Common Sense on the Oromo thesis
2. Pastoral Oromo appearance. The two prevailing complementary ideas regarding the cause for the appearance of pastoral Oromo in Ethiopian political and social scene are the advancement of Ahmad Ibn Ibrahim (Gragn) and internal Oromo pressures. It seems there is an implicit consensus among historians and scholars on the crucial road paving role of Gragn’s advancement for the Oromo expansion. The Christian kingdom military outposts that effectively checked the pastoral Oromo expansion were removed by Gragn 1. I believe this is erroneous conclusion drawn before objective evaluation of historical facts. I think a closer look at the structure of medieval Ethiopian kingdom provide invaluable guide in sorting out historical events. Contrary to the current unsubstantiated charges advanced against it, historical Ethiopian Kingdom is effectively an extension of the underlying social structure. Ethiopians possessed an orderly social organization for millennia. Although, city states, encircled in towering walls, never emerged in Ethiopian plateaus as was the case in the Mesopotamian and Hellenistic destructive civilizations, pockets of administrative organizations have always existed throughout the country. Once such social organization come to existence it is only a matter of time before a centralization process proceed and that is exactly what happened in Ethiopia. After Yikunno Amlak reinstated Solomonic dynasty in 1270, outside the Zagwe sphere of influence, his grandson Amda Seyon was on a punitive expedition to rebelled Adal and Mora administrations2. A newly formed dynasty in central Shoa had tributaries all the way to the red sea in less than 50 years3. Considering the low military profile of the time, this is quite an extraordinary achievement, but it owes much of its success to the already established administrations in the newly incorporated areas. When areas like Dawaro, Bali and Hadiya got reincorporated into the Solomonic dynasty it is not as if the Southern people suddenly became subjects of the Northerners. A queen of Sidama origin had fought with the Christian kingdom in 10th century to retain autonomous rulership4. The Christian kingdom mentioned here is the Axumite empire. Of course, the expansion of Axumite empire couldn’t have been realized without its enforcing military envoys and at times this military enclave got completely separated from its Semitic-speaking root due to historical events ending up being new settlement like Harari, Argobba, Gurage and Gaffat 5. It should duly be noted that, the second Solomonic dynasty was not instituting afresh new administration over hitherto nomads. As anyone can easily understand, instituting and maintaining isolated remote administration even over highly established sedentary community with no prior organizing framework is near to impossible. The Axumite empire in its heydays did the heavy lifting in forming these early administrative zones but the sociological background Hassen, Mohammed. The Oromo & the Christian Kingdom of Ethiopia 1300 – 1700, p 140 Huntingford, G.W.B. The Glorious Victories of Amda Seyon, King of Ethiopia. 3 Tamrat, Taddesse. Church and State in Ethiopia 1270 – 1527, p 74 4 Ibid., p 39 5 Ibid., p 41 1 2
Common Sense on the Oromo thesis must have been there even then. The settler colonialism narrative as so blindly purported by various scholars is simply a practical impossibility with the then armament. What the central kingdom dealt with, took over or replaced at its various remote tributaries is the local administration instituted and run by the indigenous community. After his resounding victory over the Adal sultan Sabradin, Amda Seyon had to fill the vacant throne with the brother to maintain stability of the administration6. Such was the real feature of Ethiopian kingdom. This historical administrative reality of Ethiopia has three nagging consequences for the Oromo thesis. 1. The narrative of an existing pastoral Oromo, organized under Qallu institution or Gada system just beyond the reach of Christian state7 but in such proximity to the then incorporated Bali and Hadiya is indefensible. 2. Since the Christian state only keep auspices over the local indigenous administration, what could have kept the northward pastoral Oromo expansion in check is the local community and with the Christian outpost removed by Gragn advancement the relative strength locals will only increase. 3. So long as the Christian kingdom can maintain its dominion, it wouldnâ€™t have any incentive to keep the Oromo at bay, especially whey they can be source of the preferred form of tribute. As a matter of fact, the Christian kingdom didnâ€™t possess the means to stop the alleged level of expansion even if it had the will.
Huntingford, G.W.B. The Glorious Victories of Amda Seyon, King of Ethiopia. P 65 Hassen, Mohammed. The Oromo & the Christian Kingdom of Ethiopia 1300 â€“ 1700, p 134