The history of Finfinne reflects the way the Oromo people were conquered

July 19-23, 2004

 Statement by the Mr.Tarekegn Chimdi On Forced Change of the Capital city of the State of Oromia: Ethiopia, from Finfinne (Addis Ababa) to Adama and its Consequences

Mr Chairman and distinguished delegates,

Although, the Oromo constitute the majority (50%, more than 30 million) of the population in Ethiopia, their participation in political, economic life of the Ethiopian empire was undermined since the date of colonisation by the Abyssinian at the end of 19th century.

 From Finfinne to Addis Ababa

The history of Finfinne (Addis Ababa) in a way reflects the way the Oromo people were conquered, robbed off their land and properties, reduced to serfs and slaves, and kept under inhuman subjugation. Prior to colonization of Oromia, the present day Addis Ababa had an Oromo name – Finfinne.

The name attests the abundance of hot springs (“hora” in Oromiffa) at the heart of the city, where cattle flourished. The area was solely inhabited by Oromo clans of Gulale, Eekka, Galan, Abbichu and was divided into 12 counties or districts: Each county was being administered by the local clan chiefs: like Tufa Muna and Dula Harra’and others. , Jima Jatani, Guto Wasarbi , Jima Tikse t, Abeebe Tufa, Waree Golole, Tufa Araddo and Mojo Boxora.

During the late 18th and early 19th Century, the neighbouring Amhara community were wedging incessant predatory raids and looting expeditions against these people. Some of these barbaric raids were documented by Major W. C. Harris a British diplomatic mission in his book “The Highlands of Aethiopia (1844)”. In one of his vivid description he wrote”…rolling on like the mighty waves of the ocean, down poured the Amhara host among the rich glades and rural hamlets, at the heels of the flying inhabitants—tramping under foot the fields of the ripening corn, and sweeping before them the vast herds of cattle which grazed untended in every direction. When far beyond the range of vision, their destructive progress was still marked by the red flames that burst forth in turn from the thatched roofs of each village… they poured impetuously down the steep side of the mountain, and swept across the level …the troops, animated by the presence of the monarch, now performed their bloody work with a sharp and unsparing knife—firing village after village until the air was dark with their smoke mingled with the dust raised by the impetuous rush of man and horse.”

“The unfortunate inhabitants, taken by surprise, had barely time but to abandon their property, and fly [flee] for their lives.The spear of the warrior searched every bush for the hunted foe. Women and girls were torn from their hiding to be hurried into helpless captivity Old men and young were indiscriminately slain and mutilated among the fields and groves; flocks and herds were driven off in triumph, and house after house was sacked and consigned to the flames

Such acts continued albeit at differing degrees by all the successive leaders of that country against the indigenous people that fell under their barbaric rule. Haile Melekot, Menilik, and then Haile Sellassie all perpetrated these similar inhuman deeds against Oromo people in Finfine.

The remaining part of Oromia came under Abyssinian colonial subjugation through similar barbaric acts of pillaging and butchery. Millions of Oromos were killed, brutally mutilated or sold as slaves during the wars of conquest. Oromo land was apportioned among royal family, the church and the military personnel and the Oromos were forced to serve them as serfs on their own land. At the height of Haileselassie regime, the royal family and the nobility owned over 50% of Oromo land and 33% belonged to the Ethiopian Orthodox church.

After the 1960s, Finfinne went through changes of migration that brought about the population explosion from 40,000 in 1900, to over 3 million at the end of the century. Today Finfinne (Addis Ababa) is a headquarters of many international organizations like African Unity (AU) and ECA; and different agencies like UNDP, UNICEF, UNHCR, FAO, ILF, ICO and ITU . It also hosts some 70 embassies and consular representatives.  It is the main administrative, industrial and trade centre, In addition, the city is the centre of the nation’s service and finance sectors.

Nevertheless, the city expanded through forced displacement and eviction of indigenous Oromo farmers without compensation. Most were resettled in remote areas infested with Malaria and other infectious diseases.  Deforestation, air pollution and particularly of water from poor waste disposal system and disease and destruction of the cultural and religious relics of Oromo people are the reward these indigenous people in Finfine got from the growth of the City.

The indigenous Oromo people attach a special significance to Finfinne, it is the heart land of Oromia where most of cultural sites for the major Gada gathering from all over Oromia take place: Oda Nabe,

In due recognition all these, the constitutional grants special rights to the people of Oromia, but the current repressive EPRDF regime more so aggravated life of the indigenous people through systematic decimation  and uprooting of the indigenous from its place of abode in Finfine.

