Ras Gobana: a heroic story of ethnic Ethiopians By Teshome Borago

April 9th, 2015 Print Print Email Email

In response to my last article about Consociational democracy, i received many comments and feedback from readers. Some readers supported my proposal to redesign Ethiopia’s federal structure to grant regional statehood to all identities in Ethiopia [like one-ethnic nationalists, mixed-ethnic Ethiopians etc..] But to my surprise, most responders emailed me about my statements on multi “ethnic ethiopians” or “mixed Ethiopians.” Many people are asking, why don’t we talk enough about mixed Ethiopians?

Since 1991, one of TPLF/EPRDF’s missions has been to suppress millions of mixed “ethnic Ethiopians” because they do not belong to any of the ethnic identification categories.

While searching for the best angle to write about these mixed ethnic Ethiopians, i stumbled upon the heroic story of Ras Gobana Dacche.

So, What makes the story of Ras Gobana unique?

Historically, It is well-known that cushitic, omotic and semetic speaking people of the horn of Africa have been mixing and intermarrying for many centuries as Abyssinian kingdoms expanded southward, and as Oromos migrated north & west; while trade/competition for resources reshaped boundaries. But in recent history, Ras Gobana played the most prominent role which has a lasting impact on our identity.

Born in May 1821, Ras Gobana Dacche came from a family of warriors. When he was a child, half a century has already passed since the Yejju Oromo dynasty conquered and outmaneuvered its opponents in Gondar. His era was politically fragile and foreign interests on Ethiopian lands were also ripe. For example, during Gobana’s time, the Sudanese Mahdists were planning to annex northwestern Ethiopia and the Ottomans still had their agents lurking in eastern Ethiopia while Europeans were fighting to control the whole region. This was the era and Gobana’s powerful family was already involved deep in politics, including in the leadership of the influential Macha & Tulama Oromo clans.

In the eyes of the competing oromo clans, Gobana was the bravest and skilled fighter; feared by other Oromo mootis (kings). His Family from his father’s side was also connected to Abba muda, the spiritual and traditional leader of oromo.

What everybody today knows about Ras Gobana is that his Shoan Oromo soldiers were allied with Emperor Menelik II; and this alliance defeated other Oromo and non-Oromo regions.

But one fabrication that we are repeatedly told in recent years by OLF & TPLF is that Ras Gobana was an Oromo “traitor.” So… was Ras Gobana really a traitor?

The answer is simple. Some Oromo politicians today mistakenly think that Ras Gobana was a full Oromo. But several Oral accounts and historical books say that he was half-Oromo and half-Amhara. In his journal, the1800s Russian scholar Alexander Bulatovich described Gobana’s mixed ethnicity, by clearly stating:

“his father was an Oromo, and his mother an Abyssinian.”

So, the main problem is that those people who accuse Gobana do not really know him or know how identity influences politics. Despite Gobana being the top Ethiopian minister of war, critics falsely believe that he was only serving Menelik, without his own personal interests. Many modern politicians do not know how Gobana’s mixed ethnic identity shaped his political decisions to strengthen the unity of the Shoan Oromo family and the Amhara family into one strong country.

Long before he united with Menelik, Gobana and his horsemen were already powerful and very popular in the south. According to firsthand accounts by Alexander, “all the best fighting elements of Shoa thronged under his banners.” Gobana was visionary and his Shoan Oromo forces also acted as peacekeepers between Oromo clans who otherwise “slaughtered one another like cattle,” according to historian Prof. Donald Levine.

Other historical achievements that Ras Gobana is credited for include:

1) destroying the Gojjam Amhara forces that opposed Shoa.
2) settling disputes between warring Western Oromo clans
3) convincing the King of Jimma to peacefully unite with Shoa
4) helping save the Leqa Naqamte (welega) kingdom from Sudanese invasion.

