map of the fifteenth century. During their survey of the places between the Wachacha and Yarar Mountains, Richard Pankhurst and Breternitz Hartwig have also found pre-medieval sites at Insilale, Tiko, Gaara Busho, and Inchichie, and a fortified ancient structure at Sire to the south and southeast of the Yarar Mountain. Both Pankhurst and Hartwig believed future excavation of the ‘City of Sire’ in this locality would provide “a unique opportunity to learn more about the possibly pre-medieval fortifications”.[37] Although no archeological excavations were made at these sites, future researches and thorough archaeological works may reveal concrete evidences on the identity and material culture of the people who lived there in these pre-Christian villages and towns such as Sadai (Siida) and Sire in central Shawa.

In the sixteenth century movement, the Oromo easily defeated both Christian and Muslim powers and reclaimed their historic heritage north of the middle Awash (Hawash) River. Besides their system of adoption (gudifacha), integration of the people who previously suffered in the tag of wars between the Christian kings and Muslim sultanates was relatively easier for the Oromo probably because the indigenous populations were either Oromo or already exposed to their culture before sixteenth century.

Subsequently, between the sixteenth and the middle of the nineteenth century, the Oromo in central Shawa had reclaimed their land from which they were displaced during the first Abyssinian conquest (14th and 15th centuries) and rebuilt their homes on the ruins of earlier settlements. Unfortunately, for the Oromo, the second incursions of Shawan kings which began in the late eighteenth century intensified under King Shale Selassie (d. 1847) and his grandson, King Menilek II in the nineteenth century. King Sahle Selassie made annuals raids to the Oromo lands of the Shawan plains in the 1830s and 1840s. He brutally killed and dispossessed the Oromo of Finfinnee. This was documented by European political agents and missionaries who accompanied the king on one of his raiding expeditions in the late 1830s and early 1840s. Describing the beauty of land around Finfinne, Major W.C. Harris, British political agent who visited Shale Selassie’s court, stated:

[T]the beautifully secluded valley of Finfinni[e], which [had the] . . . advantage of high cultivation, and snug hamlets, boasted a large share of natural beauty. Meadows of the richest green turf, sparkling clear rivulets leaping down in sequestered cascades, with shady groves of the most magnificent juniper lining the slopes, and waving their moss-grown branches above cheerful groups of circular wigwams, surrounded by implements of agriculture, proclaimed a district which had long escaped the hand of wrath. This had been selected as the spot for royal plunder and spoliation.[38]

The people of Finfinne were not spared during this bloody expedition. Major W.C. Harris, further observed:

[T]he [Amhara] troops . . . performed their bloody work with a sharp and unsparing knife—firing village after village until the air was dark with the dust raised by the impetuous rush of man and horse. . . . The luckless inhabitants, taken by surprise, had barely time to abandon their property, and fly for their lives to the fastness of Entoto, which reared its protection from the distance of a few miles. The spear of the warriors [invading troops] searched every bush for the hunted foe. Women and girls were torn from their hiding to be hurried into hopeless captivity. Old men and young were indiscriminately slain and mutilated among the field and groves, flocks and herds were driven off in triumph, and house after house was sacked and consigned to flames. Each grim Amhara warrior vied with his comrade in the work of retributive destruction among the execrated Galla [Oromo].[39]

Similar devastating raids revisited Finfinnee by the soldiers of King Menilek II in the 1870s. These soldiers eventually completed the project that King Sahle Selassie had started a generation earlier. When Menelik established a royal camp on the hilltop of Entoto,  the people of Finfinnee were already weakened and unable to stop their eviction. In 887, the king relocated the military camp from Entoto to warmer Finfinnee Valley and built the imperial capital on the ground of current palace in Addis Ababa. In a recent documentary, conducted by Oromia Broadcasting Service (OBS), descendants of Tufa Arado, chief of Finfinnee, recounted the tragic history of deceit, coercion and displacement the people of Finfinnee at the time of the establishment of Addis Ababa to open the space for Menelik’s soldiers.[40] The memory of this conquest and the eviction of the people revived during the recent expansion of the city contributed to the resistance to the Addis Ababa Master Plan in 2014. Besides the their opposition to Tigrayan People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) dominated government, the Qeerroo and the Oromo people in general were galvanized to stop more displacement with the backdrop of previous evictions. This memory of displacement, their rightful historical claims over Finfinnee, and federal government’s failure to implement promises made in the 1995 Ethiopian constitution continue to drive and unite the Oromo people in their for struggle for Finfinnee as a common cause until fair settlement is reached.