The EPRDF and Finfinne

After the fall of the Military regime in May 1991, a new constitution that was based on the respect of the rights of nations and nationalities to self-determination, and regional autonomy and decentralisation based on linguistic and territorial settlement was drafted. Above all the special right of the Oromo people and Oromia over Finfinne was ascertained and its boundaries delimited.

However in 2000, the EPRDF passed unconstitutional resolution to move the capital city of Oromia from Addis Ababa to Adama. The resolution was unanimously opposed by the Oromo people from all corners of Oromia and all walks of life.

Current developments and consequences

Following this move, a peaceful demonstration was organised by the Macca and Tullam self help Association. The association declared openly the move as illegal and unconstitutional, because it opposes the federal constitution which recognizes Finfinne as the Capital city of Oromia.

The brutality of the police that day, characterized the genetic code of EPRDF government against the indigenous peoples. Peaceful demonstrators were rounded up at different outposts of the city and beaten up severely by government security forces. Many, including elderly and women demonstrators were detained and humiliated. Consequent to this, five hundred University students were rounded up by police and were jailed in Kolfe- in police training camp. They were physically and psychologically tortured and 360 Oromo students were expelled from the University without any explanation.

The protest against suspension of the university students and the change of the capital city was followed by widespread unrest all over Oromia mainly in the Universities and high schools for more than two months. Untold property and life were lost in the process. Most schools in Oromia were closed and were converted in to detention centres. Thousands of students and teachers even parents were put under arrest.  Students were killed in towns like Ambo, Ginchi and Tukur Inchinni, Gimbi, Nakemte, Bushoftu and Maqi. Several hundreds were kidnapped and their where about still unknown.

To further aggravate the situation of Oromo people in the Empire the only self-help association which was established in all respect of the constitution and laws of the country,   the Macca and Tullama Association was banned, its leaders imprisoned and all its belongings were confiscated by the Government Police. The Macha and Tulama Association (MTA) is a civic organization established to promote socio-economic development in Oromia. It is not even a political organisation poised for election, but yet did not escape the heavy and harsh hand of EPRDF police.

To further add insult to the injury a religious organisations of Oromo’s –The Waqeffannaa Association (Monotheist religion similar mainly to Christianity and Islam) was banned and closed. This is also completely unconstitutional and illegal in that the state and religions are separate according to the constitution.

As I am reporting this gross human right violation I have just received a report that some of the University students who escaped expulsion were barred from graduation after completion of their studies by force of Meles Zenawi.  This is just naked apartheid.

Conclusions and recommendations

Successive Ethiopian governments have attempted to completely eradicate the existence and the identity of the Oromo people and other southern nations and nationalities.  Particularly indigenous Oromo’s living in the surroundings of Finfinne has suffered the most and was made landless consequently forced for resettlement in hostile environments. Gross abuses of human rights are common place on Oromo’s in and around Finfine for they are the natural owners of the country from the time immemorial. The brutal activity of the rulers who all come from the north have aggravated and reached a level where human right abuses are a daily ordeal of the Oromo community in general.  If these inhuman activities of the Government of Ethiopia are not averted in time, it could lead to a kind of genocide seen in parts of Africa like Darfur or Rwanda. Genocide of similar nature has already taken place in western parts of Ethiopia against the people of Gambella and Anuak as witnessed by the world community.

I request the world community to stand in unison against such repressive regimes and uphold the right of the indigenous people who in most the case are defenseless and have little means to protect their right to exist because of indomitable greediness prevalent in some settler communities.

I call upon the WGIP and Sub-commission to pressure the Ethiopian government to stop

–          Uprooting and eviction of Oromo farmers from the vicinity of Finfinne should be stopped. (Article 17 UDHR, Article 25 UDHR)

–          Forced removal of the capital city Oromia from Finfinne (Addis Ababa) without the consent of the Oromo people should be stopped, (Article 17 UDHR)

–          the natural resources, political and economic rights of the indigenous Oromo people over Finfinne ( Addis Ababa)  should be respected, (Article 1 (2) ICCPR, ICESCR)

–          All cultural heritages and values of the Oromo people around Finfinne and other cities in Oromia should be protected, (Article 27 ICCPR)

–          the right to self–determination of the Oromo people should be implemented for the peaceful end of the conflict between the Oromo people and the Ethiopian government as per to article 39 of the Ethiopian constitution and the common article 1 of the ICCPR and the ICESCR,


Thank you.

(United Nations Economic and Social Development Commission on Human Rights, Indigenous Peoples and Conflict Resolution 22nd Session of Working Group on Indigenous Populations)


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: