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The Oromo Chronology @

By Ethiopian Regimes  |  By Key Events  |  By Centuries

Before 1853


1853 ...

1872 ...

1865 ...

1909 ...
Haile Selassie
1930 ...
Mengistu Haile Mariam

1974 ...
Meles Zenawi

1991 ...

Events in Oromo History During the Reign of Haile Selassie




Oromo peasants and nomads in Yejju, Rayya or Wajerat districts of present southern Tigray and northern Wallo revolted against the rule of Haile Selassie and refused to pay the heavy taxes imposed on them. The government dispatched troops to put down the revolt. The peasants with few arms they possessed were able to defeat the troops and capture a large quantity of arms and ammunition. Additional arms were obtained by the nomads from the Red Sea coast in Tajura.


The Oromo fighters of the revolt in Yejju and Rayya controlled a large part of their area and closed the trade route that connected Dasee, the capital of Wallo, to the south. In a battle with the government forces in October 1929, the Oromo fighters captured 2,000 rifles and 12,000 cartridges.


Tafari Makonnen, throne name Haile Sellassie I, Conquering Lion of the Tribe of Judah, Elect of God and Emperor of Ethiopia, succeeded Zawditu to the throne.


A large government force, led by the war minister, Mulugeta, arrived in Yejju and Rayya regions. The Oromo fighters put up stiff resistance. The Oromo resistance was finally put down, although temporarily, mainly by the use of airplanes. It was the first time airplanes were ever used in a war in the Empire.


The first constitution of Ethiopia was introduced. In this document the term "Abyssinia" was dropped in favor of "Ethiopia," thereby defining Abyssinians and all the colonized peoples as "Ethiopians."


Jimma was fully incorporated into the Ethiopian Empire.


As the colonial government strengthened its grasp on Oromia and consolidated its power, the situation concerning land and property for Oromo worsened. In 1933 Haile Selassie passed a law decreeing that "... once a person was given to a naftanya he was not allowed to leave the land against the landlord's will ... "


League of Nations Report C.240, M.171, VII, p.41: "The inhabitants of the conquered country were registered in families by the Abyssinian chiefs, and to every family of Abyssinians settled in the country there is assigned one or more families of the conquered as gabbar. The gabbar family is obliged to support the Abyssinian family, it gives that family its own lands, builds and maintains, the huts in which it lives, cultivates the fields, grazes the cattle, and carries to every kind of work and performs all possible services for the Abyssinian family. All this is done without any remuneration, merely in token of the perpetual servitude resulting from the defeat sustained thirty years ago."


The Jimma Oromo rose up and attacked colonial officials and settlers, just prior to the Italian invasion. At the time of the Italian invasion, the Jimma population used the situation to their advantage and routed the naftanyas. This doesn't mean they preferred the Italians as masters. In fact, at the time of the Italian invasion of 1936, the Sultan of Jimma, Abbaa Jobir, joined the other Oromo leaders in the region in the independence movement and the establishment of the Western Oromo Confederation.


The Italian Fascist regime invaded the Ethiopian Empire in revenge for Italy's defeat at the Battle of Adwa some 40 years earlier.

The Oromo resisted Italian occupation everywhere because they wanted freedom and naturally did not want to substitute one master for another.

A. Sbacchi, "Ethiopia Under Mussolini's Fascism and Colonial Experience," noted "The Oromo ... gained more in the long run than the Amhara from the Italian occupation of Ethiopia, but were not always too cooperative and did not live up to Italian expectations."

The Oromo language was used in courts and on radio for the first time. Even some literature appeared in the Oromo language. Haile Sellasie, upon his restoration by the British and against the wishes of the Oromo people, reversed all these positive developments.


Western Oromo leaders refused to send troops to take part in the battle against the Italians in the northern front. Thirty-three local leaders of western Oromia formed the "Western Oromo Confederation" under the leadership of Kumsa Moroda, alias Habte Mariam Moroda, and appealed to the League of Nations through the British Consul in Gore for recognition and membership. The request was ignored. During the same time, the British Government was requested to establish mandate over the "Western Oromo Confederation" until it achieved self-government. The British refused to give their support.


Oromo of Rayya and Qobbo were fighting Haile Selassie's army. At one point, on April 3, 1936 near Ashange Lake, they almost trapped Haile Selassie himself fleeing from the Italians. He never put his feet in this area again after that. During the same period, the Oromo guerrillas attacked the retreating Ethiopian army led by Ras Mulugeta and inflicted heavy casualties. They revenged his earlier (1930) aerial attack on them by killing his son; he himself narrowly escaped. One of the reasons for the attack was, the Ethiopian army on its way to the war had looted the property of the Oromo communities.


After the Italian defeat and expulsion, many Oromo communities opposed the restoration of Haile Selassie and gabbar (tenancy) system abolished by the Italians. The uprising of Oromo communities in Rayya, Shawa, Hararge, Jimma, etc, were a few centers of opposition.

The Oromo rebellion at Qobbo effectively cut off all communication between Addis Ababa and Asmara. The Oromo guerrillas in Rayya liberated a large area of the territory and gained control of it for several months.

The central and eastern Oromia leaders petitioned the British government for the establishment of an independent Oromia Republic. The request was denied and Haile Selassie was reinstated, which brought to an end for the time being, Oromo's hope for immediate independence.


Somalis, under British and Italian colonial rule, organized themselves under the name "Somali Youth League (SYL)" or "Kulub" to struggle for their independence. When news of this organization reached the neighboring Oromo, Harari and Somalis of Hararge, they in turn began to secretly organize to seek liberation from Ethiopian rule.


The Oromo uprising in Rayya was temporarily suppressed with the assistance of the British Royal Air Force stationed in Aden. Many of the leaders of the Oromo movement were also implicated in the Woyane revolt in Tigray in 1943.


Oromo communities from Jaarso and Baabbile of eastern Oromia began armed struggle, following the creation of the Somali Youth League in British and Italian Somaliland. Within a short time, they liberated large areas in eastern Hararge, except for large towns like Harrar and Dire Dawa. The Ethiopian government reacted with unexpected violence, and killed many people, razed the countryside, destroyed mosques and other religious centers and property. The fighting subsided temporarily.


The Jile, pastoral Oromo communities, were evicted from their lands in the upper and middle Hawas (Awash) valley, around Qoqaa (present Qoqaa Dam) and Wanji. Their land was given to Handels Vereniging Amsterdam (HVA), a Dutch firm, with sugar plantations and processing. Those who survived the onslaught of the Ethiopian army among the Jile community of Karrayyu disintegrated and disappeared. The surviving Karrayyu communities moved further south and joined thier kin in the middle Hawas valley.


At a place called Waleenso near Bookee in Harbo province, Oromo nationalists in the surrounding area organized themselves and fought the colonial regime. The movement was a continuation of that of the previous year and was also in opposition to the restoration of tenancy that had been abolished by the Italians. Among the leaders were Mohammed Jilo and M. Jawwe, who had gained experience in the use of modern arms and fighting during the Italian occupation. The fighters laid down their arms only after they were assured they could continue to administer their area without the interference of the colonial administration.


The Somali Youth League (SYL) invited Oromo and other groups in Hararge to join them in the struggle against the three colonial powers in the region, British, Italians and Ethiopians, and to build one country together. For fear of unnecessarily aggravating Ethiopian authorities too early, the use of Oromo in the name of the organization was avoided and it was agreed to conduct the struggle under the SYL. But it was perhaps a mistake of historic significance that has plagued the Oromo national struggle up to this moment.


Oromo leaders in Hararge were able to smuggle in arms through Djibouti. Fighting started simultaneously in British Somaliland and Hararge. This created fear among the settlers. The government was able to suppress the movement after a lot of bloodshed, arrest and imprisonment. Following this event, SYL offices in Harar, Dire Dawa, Dadar, Ginnir, etc were closed down.


The Rayya Oromo rose up in arms again. Again after they had liberated a large area of their land, the movement was stopped when the British Royal Air Force in Aden at the request of the Ethiopian regime, savagely bombed the Oromo guerrilla positions.


A peasant revolt broke out in the Dawwe area. The continuous harassment and unwarranted confiscation of Oromo property by the settlers was the immediate cause of the revolt. The Oromo organized themselves into guerrilla forces and forced the colonial settlers and administrators out of the area. Soon the revolt spread and covered a wider area. The guerrilla defeated the government troops, who were sent to quell the revolt, several times and captured arms and ammunition. After several attempts to subdue them with a regular army failed, a detachment of the Imperial Body Guard with combat experience in Korea, led by one of Haile Selassie's generals, in an act of barbarism massacred more than 700 of those who gave themselves up peacefully. Previously, one of the local leaders, Ali Dullatti, slipped out of the war area secretly and traveled to Addis Ababa to appeal to the Emperor, who agreed on amnesty to the fighters.


Alaqa Taye, an Abyssinian court historian, alleged that in the 14th and 15th centuries the Oromo migrated from Asia and Madagascar.

Haile Sellasie revised his constitution.


An Oromo scholar, Sheikh Bakri Saphalo, discovered a script for writing Oromiffa; the script gained popularity in some parts of eastern Oromia, before it was discovered by the Abyssinian colonial authorities and suppressed.


A radio program, called the Voice of Harar Oromo, broadcasted in the Oromo language from Egypt. The Oromo and few Adares behind this project (organized as Harar Oromo) came to Egypt after the crackdown on SYL in 1948 in Hararge.


A few Oromo youth organized themselves, with the encouragement and financial support of some Oromo nationalists, into an Oromo cultural troupe called Afran Qallo, after the four major Oromo clans of the region, in Dire Dawa town. In addition to the regular show in Dire Dawa, the group traveled to other towns in the regions and staged musical shows and enjoyed tremendous popularity. The popular singer, Ali Birraa, was a member of this group.

Somali radio started a program in the Oromo language. At the time, there was no Oromo language program on Ethiopian radio. It was a new development and was very effective in educating the Oromo people about their own position and situation in the Empire.


Somalia became independent. Prior to this, members of Somali Youth League reorganized and opened an office in Mogadishu under the name of the Liberation Front for the Somali West (LFSW) or "Somali Galbed." Its main objective was to regain 'the lost territories of Somalia' - referring to Hararge, Arsi, Baale and Sidamo - and annex them to Somalia.


A coup d'etat to topple the Haile Selassie Monarchy failed. Oromo officers (such as Taddasaa Biru, Jaagamaa Keello, Waqejira Serda, Dawit Abdi and Major Qadida Guremeysa) loyal to the Emperor were instrumental in failing the coup. And yet they were suspected of disloyalty and subjected to discrimination by the authorities. Such a policy not only angered Oromo officers, but also encouraged them to be involved in political activities.

Dec 1960

The United Nations passed Resolution 1514 XV, which defined colonialism as "the subjection of peoples to alien subjugation, domination and exploitation." The establishment of the Ethiopian rule in Oromia and the subsequent all-out attempts at destroying Oromo culture, norms, values and beliefs and its replacement by that of Abyssinians has fitted the UN's definition of "colonialism."


The new Somali government opened an embassy in Cairo. Some of the embassy staff who had a long history of involvement with SYL and the creation of LFSW put a lot of pressure on the Oromo, including snatching passports, canceling scholarships, etc. to accept the LFSW. The Oromo refused to adopt a Somali identity.

24 Jan, 1963

In the early 1960s several self-help associations mushroomed in the Empire. Among such self-help communities of the time were the Shawa Tuullama and Jibaat and Macha in Shawa. These two merged and formed the Macha-Tuullama Welfare Association (MTWA). MTWA was formed in accordance with Article 45 of his Imperial Majesty's 1955 revised Constitution and Article 14, Number 505 of the Civil Code of the Ethiopian Empire as a civilian self-help association. Its logo, designed by Haile Mariam Gamada, was the Odaa (sycamore tree), the symbol of freedom and self-administration. Haile Mariam Gamada also coined the name of the Association.


Many of the now disbanded Harar Oromo organization members moved to Somalia, joined LFSW and dominated it. Realizing this, the Ogaden Somali withdrew from the LFSW and formed its own organization, the Ogaden Somali Liberation Front (OSLF). For all practical purposes, LFSW was an Oromo organization.


Independent of the outside group, armed struggle started in Baale in 1963. Like almost all of its predecessors, the issue that triggered the Baale armed uprising was conflict on land use. Waaqo Guutu and about 40 others revolted against the government order to sent back Oromo who moved to Sidamo from Baale during that period. With the assistance of Somalis who were treated in similar manner, Waaqo Guutu's force moved to Dallo, the birthplace of Waaqo, and joined old friends like Aliyyi Chirri, who had already revolted and were in the Madda Walaabu forest. The first time the join Waaqo/Chirri guerilla force encountered the enemy was at Malkaa Arganno, where they tasted their fist victory. From there, they advanced to the towns of Oborso and Bidere and liberated them.

May 1964

The Macha-Tullama Welfare Association (MTWA) was permitted by the government to function as a self-help organization in the Shawa region. After this permit, MTWA's leaders started mobilizing the Oromo through public gatherings.