These achievements prove that he was one of the visionary founders of a centralized Multi-ethnic Ethiopian state under Shoa rule. During his military leadership, other mixed Oromos were promoted into the highest ranks in the Ethiopian military, including the famous minister Habte Giyorgis Dinagde.

While he was not the first, Gobana’s achievements were a major milestone in our transformation into a multi-ethnic Ethiopian society. So from a viewpoint of one-ethnic based politics, YES, Gobana might look like a “traitor” (the same way as the south-born Abraham Lincoln was a “traitor” for the southern Confederate states.) But from the standpoint of the evolution of a supra-ethnic Ethiopian identity, Ras Gobana is a pan-Ethiopian trans national hero.

In Summary, we should not underestimate the impact of ethnic mixture in Ethiopian politics. It is a tradition in Ethiopia that most people pick their father’s side of ancestry during self-identification. But this bad tradition does not affect their school of thought or political consciousness, which is still defined by their mixed heritage. So I would argue that we improve our old tradition and embrace our mixed identities. Mixed people should be proud of their mixed heritage and avoid picking one-side of their family. They are simply “Ethnic Ethiopians” by birth since they are the byproduct of the Ethiopian nation-state formation.

In the book “Becoming Oromo” authored by Mekuria Bulcha, there is one short story of a man living in Sudan. He is originally from eastern Wallaga and he was approached by Oromo nationalists to recruit him for OLF. The OLF was apparently desperate and they did not know the man was a mixed Oromo. So an OLF representative eagerly asked him to join their organization. To their surprise, he rejected their offer by saying his ethnicity is “Ethiopian!”

In this important time for our country, it is time that all mixed Ethiopians stop picking only one part of their identity and embrace their whole being. It is time that we embrace our Ethiopian ethnicity by saying “Gosaye Ethiopia!”

Just like Ras Gobana, for millions of mixed Ethiopians, our “Gosa” is Ethiopia. The ethnic Oromo has Oromia region, the ethnic Amhara has Amhara region and the Tigrayans have Tigray; but for us ethnic Ethiopians both our identity and our ethnicity is Ethiopia. Thus defending the Ethiopian state is our duty just like Gobana and his grandson Ras Abebe Aregai did. Ras Abebe (son of Gobana’s daughter Askale Gobana) was the leader of the “Arbegnoch” in the 1930s, which defeated the Italian occupation and who later became the Minister of Defense under Emperor Haile Selassie.

Who among the TPLF camp would dare to tell Ras Abebe Aregai choose only one part of his ethnicity?

teshomeborago@yahoo.com

  1. aha!
    | #1

    Garo @#49, the Ethiopians under Ethiopian Nationalism have the goals and strategies to achieve those goals, different from the goals of either Medrek and the TPLF/eprdf regime to save Ethiopia from disintegration by the TPLF/eprdf regime of conglomerates of ex-liberation fronts and its mirror image implicitly supporting ethnic federalism, a prelude to ethnic secessionism, future boundary conflicts, ethnic cleansing, etc.

  2. Garo
    | #2

    @aha!
    I know a lot of the non- Amhara Southerners know What Ethiopian nationalism mean and that is why they are staying away from the likes of Semayawi party led by a Gojame and whose famous supporter is a Gojame professor who lives in the United State. Now this is a response to kingit which is dominated by the Shewa Amharas. You can’t even fix your regional problem you claim to stand for the whole country? Nobody is going to be fooled by it.

    You claim the neftegna system is gone. Yes, the one that was headed by Amharas is gone only to be replaced by Tigre neftegnas. During the so called Derg time it only changed its form under the so called land reform which did not give the land to its rightful owners but kept it under full control of the sons and daughters of Amhara neftegnas who settled millions of Amharas more in the South while there were millions of landless Southerners. The conflicts that you see today was planted back then by the old Neftegna system. Now the junior partner in the old system has become the major partner.Trying to rescue a system that has no place in the modern time is mind boggling.Then again this for them is not about democracy but it is about saving an empire. I know you are going to deny that Ethiopia was an empire and to me it still is and something that some say can’t be reformed.