Conclusion

Although finding Barara’s exact location may not have mattered much beyond academic curiosity, the issue has received some urgency due to its implication in the current political debate over Addis Ababa. By identifying the modern city with a medieval garrison site, some politicians are trying to undermine the historic claims of the Oromo people to the land over which Addis Ababa is built. As indicated above, to do this, they rely on unsubstantiated reports and ignore credible research works that contradict their thesis. Instead, they take advantage of the fact that Ethiopian and foreign scholars, who studied the medieval period, had failed to acknowledge the presence of the Oromo people north of the Bale Mountains before the sixteenth century, because they all assumed that the Oromo came to the central Shawa only after the wars of Ahmad (Gragn) ibn Ibrahim in the sixteenth century. However, although Ethiopianist scholars have failed to notice, Professors Mekuria Bulcha and Mohammed Hassen have demonstrated the presence of the Oromo in the central Shawan plateau long before the expansion of the Christian kingdom to the region. The unmistakably Oromo clan and place names profusely mentioned in medieval royal chronicles and hagiographies clearly establish the ancient inhabitance of the Oromo in Shawa.

Of course, future archaeological research may reveal the multiple layers of cultural and religious histories of this region. Until then, scholars and politicians should be careful when utilizing the hagiographies which were subject to constant revision due to changing political and religious factors. Contested sites need to be excavated by professionally trained and competent team of archaeologists before the artifacts disappear due to the fast expanding urban sprawl and permanent loss of historical relics to those who conduct illegal trade in historical objects. Such evidences are highly needed to clarify the conflicting historical claims and sensitive political issues.

But in the case of Barara, even without archaeological excavations, the available sources indicate it is not Addis Ababa. Although several church ruins and royal camp sites were found in the vicinity Addis Ababa/Finfinnee, the medieval Barara was not located on the same site of the modern city. For this reason, any attempt to deny the Oromo their historic right to Addis Ababa/Finfinnee by identifying the site with the medieval town of Barara is untenable. Moreover, the Oromo presence in the region predates the Amhara settlement in central Shawan plateau and the Abyssinian conquests of the fourteenth and the late nineteenth centuries.

Finally, even though Barara and Addis Ababa are not the same, both are built on Oromo lands. Neither the first (14th -15th century) nor the second (late 19th century) Abyssinian conquest invalidates the historic rights of the Oromo on the modern city of Addis Ababa (Finfinne) as well as the medieval town of Barara. It is prudent to recognize these rights and build a peaceful and better life together in the future.  Denying the historic rights of the Oromo on misinterpretation of the evidence would only inflame the public debate and hinder finding peaceful solution to the problem.

