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Experience Sharing with Abbaa Gaddaa

Among the traditional conflict resolution mechanisms in Ethiopia, Gaddaa is the first one in the regional state of Oromia, Ethiopia.


06 February 2019

On January 29, IPSS organized an experience-sharing event with the Abbaa Gaddaa council representatives of the Gaddaa system on traditional conflict resolution. Among the traditional conflict resolution mechanisms in Ethiopia, Gaddaa is the first one in the regional state of Oromia,

The aim of this experience sharing event was to learn lessons from the indigenous system of conflict resolution to apply it to modern conflict resolution systems and to consult on the challenges in its
application to modern day conflicts. The event had two main agenda items: the first focused on
conceptualizing the Gaddaa system; the second aimed to identify the specific roles of the Abbaa Gaddaa
regarding the recent mediation between the Ethiopian government/Oromo Democratic Party (ODP) and
the Oromo Liberation Front Shanee Gumii (OLF-SG) in Ambo, Oromia region.
The Gaddaa is an age-old system of governance in the Oromo community that guides the life course of
individuals and regulates the political, economic, social and religious activities of the community. Other
Cush people such as the Somali and Gedeo in Ethiopia also practice this kind of system. The Gaddaa
system also serves as a mechanism of socialization, education, religious expression, peace maintenance
and social cohesion and promotes the principles of equality and freedom. Under the Gaddaa system,
Oromo society is organized into five Gaddaa generation classes or sets which rotate every eight years to
assume political, economic and ritual responsibilities. The class in power is headed by a political leader
known as Abba Gaddaa meaning “father of the period”. The transition is marked by a formal power
transfer ceremony. The Abbaa Gaddaa still play a great role in conflict resolutions happening today such
as conducting successful mediation between the government/ODP and OLF-SG that concluded in Ambo.
The event started with a blessing by the Abbaa Gaddaa council representatives, which is the most valued
customary way of opening a meeting. In their presentation, the representatives emphasized the fact that
the Gaddaa system has endured several ages, and shared their belief that the Oromos taught the world
democracy through the Gaddaa system even before the ancient Greeks. In this system, a peaceful power
transition occurs every eight years. Before the Gaddaa system, there was a system called Moto. Abbaa
Gaddaa is considered the head of the Gaddaa system with six cabinets: Jolkiya, Fega, Hayu, Torbi,
Jedaba and Wamura. Whenever there is an issue under consideration, these cabinets conduct thorough
investigations and send recommendations to the Abbaa Gaddaa, who then sends his decisions with the
Hayu. When there is a conflict, the Hayu, under the Abbaa Gaddaa, will be sent with a club called an
'alanga'. The Hayu declares that he is the one with the alanga and gives it away to the other Abbaa
Gaddaa. After receiving the alanga, there will be reconciliation. During reconciliation, there is a peace
pact ritual to cease the conflict that involves slaughtering cattle and the sharing of a meal at which
conflicting parties feed each other food like fresh milk and honey. After this pact, peace is upheld. The
Abbaa Gaddaa council representatives further noted that the Gaddaa system has served by applying
impartiality long before the advent of the modern justice system without any practice of retribution. The
system also respects proclamations and other laws that have the same purpose of maintaining peace in
the community.

Regarding the recent Abbaa Gaddaa’s mediation between the government/ODP and OLF-SG, the council
representatives stated that the Abbaa Gaddaa had called on all political parties to discharge their
responsibilities in building peace in the country. The event brought together political parties operating in
Oromia regional states. The peace conference, organized by the Abbaa Gaddaa council, was first held on
22 January 2019 in Addis Ababa and continued in Ambo on 24 January 2019. The conference concluded
by the signing of an official peace agreement between the government/ODP and leaders of the OLF-SG.
The Abbaa Gaddaa council representatives emphasized that both the ODP and OLF-SG parties should
allow the people to elect their leaders, and the people should cast the ballot themselves.
Following the sharing of various observations by both the council representative members and the
audience, the event was closed with a blessing by the Abbaa Gaddaa representatives.


Click here to see photos of the event