Oromo society was traditionally arranged in accordance with gadaa, a social stratification method partially based on an eight-year cycle of age sets; yet over the centuries the age sets grew out-of-alignment with the actual ages of their members, and some time in the 1800s another age set system was established.
Under gadaa, every eight years the Oromo would hold a popular gathering called the Gumi Gayo, at which laws were established for the following eight years.
A democratically elected leader, the Abba Gada, will be in charge of over the system for an eight-year term. Gadaa is no longer in wide practice but remains significant.
The Oromo are a native African ethnic group found in Ethiopia and to a smaller extent in Kenya. They are the largest single ethnic group in Ethiopia, at 32.1% of the population according to the 1994 census, and today numbering around 40 million.
The Oromo are one of the Cushitic speaking people living in Eastern and North Eastern Africa. Cushitic speakers have occupied parts of north-eastern and eastern Africa for as long as recorded history.
Oromo people are found mainly in Ethiopia (99%), but are spread from as far as:
According to their traditions they mark out their roots to Menelik I* (the child born of the queen of Sheba and King Solomon). It is believed that the Sabaean (Sheban) people began to settle on the west coast of the Red Sea, from their home in southern Arabia, about 1000 BC.
By about 1500 BC their civilization became the Axum Empire, based on an assortment of the Sabaean culture and the Cushitic culture.
Certain Semitic-speaking tribes, particularly the Agazyan, established the Kingdom of Aksum around two 2000 years ago, and this extended to include what is now:
The origin of the name “Amhara” is arguable:
• some say it’s derived from the word amari, (meaning pleasing, agreeable, beautiful and gracious) (also mehare, gracious, containing the same m-h-r root as the verb to learn);
• Ethiopian historians such as Getachew Mekonnen Hasen say it is an ethnic name associated with Himyarites;
• Others say that it derives from Ge’ez, meaning “free people” (that is. from “?am” meaning “people,” and “h.ara”, meaning “free” or “soldier”)
In the end, nevertheless, the name for the language and ethnic group come from the medieval province of Amhara, situated in central Ethiopia in modern Amhara Region and the pre-1995 province of Wollo.
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The Amhara people are mostly farmers who live in the north central highlands of Ethiopia.
The Amhara, numbering about 23 million, making up 30.1% of the country’s population according to the most recent 1994 census, are a Semitic people whose ancestors possibly came from what is modern-day Yemen.
These people speak Amharic, the working language of the federal authorities of Ethiopia, and dominate the country’s political and economic life for many years.
They are situated mainly in the central highland plateau of Ethiopia and embrace the major population in the provinces of:
The name Ethiopia derived, from the Greek form, aithiopia, from the two words aitho, “I burn”, and ops, “face”. It would hence mean the colored man’s land — the land of the scorched faces.
The Greeks called all peoples south of Egypt (particularly the area now known as Nubia; modern usage has transferred this name further south to the land and peoples known in the late 19th and early 20th century as Abyssinia) Ethiopians.
The former name of Ethiopia is Abyssinia, a word of uncertain origin. Some people consider it comes from an Arabic word meaning “mixed” – a reference to the country’s many ethnic groups; others believe that the name belonged to an early Ethiopian tribe.