Notes

[1] Amhara Professionals’ Union, “Addis Ababa is Barara, Barara was Addis Ababa,” Nehassie 2009 [August 2017].
[2] Samuel Walker, “Letter to the Editor,” Addis Fortune, September 30, 2018; Habtamu Tegene, “Is Barara not Addis Ababa/Entoto? A Rejoinder to Samuel Walker,” Ethiomedia, November 2, 2018; Paul Schemm, “How Ethiopia’s medieval ruins inform its modern-day ethnic strife,” The Washington Post, November 3, 2018.
[3] See note 16 below.
[4] For example, in concluding Barara and Addis Aba are the same, the authors of this paper ignore the views of veteran Ethiopianists such Richard Pankhurst and accept the works of amateur reporter such Marc Vigano and Bruce Strachan.
[5] Mekuria Bulcha, Contours of the Emergent and Ancient Oromo Nation: Dilemmas in the Ethiopian Politics of State and Nation-Building (Cape Town, SA: The Centre for Advanced Studies of African Society, 2011).
[6] Mohammed Hassen, The Oromo and the Christian Kingdom of Ethiopia, 1300-1700 (Woodbridge, UK: James Currey, 2015).
[7] Ibsaa Guutama, Qooqaa Afan Oromoo – Afaan Oromo Special Dictionary (New York, Gubirmans Publisher, 2005.
[8] W. C. Harris, Highlands of Ethiopia (New York: J. Winchester, New World Press, 1843).
[9]  Taddesse Tamrat, Church and State in Ethiopia, 1270-1527 (Hollywood, CA.: Tsehai Publishers, 2009 [1972]); Steven Kaplan, The Monastic Holy Man and the Christianization of the Early Solomonic Ethiopia (Wiesbaden: Steiner, 1984); Marie-Laurie Derat, Le domaine des rois Ethiopiens, 1270-1527: espace, pouvoir et monarchisme (Paris: Sorbonne, 2004).
[10] Barara (Baraaraa) was mentioned in Fra Mauro’s map of 1460 and by Alessandro Zorzi’s Ethiopian informants in 1520. It is also mentioned in several places in Shihab ad-Din Ahmad’s Futuh al-Habasha. Although Ethiopianist scholars believe it was a royal residence or a military camp, but curiously, it is not mentioned in chronicles, and its exact location has not been identified. See Shihab ad-Din Ahmad Futuh al- Habaha – The Conquest of Abyssinia [16th Century], trans. by Paul Lester Stenhouse, Hollywood, CA.: Tsehai Publishers, 2005), pp. 165, 185-9; O. S. G. Crawford, Ethiopian Itineraries ( Oxford: Hakluyt Society, 1958). pp. 19, 85-86, 95-97; Pankhurst Richard and Hartwig Breternitz, “Barara, the Royal City of 15th and Early 16th Century (Ethiopia), Medieval and Other Early Settlements Between Wechecha Range and Mt Yerer: Results from a Recent Survey.” Annales d’Ethiopie, Vol. 24, 2009, pp. 209-249.
[11] Baraaraa means savior, one who protects from danger or evil.
[12] P. Richard and B. Hartwig, “Barara, the Royal City of 15th and Early 16th,” p. 228.
[13] Samuel C. Walker, “Letter to the Editor,” Addis Fortune, September 30, 2018.
[14] H. Tegegne, “Is Barara not Addis Ababa/Entoto?”
[15] Both Marco Vigano and Bruce Strachan are not as trained archaeologists; nor do they do have any specialized training in Ethiopian or African studies. From their bios, available on the internet, both of them are clearly unqualified to make an authoritative testimony on medieval Ethiopian archeology and history. M. Vagano holds advanced diploma in plant science and currently manages diary business in Ethiopia. B. Strachan is children’s book illustrator and by his own admission, he did not know anything about Africa before he received a call from a publisher to illustrate children’s book on Egypt.
[16] “Addis Ababa is Barara,” pp. 30-33.
[17] Crawford, O. S. G. Ethiopian Itineraries, pp. 19, 95.
[18] Gabre Selassie Wald Aragay, Tarik Nagast Dagimawi Menelik (Addis Ababa, 1959 EC).
[19] Edward Gleichen who saw the ditch during his visit to Entoto in 1897 did not indicate that it was part of an ancient ruin. See E. Gleichen, With Mission to Menelik, 1897 (London: Edward Arnold, 1898). Digital copy available at http://hdl.handle.net/2027/mdp.39015070386258.
[20]  Ashenafi Girma Zena, “Archaeology, politics and nationalism in nineteenth-and early twentieth-century Ethiopia: the use of archaeology to consolidate monarchical power,” Azania: Archaeological Research in Africa, 53: 3 (2018), p. 403.
[21] See: Taddesse Tamrat, Church and State, p. 37; Steven Kaplan, The Monastic Holy Man, p. 27.
[22] Tadesse Tamrat, Church and State, pp. 64-65..
[23] S. Kaplan, Monastic Holy Man, p. 27.
[24] According Christopher Ehret, the spreading of the pro-Cushites ‘along a north/south axis through the Ethiopian highlands may have begun . . . during the fifth millennium B.C.”  C. Ehret, “Cushitic Prehistory,” in The Non-Semitic Languages of Ethiopia, ed. by M. Lionel Bender (East Lansing, Michigan State University, 1976), p. 89.
[25] Christopher Ehret, History and the Testimony of language (Los Angeles: University of California Press, 2011), pp. 173-181.
[26] Tadesse Tamrat, Church and State, pp. 6,
[27] Ibid. U. Braukamper’s hypothesis that the Cushitic speaking Hadiyya extended to the Charchar Mountain before the fourteenth century is not accurate. Urlich Braukaper, Islamic History and Culture in Southern Ethiopia: Collected Essays (Hamburg: LIT, 2002), pp. 16-19.
[28] Except for the specific Sidama ethnic group, this term is now abandoned by scholars as a reference to the heterogeneous groups of peoples in southern Ethiopia.
[29] History of the Oromo to the Sixteenth Century (Finfinne: OCTB, 2006).
[30] Mohammed Hassen, The Oromo of Ethiopia (Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 1990), p. xii. See also, Mohammed Hassen, “The Oromo in Medieval Muslim Sates of Southern Ethiopia: A review Essay,” Journal of Oromo Studies, 15: 1 (2008), pp. 203-214; idem., “Some Aspects of Oromo History that Have Been Misunderstood,” Oromo Commentary, 3: 2 (1993), 24-31; idem., The Pre-Sixteenth Century Oromo Presence Within Medieval Christian Kingdom of Ethiopia,” in A River of Blessings: Essays in Honor of Paul Baxter, ed. by David Bronkensha (Syracuse, NY.: Syracuse University Press, 1994), pp. 43-65.
[31] Mohammed hassen, The Oromo and the Christian Kingdom of Ethiopia, 1300-1700 (Woodbridge, GB:, James Currey, 2015).
[32] Mekuria Bulcha, Contours of the Emergent and Ancient Oromo Nation, Chapter 4.
[33] Osvaldo Raineri, Gli atti di Qawestos, martire Etiopico (Vatican City: Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticanq, 2004).
[34] Ibid., pp. 187-189.
[35] Since the Geez script did not have the ‘dh’ sound Dheera was written in sources as ደራ (Dera). From the description of its location near Lake Zway, this place can definitely be identified as the modern town of Dheera, in central Arsi, east of the lake.  See Taddesse Tamrat, Church and State, pp. 188-189.
[36] Samuel Walker, “The Lost Cities of Ethiopia,” Popular Archaeology, June 14, 2017.
[37] P. Richard and B. Hartwig, “Barara, the Royal City of 15th and Early 16th Century (Ethiopia),” pp. 222-229.
[38] W. C. Harris, Highlands of Ethiopia, p. 178.
[39] Ibid.
[40] Oromia Broadcasting Service – OBS, ‘Seenaa Ekkaafi Abeebee Tufaa’ OBS TV, Jul 21, 2018. https://youtu.be/Kos7WP7Zopc

