Country: Oromia (also phonetically spelled as
Area: 600,000 sq.km approx.
Capital: Finfinnee (also called Addis
Population: 45 million (2007 estimate)
Language: Oromo, also called Afan Oromo
Economy: Mainly agriculture (coffee,
several crops, spices, vegetables) and Animal Husbandry;
Mining industry; Tourism trade; Medium and small-scale
industries (textiles, refineries, meat packaging, etc)
Religion: Waaqqefata (the traditional
belief in Waaqa or God), Islam, and Christian
(Catholic, Orthodox and Protestant)
The Oromo make up a significant portion of the population
occupying the Horn of Africa. In the Ethiopian Empire alone,
Oromo constitute about 30 million of the 55 million
inhabitants of the Ethiopian Empire. In fact, Oromo is one
of the most numerous nations in Africa which enjoys a
homogeneous culture and shares a common language, history
and descent and once shared common political, religious and
legal institutions. During their long history, the Oromo
developed their own cultural, social and political system
known as the Gadaa system. It is a uniquely democratic
political and social institution that governed the life of
every individual in the society from birth to death.
Ecologically and agriculturally Oromia (Oromo country) is
the richest region in the Horn of Africa. Livestock
products, coffee, oil seeds, spices, mineral resources and
wild life are all diverse and abundant. In spite of all
these advantages, a century of colonisation by Abyssinia
(Ethiopia), a backward nation itself, has meant that the
Oromo people have endured a stagnant existence where
ignorance and famine have been coupled with ruthless
oppression, subjugation, exploitation and above all,
extermination. Thus for the last one hundred years under the
Ethiopian rule, the Oromo have gained very little, if
anything, in the way of political, social and economic
The Oromo were colonised during the last quarter of the
nineteenth century by a black African nation - Abyssinia -
with the help of the European colonial powers of the day.
During the same period, of course, the Somalis, Kenyans,
Sudanese and others were colonised by European powers. The
fact that the Oromo were colonised by black African nation
makes their case quite special.
During the process of colonisation, between 1870 and 1900,
the Oromo population was reduced from ten to five millions.
This period coincides with the occupation of Oromo land by
the Abyssinian emperors Yohannes and Menilek. After
colonisation, these emperors and their successors continued
to treat Oromo with utmost cruelty. Many were killed by the
colonial army and settlers, others died of famine and
epidemics of various diseases or were sold off as slaves.
Those who remained on the land were reduced to the status of
gabbar (a peasant from whom labour and produce is
exacted and is a crude form of serfdom).
Haile Selassie consolidated Yohannes and Meniiek's gains and
with the use of violence, obstructed the process of natural
and historical development of the Oromo society - political,
economic and social. In all spheres of life, discrimination,
subjugation, repression and exploitation of all forms were
applied. Everything possible was done to destroy Oromo
identity - culture, language, custom, tradition, name and
origin. In short Haile Selassie maintained the general
policy of genocide against the Oromo.
The 1974 revolution was brought about by the relentless
struggle over several years by, among others, the Oromo
peasants. The military junta, headed by Mengistu
Haile-Mariam, usurped power and took over the revolution.
This regime has continued on the path of emperors Yohannes,
Menilek and Haile Selassie in the oppression, subjugation
and exploitation of Oromo, the settlement of Abyssinians on
Oromo land and the policy of genocide.
Forced to fight against Eritreans, the Somalis and others,
many Oromo have fallen in battle. Many others have died on
the streets of cities and towns during the so-called "Red
Terror" period and in a similar programme that has been
expanded in the countryside since then. Massacres in towns
and villages coupled with bombing and search and destroy
programmes have caused the destruction of human lives,
crops, animals and property, have driven Oromo from their
land and forced them to seek refuge in neighbouring
countries. Not surprisingly, this ruthless oppression and
persecution of peoples has resulted in the largest flight of
refugees in Africa. A very large proportion of the refugees
in the Horn of Africa are Oromo.
