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A Journey to Revitalizing Gadaa at Odaa Hullee: Tracing Jimma University’s Unwavering Commitment

The Gadaa Center at Odaa Hullee has been reinstalled after two centuries of interruption on January 22 and 23, 2018. Jimma University has played an immense role in the process of the revitalization through taking the initiative and collaborating with Jimma Zone Culture and Tourism Office.

The two days event of the reinstatement of Gadaa at Odaa Hullee was so glamorous and fervent, as it marked the realization of what is thought to be “unthinkable”. Indeed, Jimma University’s audacious steps in the process have been far reaching, and harbinger to the success which began well before events took their current shape. The restoration of Gadaa at Odaa Hullee is, then, a buildup in the process.

It is almost two decades that the University took a leading initiative on strengthening Oromoo scholarship through launching Bachelor Degree program in Afaan Oromoo and Literature, which is the pioneering in the country. A decade ago, the University added another program aiming to contribute towards the study and documentation of Oromoo culture, the Department of Oromoo Folklore and Literature. Both departments upgraded their programs to Masters Levels and have become the source of human power currently contributing towards the study, documentation and promotion of Oromoo Language, Culture and Arts, including the revitalization of Gadaa. 

The foundation of the Institute of Oromoo Studies (IOS) in 2016 at the University is another remarkable step towards contributing to the revitalization. From May 21—22, 2016, Jimma University organized and hosted the First International Oromoo Studies conference at which the Institute was launched. The conference brought with it the determination to promote and revive Gadaa across Oromia. It was symbolic, that Jimma Abbaa Jifar, that has now reinstalled its Gadaa at Odaa Hullee, hosted the conference deliberating dominantly on Gadaa. When the conference was held, Gadaa was not yet registered by UNESCO, and in his welcoming address to the participants of the conference; Professor Fikre Lemessa, President of JU has said the following:

“Let me also use this chance to say few words on the Gadaa System which is being on the way to be registered as one of the world heritages in UNESCO. The Gadaa System is the dominant scientific discourse these days in many areas of knowledge. It is also going to be the dominant scientific discourse in this conference in which about 15 papers are going to be presented on this theme” 

Well, true to the forecast at the conference, and six months later, Gadaa was inscribed by UNESCO as Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity in December 2016 at the 11th Session of UNESCO's Intergovernmental Committee for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage. Staff members of the University have had a remarkable professional contribution in the process of its inscription for which they were duly acknowledged by Oromia Regional State.

The inscription of Gadaa by UNESCO has brought with it not only a joy of accomplishment but also a duty of safeguarding the cherished system. In celebration of the inscription, and to deliberate on the prospect, the Institute of Oromoo Studies in collaboration with College of Social Sciences and Humanities at Jimma University, organized a historic forum on Gadaa System as Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity: Inscription by UNESCO and Its Prospects. It was at this forum that the idea of reviving Gadaa at Odaa Hullee was conceived. The forum involved participants from Jimma Zone Elders, Culture and Tourism Office, Jimma Town and Zone administration and JU administration and staff members.

In addition to the reflection on the process of the inscription by UNESCO, the forum deliberated on how to revive Gadaa at Odaa Hullee after a paper about the center was presented by a staff member of the University. The collaboration between the University and Jimma Zone Culture and Tourism Office on the agenda of reinstating Gadaa at Odaa Hullee began there.

A move towards the revitalization took practical shape when Jimma Zone Culture and Tourism Office with the help of Oromia Culture and Tourism Bureau organized a one day forum in collaboration with Institute of Oromoo Studies at Jimma University in April 2017. At the forum participants from all districts of Jimma Zone participated and discussed on how to revitalize the center. Fruitful and ground clearing discussions were made at the conference.

In the buildup, the Institute of Oromoo Studies hosted its Second International Conference solely devoted to Gadaa from June 1-2, 2017 on Gadaa: The Indigenous Knowledge System of Oromoo. At the conference, more than forty (40) research papers pertinent to Gadaa were presented by seasoned Gadaa scholars from home and abroad. The major agenda of discussion at the conference was the revitalization of Gadaa centers across Oromia including Odaa Hullee, and the safeguarding of the system and its cherished values as recommended by UNESCO. At the Conference, the Institute launched its bilingual Journal, Gadaa Journal/Barruulee Gadaa, devoted to the same cause.

The efforts of the University and Jimma Zone Culture and Tourism Office have come to fruition with the colorful and moving event of revitalization of Gadaa at Odaa Hullee on 23rd of January 2018 in the district of Omoo Beyam.

 

 

 

 

 

The event brought together guests from different parts of Oromia and from abroad. Prior to the reinstatement of Gadaa structure at Odaa Hullee, on January 22, 2018, a one day forum at which Abbaa Gadaas, dignitaries, higher officials, administrators, academics and people from all walks of life participated was held. The forum was opened with blessings of Abbaa Gadaas and attended by more than five hundred participants. Among these are Abbaa Gadaa Taakkalaa Dhinsaa, Abbaa Gadaa of Maccaa; Prof. Fikre Lemmessa, President of Jimma University; Mr. Abdulhakim Mulu, Jimma Zone administrator; Mr. Makiyu Mohammed, Mayor of Jimma City; Mrs Chaltu Awwol, the head of Jimma Zone Culture and Tourism Office; the legendary Oromoo Artist Dr. Ali Mohammed Birraa; and many more officials from Oromia National Regional State.

The panel discussion took place at Jimma University, College of Agriculture and Veterinary Medicine. Three papers focusing on the History and Culture of Jimmaa Oromoo, Gadaa System, and Tumaa Hullee were presented followed by comments and discussions from participants.

The performance of classic, melodious and prophetic music “karaan manni abbaa gadaa eessa” by the seasoned Artist Dr. Ali Birraa has brought the event to its climax. The song sung very long time ago, prophesized the day when the revitalizations of Gadaa centers such as Odaa Hullee materializes. The verse of his lyric “Osoolle Uleen Cabee kan Abbaa Gadaa hincabu…” roughly, “however fragile a stick may be—Abbaa Gadaa’s Scepter can never break…” which fittingly describes the inevitability of revival of Gadaa at Odaa Hullee moved the participants to cross fingers in signal of togetherness. The Scepter has now grown well and successfully developed branches like Odaa Hullee.   

The panel was chaired by Chaltuu, and brought to conclusion with the instructions and directions on the ways the system should operate given by Abbaa Gadaa Taakkalaa Dhinsaa, Abbaa Gadaa of Maccaa. He emphasized that the system should operate independently of any interference from government or political structures. The remarks he made in his speech were inspiratory and passionate that all participants held each other’s hands high and took the oath to live in peace and love with all centering the good of humanity irrespective of differences as enshrined in Gadaa.

On the second day, the attendees headed to Odaa Hullee for the actual ceremony to enact Gadaa assembly. The Abbaa Gadaas performed the enactment colorfully. They orchestrated the shows and rituals and embarked on elections of persons to be central Abbaa Gadaas. Those from the different parts of the districts are represented in the leadership positions. Accordingly, the council of the zonal Abbaa Gadaas has been established on 23 January 2018 at Odaa Hullee, where the Oromoo mass have been assembled to attend the ceremony from different parts of the country and across the world. The two days event was concluded with the establishment of the council.

Gadaa has now been reinstated at Odaa Hullee with a long miles ahead to go and needing collaboration of all concerned stakeholders. The historic event is a process in the making, and a testimony to the unwavering commitment of Jimma University which is always in the Community.

 

We are in the Community!   

 

  

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