5 Comments

  1. It is wonderful to have people like Dr Guluma Gemeda, Prof. Mekuria Bulcha, Prof. Mohamed Hassan and many others who are most respected not only as individuals but also for having a profound knowledge of history and truth about the Oromo. Knowledge is about truth and not lies. I appreciate the scholars for inciting us with the truth which special thanks go to Prof. Guluma Gemeda on here. Having said that,is it not possible for those who falsely claim Finfinnee as their property to live together with the Oromo by recognising who they are in their own ancestral land instead of telling lies for the sake of trying to grab their own properties? It is not good to cry over one’s own properties like children all the time. Baraaraa means saviour or protector in Afaan Oromoo as stated by Prof. Guluma. Both Finfinnee and Baraaraa are Oromo names and places. If those supposed to be educated people continue to mislead the majority of their followers in telling false history then who to rely on? There will be no point of intersection for people to come together for discussion to bring about peace and stability in Ethiopia if they continue to lie. ‘Ewunet tenagro imeshebet mader nawu’ yibbal yelem indee? So why then telling lies? I think it is much better to leave good heritage to the future generation in telling the truth rather than feeding them lies and confusing them which would again mislead them to go on crying over others properties.

  2. Thank you Dr.Guluma G. for your great Scholarly article in responding to Ahmara wild dream to conquer Oromo land for both Finfinnee and Baraaraa is the very historical fact how still ahmarus not yet stopped the unwanted war against the Oromo nation. Worst at its provocations, there is no way these two nations co-exist on such conquering dream than one has to defend its identity and territorial integrity as the case for Oromo nation . This is the so-called the New Ethiopia?

  3. Barara is Addis Ababa. No city called Finfinnee in the Ethiopia History except in the mind of your fake history. By the way Finfinee is not Oromo word, it’s Amharic የፊንፊኔ የቃሉ ዘር ‘ፊን’፣ (‘ፊን አለ’ ‘ፊን ፊን አለ’ እንደማለት) በአማርኛ ቋንቋ ጽኑ መሰረት ያለው ነው። ፊን አለ ‘to squirt, spurt; ፊን ‘manner of flowing, spurt, jet; ፊንፊን አለ “to flow in spurts or jets, to squirt or spurt up, e.g. geyser; ፊን አደረገ ‘to cause to spurt, squirt (liquid); ፈነነ ‘to spurt, squirt.”