In its attempt to oppress and eliminate the essential
elements of Oromo culture, the present regime has used
cover-up words such as 'development, relief, settlement,
villagization and literacy campaign' to mislead the world.
In fact most of these programmes and projects have been
aimed at displacing Oromo people and denying them freedom,
justice, human dignity and peace, thereby hastening the
process of Amharization or de-Oromization.
The struggle of the Oromo people, then, is nothing more than
an attempt to affirm their own place in history. It seeks
equality, human dignity, democracy, freedom and peace. It is
not directed against the masses of a particular nation or
nationality, nor against individuals, but rather against
Ethiopian colonialism led by the Amhara ruling class and the
naftanyas (Amhara colonial settlers) and against
feudalism and imperialism. Thus it is the Ethiopian colonial
system and not the Amhara masses or individuals which is
under critical consideration.
Today when nearly all of the African peoples have won
independence, the Oromo continue to suffer under the most
backward and savage Ethiopian settler colonialism. All
genuinely democratic and progressive individuals and groups,
including members of the oppressor nation, Amhara, who
believe in peace, human dignity and liberty should support
the Oromo struggle for liberation.
Although the Oromo nation is one of the largest in Africa,
it is forgotten by or still unknown to the majority of the
world today. Unfortunately even the name Oromo is unknown to
many, and this should not be allowed to continue.
The main purpose of this summary is to introduce readers
briefly to the Oromo people, their land, and culture.For
detailed treatment of the experiences of Oromo under
Ethiopian colonial rule as well as their struggle for
freedom, democracy and economic and social justice, please
refer to the
from which this summary is extracted. Please do note the
author's introductory message in this book: "... it is
not the intention of this book to write a definitive Oromo
history. This task is left to the historians, a work they
have unjustly treated or unjustifiably ignored in the past.
In fact the little that has been written about Oromo has
almost always been from Abyssinians and Europeans point of
The Oromo People
The Oromo are one of the Cushitic speaking groups of people
with variations in colour and physical characteristics
ranging from Hamitic to Nilotic. A brief look at the early
history of some of the peoples who have occupied
north-eastern Africa sheds some light on the ethnic origin
of Oromo. The Cushitic speakers have inhabited north-eastern
and eastern Africa for as long as recorded history. The land
of Cush, Nubia or the ancient Ethiopia in middle and lower
Nile is the home of the Cushitic speakers. It was most
probably from there that they subsequently dispersed and
became differentiated into separate linguistic and cultural
groups. The various Cushitic nations inhabiting north-east
and east Africa today are the result of this dispersion and
differentiation. The Oromo form one of those groups which
spread southwards and then east and west occupying large
part of the Horn of Africa. Their physical features,
culture, language and other evidences unequivocally point to
the fact that they are indigenous to this part of Africa.
Available information clearly indicates that the Oromo
existed as a community of people for thousands of years in
East Africa (Prouty at al, 1981).
Bates (1979) contends, "The Gallas
(Oromo) were a very ancient race, the indigenous stock,
perhaps, on which most other peoples in this part of eastern
Africa have been grafted".
In spite of the fact that there are several indications and
evidences that Oromo are indigenous to this part of Africa,
Abyssinian rulers, court historians and monks contend that
Oromo were new corners to the region and did not belong
here. For instance the Abyssinian court historian,
Alaqa Taye (1955), alleged that in
the fourteenth and sixteenth centuries the Oromo migrated
from Asia and Madagascar, entered Africa via Mombasa and
spread north and eastwards. Others have advocated that
during the same period the Oromo crossed the Red Sea via Bab
el Mandab and spread westwards. Abyssinian clergies even
contended that Oromo emerged from water. On this issue,
based on the points made in The Oromo's Voice Against
Tyranny, Baxter (1985) remarked,
"... the contention that the first Oromo had actually
emerged from water and therefore, had not evolved to the
same level of humanity as the Amhara (i.e. treating a myth
of origin as a historical fact); or, more seriously, that
Oromo were late corners to Ethiopia and hence, by
implication, intruders and not so entitled to be there as
The history of the arrival of the Oromo people in the
sixteenth century in East Africa from outside is a
fabrication and denial of historical facts. It is a myth
created by Abyssinian court historians and monks, sustained
by their European supporters and which the Ethiopian rulers
used to lay claim on Oromo territory and justify their
colonization of the Oromo people. Several authorities have
indicated that the Oromo were in fact in the North-eastern
part of the continent even before the arrival of the
Habasha. According to Perham (1948):
"the emigrant Semites landed in a continent of which the
North-East appears to have been inhabited by the eastern
groups of Hamites, often called Kushites, who also include
the Gallas." Paulitschke (1889)
indicated that Oromo were in East Africa during the Aksumite
period. As recorded by Greenfield
(1965), Oromo reject the view that they were late
arrivals, "... old men amongst the Azebu and Rayya Galia
dismiss talk of their being comparative newcomers.......
Their own (Abyssinians) oral history and legends attest to
the fact that Oromo have been living in Rayya for a long
time. Beke (cited by Pankurst, 1985-86) quoted the following
Lasta legend: "Meniiek, the son of Solomon, ... entered
Abyssinia from the East, beyond the country of the Rayya or
Azebo Gallas There are also evidence
(Greenfield et al, 1980) that
at least by the ninth and tenth centuries that there were
Oromo communities around Shawa and by about the fourteenth
century settlements were reported around Lake Tana. The
recent discovery, (Lynch and Robbins,
1978), in northern Kenya of the pillars that Oromo used
in the invention of their calendar system, dated around 300
B.C., is another indication that Oromo have a long history
of presence as a community of people, in this part of
The so called "Galla invasion of Ethiopia" is also a tale.
It was first written around 1590 by a monk called Bahrey and
henceforth European historians and others almost invariably
accepted this story as a fact. From his writing, it is
evident that he was biased against Oromo. The following
quotation from Bahrey, (in
Beckingham et al, 1954), vividly illustrates typical
Abyssinian cultural, religious and racial biases against
Oromo. He began his book "The History of the Galla": "I have
begun to write the history of the Galla in order to make
known the number of their tribes, their readiness to kill
people, and the brutality of their manners. If anyone should
say of my subject, 'Why has he written a history of a bad
people, just as one would write a history of good people', I
would answer by saying 'Search in the books, and you will
find that the history of Mohamed and the Moslem kings has
been written, and they are our enemies in religion In fact
it appears that the main purpose of his writing was to
encourage Abyssinians against Oromo. Bahrey, Atseme, Harris,
Haberiand and others description of what they called the
'Galla invasion of Ethiopia' as an avalanche, a sudden
overwhelming human wave which could be likened to a flood or
swarms of migratory locust is unrealistic and difficult to
imagine to say the least.
The Oromo's Voice Against Tyranny argued that: "...
the so-called Galla invasion of the sixteenth century was
neither an invasion nor a migration. It was rather a
national movement of the Oromo people ... with the specific
goal of liberating themselves and their territories from
colonial occupation. It was nothing more or less than a war
of national liberation." In fact the last 2000 years were
occupied with a gradual expansion of Abyssinians from north
to south. This expansion had been checked throughout by
Oromo. It was only with the arrival of Europeans and their
firearms that Abyssinians succeeded in their southward
expansion mainly in the middle of last century.
Abyssinian and European historians alleged that there was a
sudden population explosion in the Oromo community in the
sixteenth century that enabled it to invade Ethiopia. The
claim lacks a scientific base. During that time no
significant, if at all any, technological development such
as discoveries or introductions of medicines, new and
improved tools for food production, etc. took place in the
Oromo community that could have been the cause for the
sudden population explosion. The Oromo community had no
advantages of these sort over neighbouring communities.
