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Although Oromos have their own unique culture, history, language, and civilization, they are culturally related to Afars, Somalis, Sidamas, Agaws, Bilens, Bejas, Kunamas, and other groups. In the past, Oromos had an egalitarian social system known asgada.Their military organization made them one of the strongest ethnic groups in the Horn of Africa between the twelfth and nineteenth centuries. Gada was a form of constitutional government and also a social system. Political leaders were elected by the men of the community every eight years. Corrupt or dictatorial leaders would be removed from power throughbuqisu(recall) before the official end of their term. Oromo women had a parallel institution known assiqqee.This institution promoted gender equality in Oromo society.
Gada closely connected the social and political structures. Male Oromos were organized according to age and generation for both social and political activities. The gada government was based on democratic principles. Theabba bokuwas an elected “chairman” who presided over thechaffee(assembly) and proclaimed the laws. Theabba dula(defense minister) was a government leader who directed the army. A council known asshaneeorsalgeeand retired gada officials also helped the abba boku to run the government.
All gada officials were elected for eight years. The main qualifications for election included bravery, knowledge, honesty, demonstrated ability, and courage. The gada government worked on local, regional, and central levels. The political philosophy of the gada system was embodied in three main principles: terms of eight years, balanced opposition between parties, and power sharing between higher and lower levels. These checks and balances were created to prevent misuse of power. The goverment’s independent executive, legislative, and judicial branches also were a way of balancing power. Some elements of gada are still practiced in southern Oromia.
The gada system was the basis of Oromo culture and civilization. It helped Oromos maintain democratic political, economic, social, and religious institutions for many centuries. The gada political system and military organization enabled Oromos defend themselves against enemies who were competing with them for land, water, and power. Today, Oromos are engaged in a national liberation movement. Under the leadership of theOromo Liberation Front(OLF) they work to achieve self-determination. Most Oromos support this liberation organization and its army, the Oromo Liberation Army. There are many Oromo organizations in North America, Europe, and Africa that support the Oromo national movement. Oromos are struggling for the opportunity to rule themselves and reinvent an Oromian state that will reflect the gada system.