23 June, 1964

The Macha-Tuullama Welfare Association became highly publicized and gained members in thousands. This was triggered by the politically charged speeches of General Taddasaa Birru delivered at the regular meetings of the Association. This was after his meetings with the Prime Minister, Akelilu Habete Wolde, and other high officials at which the Prime Minister took Taddasaa for an Amhara and shared secret state policies with him that restricted non-Amhara to high posts in all government institutions and those entering higher education institutions.

Public rallies and meetings were organized in villages, towns and cities in several parts of Oromia where the Association leaders and cadres spoke. The government was particularly disturbed when persons like General Taddasaa, who they took for an Amhara or considered Amharized for all practical purposes not only openly identify himself as an Oromo but articulated his people's position and dissatisfaction with the government.


The Waaqo/Chirri rebellion spread like forest fire through Dallo, Waabee and other provinces. More leaders with hundreds of followers went to Somalia and received assistance. They used classical guerrilla tactics operating out of bases in the dense forests and mountains of Baale. The guerrillas made constant raids on the colonial force and army outposts and roads to make it difficult for the army to move or to receive supplies. Some of the prominent leaders in the Baale uprising were Waaqo Guutu, Waaqo Luugo, Aliyyi Chirri, Abbaa Washa and Hajji Yisihaq.


The top leaders of the MTWA and the Baale rebellion met secretly and discussed how best to coordinate their activities. The man who was instrumental in bringing the two movements together was Ahmad Buna, a school teacher, a long time member of the MTWA and one of the founders of the Oromo Liberation Front in 1974.

15 May, 1966

The MTWA organized a mass gathering at Itayaa, in Arsi. Haile Selassie's government did everything to prevent the meeting from taking place, but to no avail. It's estimated that as many as 100,000 Oromo peasants from the Arsi region might have participated in that gathering, which was a turning point in the short history of the Association as well as in modern Oromo history. Haji Robale Ture, one of the leaders of the Association, stated that as "streams join together to form a river, people also join together to be a nation to become a country," calling on the Oromo to strengthen their unity and create their own country.


The Ethiopian government attacked guerrilla positions in El-Karre province with airplanes. This was effective only due to the topography of the land, which was mostly flat and bare. The bombing of villages over all the regions was intensified with some effect, creating fear and horror among the population who were not used to this type of warfare.


The government security force confiscated Mamo Mazamir's "History of the Oromo" when they searched in house. Mamo Mazamir was an Oromo student in the Addis Ababa University (Haile Selassie I University) Law School and a member of MTWA. In addition to writing history, Mamo prepared a plan for a new government, a new constitution and distribution of land among the landless tenants.


The MTWA opened more branch offices all over Oromia. Tesfaye Degaga established the Association's branch office in Sidamo province. Abba Biya Abba Jobir and Dr. Moga Firissa established the Jimma branch office. Abera Yemer opened the office in Wallo. Shaykh Hussein Sura and Haji Adam Sado set up the office in the Baale region. In Illubabor and Hararge, the offices were established by Dr. Jamal Abdul Qadir and Qenzamach Abdulaziz Mohammed, respectively. Astede Habte Mariam, the only woman within the highest policy-making Board of the Association, formed the Wallagga branch office.

15 Oct, 1966

General Taddasaa Birru stated at a meeting in the town of Dheera in Arsi that the political goal of MTWA was to restore the inalienable rights of the Oromo people. He went on to say that the Oromo had nothing to expect from the Amhara rulers, and they would have to depend on themselves.

Feb 1967

Terrified by the Oromo national consciousness, both in Baale and Finfinne, a government conspiracy led to the explosion of a hand grenade in an Addis Ababa cinema. The regime immediately placed the responsibility at the door of the Macha-Tuullama Welfare Association and the Association was immediately banned. Several of the leaders and cadres were arrested and brought to trial before special court in February 1967.


Using air cover, the Ethiopian army launched an all-out offensive in Dallo and Gannale to defeat the Baale rebellion. After some of the ferocious fighting, the army captured the towns of Hawo and Buluq in Dallo. But it was a temporary defeat to the guerrillas since they recaptured these places after a few weeks and the government offensive ended as a total failure. At this juncture, the Ethiopian government became desperate, and once again it turned to its patrons for help to rescue the Empire. The British sent over 400 British army engineers to build bridges and roads. One of the bridges that was of tremendous strategic importance was built over the Gannaale river. The American Air Force experts were brought in to improve the fire power of the Ethiopian Air Force jet fighters for more accurate air strikes. Several Israeli counter-insurgency and explosive experts were brought in to advise and guide the army. In spite of all these efforts, the guerrillas were able to repulse the enemy and continue to expand their area activity.