Different areas have been indicated as place where the Oromo
developed or differentiated into its own unique community of
people or ethnic group
(Braukamper, 1980). According to some ethnologists and
historians, the Oromo country of origin was the
south-eastern part of Oromia, in the fertile valley of Madda
Walaabu in the present Baale region. This conclusion was
reached mainly on the basis of Oromo oral tradition. Based
on scanty anthropological evidence, others have also pointed
to the coastal area of the Horn of Africa, particularly the
eastern part of the Somali peninsula, as the most probable
place of Oromo origin. Bruce, an English traveller,
indicated that Sennar in Sudan was the Oromo country of
origin and that they expanded from there. It should be noted
here that many European travellers have suggested the origin
of peoples, including Oromo, to be where they met some for
the first time, which in most cases happened to be
There are several groups of people in East Africa very
closely related to the Oromo. For instance, the Somalis are
very similar in appearance and culture. The fact that the
Somali and Oromo languages share between 30 percent and 40
percent of their vocabulary could be an indication that
these two groups of people became differentiated very
recently. Other Cushitic-speaking groups living in the same
neighbourhood who are closely related to the Oromo are
Konso, Afar, Sidama, Kambata, Darassa, Agaw, Saho, Baja and
The Oromo are also known by another name, Galla. The people
neither call themselves or like to be called by this name.
They always called themselves Oromoo or Oromoota (plural).
It is not known for certain when the name Galla was given to
them. It has been said that it was given to them by
neighbouring peoples, particularly Amhara, and various
origins of the word have been suggested. Some say it
originated from the Oromo word 'gaiaana' meaning river in
Oromiffa. Others indicate that it came from an Arabic word
'qaala laa'. There are other similar suggestions as to the
origin of the word. The Abyssinians attach a derogatory
connotation to the Galla, namely 'pagan, savage,
uncivilized, uncultured, enemy, slave or inherently
inferior". The term seems to be aimed at generating an
inferiority complex in the Oromo.
Oromo have several clans (gosa, qomoo). The Oromo are said
to be of two major groups or moieties descended from the two
'houses' (wives) of the person Oromo represented by Borana
and Barentu (Barenttuma). Borana was senior (angafa) and
Barentu junior (qutisu). Such a dichotomy is quite common in
Oromo society and serves some aspects of their po!itical and
social life. The descendants of Borana and Barentu form the
major Oromo clans and sub-clans. They include Borana, Macha,
Tuuiiama, Wallo, Garrii, Gurraa, Arsi, Karrayyu, ltu, Ala,
Qaiioo, Anniyya, Tummugga or Marawa, Orma, Akkichuu, Liban,
Jile, Gofa, Sidamo, Sooddo, Galaan, Gujii and many others.
However, in reality there is extensive overlap in the area
they occupy and their community groups. And since marriage
among Oromo occurs only between different clans there was
high degree of homogeneity.
The Oromo make up over 30 million out of the present 55
million population of the Ethiopian Empire. They are found
in all the regions of the Ethiopian Empire except for
Gondar. They make up a large proportion of the population of
llubbabor, Arsi, Baale, Shawa, Hararge, Wallo, Wallagga,
Sidamo and Kafa. They are also found in neighbouring
countries such as Kenya and Somalia. Out of the 50 nations
of Africa only four have larger population than Oromia.
The Oromo nation has a single common mother tongue and basic
common culture. The Oromo language, afaan Oromoo or
Oromiffa, belongs to the eastern Kushitic group of languages
and is the most extensive of the forty or so Kushitic
languages. The Oromo language is very closely related to
Konso, with more than fifty percent of the words in common,
closely related to Somali and distantly related to Afar and
Oromiffa is considered one of the five most widely spoken
languages from among the approximately 1000 languages of
Africa, (Gragg, 1982). Taking into
consideration the number of speakers and the geographic area
it covers, Oromiffa, most probably rates second among the
African indigenous languages. It is the third most widely
spoken language in Africa, after Arabic and Hausa. It is the
mother tongue of about 30 million Oromo people living in the
Ethiopian Empire and neighbouring countries. Perhaps not
less than two million non-Oromo speak Oromiffa as a
In fact Oromiffa is a lingua franca in the whole of
Ethiopian Empire except for the northern part. It is a
language spoken in common by several members of many of the
nationalities like Harari, Anuak, Barta, Sidama, Gurage,
etc., who are neighbours to Oromo.