  3. aha!
    | #3

    Addendum to aha @ #50: add to the above criteria to those whose party alignment is along national agenda than ethnic agenda catering to the ideology of Ethiopian Nationalism.

  4. aha!
    | #4

    Garo @#50, we agree at one point when you said, “Yes that was headed by Amharas is gone only to replaced by Tigre neftegnas”, which indicates that you are neither here or there, nor do you meet the criteria enumerated above and have no solution to the predicament the SNNP is in under a system of political ethnicity, ethnic federalism/ethnic homelands for 45 ethnic groups lumped together to serve as prelude fututure boundary conflicts and an ongoing ethnic cleansing targeted at hating Amhara and Amharic language by ex-liberation fronts of ruling party under the control of TPLF Politbeurro at the pretxt of oppression of nations and nationalities. Whereas the silent majority tax payers of the South, the Oromia Zone, the Amhara and Tigre Zone would benefited from the student movement for land reform and workers rights would served better under Ethiopian Nationalism, Ethiopia as a one nation State for unity, territorial integrity, sovereignty of Ethiopia and Ethiopians, where the last item refers to individual freedom, liberty and equality before the law, which you do not have now under Article 10(1&2, masked by ethnic rights.

  5. Dawi
    | #5

    aha said:

    [[…Ethiopians do not have an enemy other than tplf…]]

    aha,

    Don’t throw up the towel and join the extremists on us my friend. You remember telling ”Garo @#50, we agree at one point when you said, “Yes that was headed by Amharas is gone only to replaced by Tigre neftegnas”.

    As you have some sympathy to the old establishment, at least the 14 provinces are concerned and brother Garo considers the present “neftegnas” are the continuation of that, you have to be careful when you throw the baby out with a bathwater.

    Who do you think is going to take over?

  6. Tesfa
    | #6

    Garo,

    You have been in this mind set since 1971.And you are in this forum for one purpose, to immortalize the defunct OLF. You the Somalia region is about to go where is the evidence for that? Do you know when it comes to the issue of liberation fronts the people you refer as northerners or Abyssinians Or in the title of Atse are not and won’t be divided.

    You know very well, deep in your heart, after 40 years things have not turned out as you expected for your OLF. What is left for you now is to vent your fear. That is why you are against any thing that have to do collective effort to promote peace and bring lasting solutions to the problem. Not only you are angry against Ethiopian opposition and TPLF but against Kenya for what you think her failure to promote your expectations of realizing y our blisuma. How do I know this ,you might ask? Cause I read your comments under Samuel, Garo and anon.

    A highly reputed researcher said in his criticism of the left,

    “, these people have over the years acquired a strong vested emotional interest in their own errors. Their intellects and egos are totally committed to their theory. Most people are highly reluctant to admit that they have been conned or have shown poor judgment. To inspect the evidence of the existence of a conspiracy guiding our political destiny from behind the scenes would force many of these people to repudiate a lifetime of accumulated opinions”.

  7. koya
    | #7

    Tesfa

    Whether abyssinian are divided or not divided colonial rule over the somalis and others will have an end one day.The least we accept is a genuine ethnic federal.
    a real share of power among nations and nationalities.

  8. Garo
    | #8

    @Tesfa
    I have no mind set for the things that you said but I have mind set for freedom. If that makes me guilty so be it.

    Your quotation from a famous person you are referring to can also be used to argue against your side. Why are you so bothered if these issues are not real and they are tearing Ethiopia apart. I am aware of the fact that these issues are not unique to Ethiopia,but the immeye Ethiopia side continues to deny that these issues exist.

    I am not an OLF member or even sympathizer for that matter but I am familiar with the issues. I am also aware of their successes and short comings. Those issues they are fighting for are not created by them. It was a reality back then when they started it as it is today.

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