The government persecuted leaders of the MTWA. Among the leaders, Mamo Mazamir, was sentenced to death by hanging while others, such as Haile Mariam Gamada and a few others were believed to have died from poisoning, later. General Taddasaa shot his way out when colonial security agents went to arrest him at his home.


A military coup d'etat took place in Somalia, which brought a significant change of policy. Even though the president of the military government, General Siad Barre, was a staunch supporter of the liberation movements and all forces fighting the Ethiopian colonial rulers, support for the Oromo guerrilla in Baale was suspended and the supply of arms and ammunition ceased. The Ethiopian government exploited this situation by changing its tactics of confrontation to reconciliation.


The leaders and the majority of the rank and file of the Baale rebellion laid down their arms after the Ethiopian government used Oromo generals like Jaagamaa Keello to get the sympathy and confidence of the movement leaders. Waaqo Guutu and a few others were invited to the capital where they met with the Emperor and were shown military facilities like the Imperial Air Force. As the leader of the movement, he had the title of General.


A Liberation Front of Somali West (LFSW) delegation headed by the general secretary, Hussein Mohammed Ali, alias Hussein Sora, visited the Middle East. Hussein had been an active member of the Macha-Tuullama Welfare Association and had been to Somalia in 1967 when the Association was banned and its members persecuted.

May 1971

The underground agitation paper, "The Oromo: Voice Against Tyranny," (issued by members who went underground in Addis Ababa following the ban on MTWA), stated ... "An Oromo has no empire to build but a mission to break an imperial yoke, that makes this mission sacred and his sacrifices never too dear."


The LFSW in the Middle East changed its name to the "Ethiopian National Liberation Front." The ENLF provided training to a few individuals in Aden and other friendly Arab countries and dispatched them to enter the country through northern Somalia - Barbara, Hargessa - to start an armed struggle. The group was tracked down and arrested with their weapons by Somali security forces, shortly after they disembarked. One person was shot and killed during the arrest. The rest and many of their collaborators in Somalia remained in the custody of the government until 1975.


The ENLF made preparation to try to enter the country to start armed struggle for a second time. On the issue of the name of the organization, "Oromo" was favored, even though Hussein Sora continued to insist on "Ethiopia." Hussein went back to Aden to continue foreign activities. The other members proceeded to Hararge where they received supplies sent in from Aden through Afar land and Wallo to Hararge. They established the first guerrilla base in the Charchar mountains in November 1973. In the field the name "Oromo" and not "Ethiopia" was used. Soon a new political situation developed which led to the taking over of power by the military in Ethiopia.


Asmarom Legesse published "Gada: Three Approaches to the Study of African Society" in which he described the Gadaa system: "one of the most astonishing and instructive turns the evolution of human society has taken."


A body or a committee was created to coordinate the work of the underground study. After the banning of the MTWA in 1967, those members who escaped arrest continued the struggle both outside and inside the country where they operated clandestinely. Students, particularly those in the university, continued agitating through various means, including underground papers, such as "The Oromo Voice Against Tyranny" and "Kana Beektaa."

Dec 1973

The leaders of the underground Macha-Tuullama movement organized a secret conference in Addis Ababa itself. Among the participants, Hussein Sora (Sheik Hussein) and Elemo Qilixxu (Baker Yusuf) came from the Middle East.

January 1974

The conference in December 1973 culminated in forming the Oromo Liberation Front (OLF). The first political program of the OLF (amended in 1976) was also the product of that conference. Those who formed the OLF were card-carrying members of the Macha-Tuullama Welfare Association (MTWA). In short, the OLF grew out of the MT movement.

April 1974

The first unit of the OLF guerrilla fighters led by Elemo Qilixxu launched an armed struggle in the highlands of Charchar, Eastern Oromia.


Ethiopian Revolution toppled the Haile Selassie Monarchy.

On September 12th, 1974, the Military Coordinating Committee (Derg) proclaimed itself as the Provisional Military Administration Council (PMAC) and took over the state and government power.

At the end of 1974, to weaken and eliminate the major opposition groups in the urban centers, the Derg sent all university and high school students and teachers to rural areas on what was called "Development Through Cooperation Campaign" - Zamacha.