Before colonization, the Oromo people had their own social,
political and legal system. Trade and various kinds of
skills such as wood and metal works, weaving, pottery and
tannery flourished. Pastoralism and agriculture were well
developed. Oromo have an extraordinarily rich heritage of
proverbs, stories, songs and riddles. They have very
comprehensive plant and animal names. The various customs
pertaining to marriage, paternity, dress, etc. have
elaborate descriptions. All these activities and experiences
have enriched Oromiffa.
Much has been written about Oromiffa by foreigners who
visited or lived in Oromia, particularly European
missionaries. Several works have been written in Oromiffa
using Roman, Sabean and Arabic scripts. Printed material in
Oromiffa include the Bible, religious and non-religious
songs, dictionaries, short stories, proverbs, poems, school
books, grammar, etc. The Bible itself was translated into
Oromiffa in Sabean script about a century ago by an Oromo
slave called Onesimos Nasib, alias Hiikaa,
Roman, Arabic and Sabean scripts are all foreign to
Oromiffa. None of them fit well the peculiar features of the
sounds (phonology), in Oromiffa. The main deficiency of the
Arabic script is the problem of vowel differentiation. The
Sabean script does not differentiate gemination of
consonants and glottal stops. Moreover, it has seven vowels
against ten for Oromiffa. Hence, the Roman script is
relatively best suited for transcription of Ororniffa. An
Italian scholar, Cerulli (1922),
who attempted to write in Oromiffa using both Sabean and
Roman, expressed the short comings of the Sabean script as
follows: to express the sounds of Galla language with
letters of the Ethiopic (Sabean) alphabet, which express
very imperfectly even the sounds of the Ethiopian language,
is very near impossible ... reading Galla language written
in Ethiopic alphabet is very like deciphering a secret
writing." As a result several Oromo political, cultural
groups and linguists have strongly advocated the use of the
Roman script with the necessary modifications. It has thus
been adopted by the Oromo Liberation Front some years ago.
A number of Oromo scholars in the past attempted to discover
scripts suited for writing Oromiffa. The work of Sheikh
Bakri Saphalo is one such attempt. His scripts were
different in form but followed the symbol-sounds forming
patterns of the Sabean system. Ever. though his scripts had
serious shortcomings and could not be considered for writing
Oromiffa now, it had gained popularity in some parts of
eastern Oromia in the 1950s, before it was discovered by the
colonial authorities and suppressed.
Oromiffa has been not only completely neglected but
ruthlessly suppressed by the Ethiopian authorities. a
determined effort for almost a century to destroy and
replace it with the Amharic language has been mostly
ineffectual. Thus, the Amharization and the destruction of
the Oromo national identity has partially failed.