    በኦሮምኛ መዝገበ ቃላት ግን ፊንፊኔ የሚለውን ቃሉን ማግኘት አልቻልንም። ለምሳሌ ኢ.ሲ. ፉት በጻፈው የእንግሊዘኛ-ኦሮምኛ መዝገበ ቃል ፊንፊኔ የሚለው ቃል አይገኝም። ከዚህ መዝገበ ቃል ያገኘነው ተመሳሳይ ቃል ‘ፊርፊርሳን [Firfirsa] ሲሆን ውሃ መርጨት (ልክ ፀበል እንድሚረጭ ሰው) እና ማጠጣት (ልክ አትክልት ወሀ እንደማጠጣት) የሚል ፊች ሰቶታል። ሥለዚህ ፊርፊርሳ በቅርጽ ከፊንፊኔ ጋር ቢመሳሰልም በጽንሰ ሀሳብ ፈጽሞ አይገናኝም። ዮሀንስ ክራፍ ካሳተመው የኦሮምኛ መዝገበ ቃል ውስጥ ሰለፊንፊኔም ሆነ ሌላ ተመሳሳይ ቃል አይገኝም። ከዮሀንስ ክራፍ መዘገበ ቃላት ውስጥ ፊንፊኔ የሚለው ቃል አለመገኘቱ ትልቅ አንድምታ አለው። ዮሀንስ ክራፍ ፊንፊኔን ከቦታው ድረስ ሄዶ አይቷታል፤ የመፋጀቱንም ነገር ጣቱን ወደላይ ከሚፈላው ውሀ በመክተት ሞክሮታል። በጣም ሰልፈር የበዛበትም ብሎታል። ከላይ እንደተገለጠው ፊንፊኔ የሚለውን ቃል ግን ዮሀንስ ክራፍ ባዘጋጀው የኦሮምኛ መዝገበ ቃላት አይገኝም። ኦሮምኛ ቢሆን ኖሮ ከዮሀንስ ክራፍ መዝገበ ቃል የግድ ይገኝ ነበር።

    • Congratulation Dr.Guluma,
      The layers of history try to grab the land of Oromoo by laying unreal history. As they were laying that the so call patriots won the Italian invasion and conquered/freed their motherlands, while the truth was the second world war pushed out the Italian from Ethiopia including the rest of the world. So if in 14c they were conquered/owned the land surrounding Finfinne/Dukam how they forced to go to 300kms away from Finfinne currently. In one way or another they are the victims who tried to lay as usual.

  4. Barara, it was mentioned but its specific location is unclear and we are not even sure it did exist at all. As you rightly argued, those who are promoting Barara, as ancient Finfinne, have the argument in mind that the Oromo do not deserve any claim over their own city( Finfinne). If things go according to their argument even Oromiya should not be owned by the Oromo people( the Oromo people do deserve any claim over Oromiya). Therefore, it should be clear that their claim over Finfinne is a claim over Oromia. This is simply a dream and they have the right to dream. One thing has to be clear, who are those raising the issue of Barara? May be those who call themselves Amhara nationalists, presenting themselves as opposition party leaders? By the way, even before the 16th century the Amhara had nothing from the central Shawa and all the territories south of it. In fact, they made military expeditions towards central Shawa and south of it in order to loot resources. In the process, they might have established temporary camps where they stored the resources they had looted before transporting them to north. Barara was one of those temporary camps established for this purpose and abandoned after two or three months. therefore, central Shawa and south of it never came under the Amhara occupation and at the time there was no intention territorial occupation. this came only during the time of Menelik. Those societies which were mentioned as living in shawa, forget about Oromo here, like Damot, Bizamo and Gafat were not Amhara. Today, they are part and parcel of the Oromo people. Therefore,the Amhara had nothing from central Shawa and south of it except conducting military expeditions and putting stones together as their camps and churches. the fact is Bahir Dar city itself was built on the land of the Macha Oromo. Thus, the district around Bahir Dar is called Macha Warada, go and proof it. I do not want to go to Gondar, read books written on the Gonderine period and remember king Iyoas and even Taitu Bitul. If you refuse to accept these arguments, please would you count your grandfathers upto seven or eight. If you can do so then you will clearly understand about Ethiopia’s past.

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