(A4O, 3 March 2014) Dr. Paul Baxter, a leading and longtime researcher on the Oromo nation, died at the age of 89. Dr. Baxter was a distinguished British anthropologist who devoted his entire life studying the Oromo.
According to Oromo Study Association, Dr Paul Baxter was one of the authoritative authors on the subject and contributed immensely to the development of Oromo studies at the time when the scholarship on the Oromo people was extremely discouraged in Ethiopia.
Born on January 30, 1925 in England, Paul Trevor William Baxter, popularly known as Paul Baxter or P.T.W. Baxter, earned his BA degree from Cambridge University. Influenced by famous scholars such as Bronisław Kasper Malinowski, Charles Gabriel Seligman, and Evans Pritchard, Paul Baxter had a solid affection for social anthropology. He went to the famous Oxford University to study social anthropology.
It was at the zenith of the Amharization project of Emperor Haile Selassie that he developed a strong interest to study the social organization of the Oromo people. In fact, in 1952, he started to study the Oromo Gada system, against all odds from authorities of the Ethiopian empire, and subsequently produced some of the finest scholarly pieces that laid the foundation for Oromo scholarship.
His first article titled “The Social Organization of the Oromo of Northern Kenya”, published in 1954 became a foundation for more of his researches to come and a reference for the students of Oromo studies. Besides, the research disqualified many of the myths and pseudo stories that assume the Oromos were a people without civilization, culture, and history.
Dr. Paul Baxter did not stop there. He continued with his studies and spent several decades studying different aspects of the Oromo society. It was through his extended research among the Oromos that he managed to deconstruct some of the myths that portrayed the Oromo people as a “warlike” or “barbarian” nation in the rather fictious stories written by the 16th century Abyssinian spy monk, Aba Bahrey and all the subsequent debteras.
The title of essays in his honor, in 1994, “A River of Blessings” speaks to his perception and reality of the Oromo as a peace-loving nation. In his article, “Ethiopia’s Unacknowledged Problem: The Oromo”, he highlighted some of the Oromophobic and barbaric manners of the Ethiopian Empire, and he suggested that peace with the Oromo nation was the only lasting panacea to the Ethiopian political sickening.
In his long academic and research career, he studied the Oromo from northern Kenya to Wallo and Arsi-all the way to Guji and so on. He edited a number of books on Oromo studies and published many other articles and book chapters in the field of social anthropology.
Dr. Paul Baxter is survived by his wife, Pat Baxter, his son, Adam Baxter, and his three grandsons and their children. May his soul rest in peace!!