The country of the Oromo is called Biyya-Oromo (Oromo
country) or Oromia (Oromiya). Oromia is a name given by the
Oromo Liberation Front to Oromoland, now part of the
Ethiopian Empire. Krapf (1860)
proposed the term Ormania to designate the nationality or
the country of the Oromo people. This, most probably,
originated from his reference to the people as Orma or
Oroma. Oromia was one of the free nations in the Horn of
Africa until its colonization and occupation by Abyssinia at
the end of the nineteenth century. It is approximately
located between 2 degree and 12 degree N and between 34
degree and 44 degree E. It is bordered in the East by Somali
and Afar lands and Djibouti, in the West by the Sudan, in
the South by Somalia, Kenya and others and in the North by
Amhara and Tigre land or Abyssinia proper. The land area is
about 600 000 square kilometres. Out of the 50 or so African
countries it is exceeded in size by only 17 countries. It is
larger than France, and if Cuba, Bulgaria and Britain were
put together, they would be approximately equal to Oromia in
The physical geography of Oromia is quite varied. It varies
from rugged mountain ranges in the centre and north to flat
grassland in most of the lowlands of the west, east and
south. Among the many mountain ranges are the Karra in Arsi
(4340 m), Baatu in Baaie (4307 m), Enkelo in Arsi (4300 m),
Mui'ataa in Hararge (3392m) and Baddaa Roggee in Shawa (3350
Similarly, there are many rivers and lakes in Oromia. Many
of the rivers flow westwards into either the Blue Nile or
the White Nile, and others flow eastwards to Somalia and
Afar land. Among the large rivers are the Abbaya (the Nile),
Hawas (Awash), Gannaaiee, Waabee, Dhidheessa, Gibe and
For the peoples of Egypt, the Sudan and Somalia, life would
be impossible without these rivers. They carry millions of
tons of rich soil to Egypt, the Sudan and Somalia every
year. Somalia depends heavily on the Gannaaiee (Juba) and
Waabee (Shaballe) rivers which come from Oromia. In fact
Oromia supplies almost 100 per cent of the fresh water for
Somalia, Djibouti and Afars. At present the Ethiopian
government depends heavily on Hawas (Awash) water as a
source of electric power for its industries and irrigation
water to grow sugar cane, cotton and fruits. The Wanji and
Matahara sugar estates are good examples. There is a great
potential in all these rivers for the production of electric
power and for irrigation. Qoqaa, Fincha, Malkaa Waakkenne,
Gibee Tiqqaa dams are examples of where hydro-electric power
is already being produced or in the process of being
Among the Oromo lakes are Abbaya, Hora, Bishofitu, Qoqaa,
Langanno and Shaalaa. Many of these lakes possess a great
variety of fish and birds on their islands and shores.
The climate is as varied as the physical geography, although
close to the equator (to the north of it), because of the
mountain ranges, high altitudes and vegetation, the climate
is very mild and favourable for habitation. Snow can be
found on the mountains such as Baatu and Karra. In the
medium altitudes (1800-2500 m) the climate is very mild
throughout the year and one of the best. Up to 80 per cent
of the population lives at this altitude and agriculture
The low altitude areas (below 1500 m) in west, south and
central part are relatively warm and humid with lush
tropical vegetation, and although few live there permanently
most graze their cattle and tend their beehives there.
Although there is little agriculture at this altitude at
present, it has great potential for the future. As the
highland areas are already eroded and over populated, people
are gradually moving to the lowlands. The low altitude areas
in the east and south-east are mostly semi-arid and used by
The vegetation of Oromia ranges from savanna grassland and
tropical forest to alpine vegetation on the mountaintops.
The forests contain a variety of excellent and valuable
timbers. Oromia is known for its unique native vegetation as
well as for being, the centre of diversity for many
different species. For instance, crops like coffee, anchote
(root crop), okra, etc. are indigenous to this area.
Potentially, Oromia is one of the richest countries in
Africa. Agriculture is the backbone of its economy. Still
employing archaic methods, subsistence agriculture is the
means of livelihood for more than 90 per cent of the
population. There are a variety of farm animals and crop
plants. Farm animals include cattle, sheep, goats, donkeys,
mules, horses, camels and chicken. The Cushitic speaking
communities of this region perhaps Nubians, are credited
with the domestication of donkey and were the first to breed
mules, (a result of a cross between a donkey and a mare).
The Oromo are expert in animal husbandry through their long
tradition as herdsmen. For some, cattle-rearing
(pastoralism) is still the main occupation.
