chapter  5
The Oromo Gada system of government: an indigenous African democracy LEMMU BAISSA
Pages 21

Most of the Oromo people administered themselves democratically through their elected officials under the Gada republican system of government before the Abyssinian conquest in the 1880s. Until the-mid seventeenth century, Gada government comprised a hierarchy of triple levels of government: the national, the regional and local. At the panOromo level, the national government was led by an elected luba council formed from representatives of the major Oromo moieties, clan families and clans, under the presidency of the abba gada and his two deputies, collectively known as the warana saden. The national leadership was responsible for such important matters as legislation and enforcement of general laws, handling issues of war and peace and coordinating the nation’s defence, management of intra-Oromo clan conflicts and dealing with nonOromo peoples. Since the mid-seventeenth century, the national level declined and eventually collapsed while regional and local clan republics emerged more autonomous and responsible for self-government. Each local republic followed Gada laws and practice, set up its chafe, or open air assembly, and elected its luba council and leaders by whom it was administered. The local republics maintained law and order and provided justice within their borders. The Oromo enjoyed considerable personal liberty and freedom and democratic self-governance as witnessed by foreign travellers such as Walter Plowden and Antoine D’Abbadie. However, profound internal transformation and external manipulation by neighbours further weakened Gada rule in several regions in the nineteenth century, encouraging the rise of war chiefs and undermining Oromo defence. Assisted by massive modern firearms, the Abyssinians conquered and terminated Oromo sovereignty and independence in the 1880s. Immediately Emperor Menelik of Shoa issued orders to ban Gada rule and suppress Oromo democracy, placing the conquered nation under the highly reactionary, exploitative and despotic Abyssinian feudal empire.