Because of Oromia's favourable climate and rich soil, many
types of crops are cultivated and normally there is little
need for irrigation. Normally one and sometimes two crops
can be harvested annually from the same field. Among the
major food crops are cereals (wheat, barley, tef, sorghum,
corn, millet, etc.), fibre crops (cotton), root crops
(potato, sweet potato, yam, inset, anchote, etc.), pulses
(peas, beans, chick-peas, lentils, etc.), oil crops (nugi,
flax, etc.), fruit trees (orange, mango, avocado, banana,
lemon, pineapple, peach, etc.), spices (onion, garlic,
coriander, ginger, etc. - coriander and ginger also grow
wild) and a variety of vegetables like okra which is
indigenous to Oromia.
Many varieties of these important crops occur naturally in
Oromia. These diverse crop plants are very valuable natural
resources. Oromo farmers have contributed to world
agriculture by cultivating and developing some of the
worid's crop plants and in this way have discovered new
domesticated varieties. The main cash crops are coffee and
chat (a stimulant shrub). Coffee, a major cash earner for
many countries, has its origin in the forests of Oromia and
neighbouring areas. Specifically, Kafa and Limmu are
considered centres of origin for coffee. It is from here
that coffee spread to other parts of the globe. Coffee was
one of the export items of the Gibe states. Wallagga and
llubbabor regions of Oromia exported coffee to the Sudan
through the inland port of Gambelia on the Baro river and
border towns of Kurmuk, Gissan, etc. Hararge, because of its
favourable location for communication with the outside
markets through the Red Sea, has been producing one of the
finest coffees for export. Coffee has remained the chief
export item, representing more than 60 per cent of the
foreign earnings of successive Ethiopian colonial regimes.
The country is also rich in wild animals and plants. Many
different species are found in the waters and forests of
Oromia: different kinds of fish, hippopotami, and
crocodiles. Land animals include lion, leopard, rhinoceros,
buffalo, giraffe, wild ass, zebra, columbus monkey and
elephant. There are a number of wild animals that are found
solely in Oromia, such as nyaaia, bush-buck (special type),
fox (from Baale), etc.
Various types of birds, many of them unique, are found
around lakes and elsewhere. These creatures are a source of
attraction for tourists and natural scientists alike.
The forests of Oromia are a source of excellent timber.
Although the major portion of the forests has been destroyed
since its occupation, some still remain in the south and
west. However, this is threatened by mismanagement,
particularly through the fast the expanding state farms and
resettlement programmes. At the time of colonisation a large
part of Oromia was covered with forest. This has been
reduced to the present 5-7 per cent. In addition to timber
trees, medicinal plants and trees producing different kinds
of gums, grow in abundance. Myrrh, frankincense and gum
Arabic are gathered from the wild trees. Forests, besides
being a source of timber, medicine and gum, are useful in
the conservation of water and soil, and as shelter for
wildlife. They also have an important aesthetic value.
Oromia has important mineral deposits. The gold mines at
Adola and Laga Dambi in the Sidamo and around Nejjo, Asosa
and Birbir river valley in Wallagga regions which were the
major sources of revenue for Meniiek and Haile Selassie are
being exploited using modern machinery. Other important
minerals found in Oromia are platinum, sulphur, iron-ore,
silver and salt.
As early as 1900 Meniiek granted concessions to a Swiss
company to mine gold, silver and other minerals in Nejjo,
Wallagga region. Later the Germans took over. English,
Russian and Italian companies extracted gold and platinum at
Yubdo and neighbouring areas in the same region. After some
60 years, the Soviet Union is continuing this business today
in the same areas. It is known that large deposits of
natural gas and oil exist in Baafe and Hararge regions. The
Ethiopian government announced as 1986 the discovery of a
new deposit of natural gas in Baale.
The hundreds of hot springs scattered over Oromia are also
of economic importance. Thousands of people, including
foreigners, visit these springs for their medicinal and
recreational value. They are a great potential source of
thermal energy. Rivers, streams and springs are plentiful.
The rivers have many fails that could be used to generate
electric power with little effort. The extent of this
electric power could easily satisfy the power needs of
Oromia and several neighbouring countries.
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