Ras Gobana: a heroic story of ethnic Ethiopians

Ras Gobana: a heroic story of ethnic Ethiopians

Ras Gobana: a heroic story of ethnic Ethiopians

By Teshome M. Borago

In response to my last article about Consociational democracy, I received many comments and feedback from readers. Some readers supported my proposal to redesign Ethiopia’s federal structure to grant regional statehood to all identities in Ethiopia [like one-ethnic nationalists, mixed-ethnic Ethiopians etc..] But to my surprise, most responders emailed me about my statements on multi “ethnic ethiopians” or “mixed Ethiopians.” Many people are asking, why don’t we talk enough about mixed Ethiopians?

Since 1991, one of TPLF/EPRDF’s missions has been to suppress millions of mixed “ethnic Ethiopians” because they do not belong to any of the ethnic identification categories. While searching for the best angle to write about these mixed ethnic Ethiopians, i stumbled upon the heroic story of Ras Gobana Dacche.

So, What makes the story of Ras Gobana unique?

Historically, it is well-known that Cushitic, Omotic and Semetic speaking people of the Horn of Africa have been mixing and intermarrying for many centuries as Abyssinian kingdoms expanded southward, and as Oromos migrated north & west; while trade/competition for resources reshaped boundaries. But in recent history, Ras Gobana played the most prominent role which has a lasting impact on our identity.

Born in May 1821, Ras Gobana Dacche came from a family of warriors. When he was a child, half a century has already passed since the Yejju Oromo dynasty conquered and outmaneuvered its opponents in Gondar. His era was politically fragile and foreign interests on Ethiopian lands were also ripe. For example, during Gobana’s time, the Sudanese Mahdists were planning to annex northwestern Ethiopia and the Ottomans still had their agents lurking in eastern Ethiopia while Europeans were fighting to control the whole region. This was the era and Gobana’s powerful family was already involved deep in politics, including in the leadership of the influential Macha & Tulama Oromo clans.

In the eyes of the competing oromo clans, Gobana was the bravest and skilled fighter; feared by other Oromo mootis (kings). His Family from his father’s side was also connected to Abba muda, the spiritual and traditional leader of oromo.

What everybody today knows about Ras Gobana is that his Shoan Oromo soldiers were allied with Emperor Menelik II; and this alliance defeated other Oromo and non-Oromo regions. But one fabrication that we are repeatedly told in recent years by OLF & TPLF is that Ras Gobana was an Oromo “traitor.” So… was Ras Gobana really a traitor?

The answer is simple. Some Oromo politicians today mistakenly think that Ras Gobana was a full Oromo. But several Oral accounts and historical books say that he was half-Oromo and half-Amhara. In his journal, the1800s Russian scholar Alexander Bulatovich described Gobana’s mixed ethnicity, by clearly stating:

“his father was an Oromo, and his mother an Abyssinian.”

So, the main problem is that those people who accuse Gobana do not really know him or know how identity influences politics. Despite Gobana being the top Ethiopian minister of war, critics falsely believe that he was only serving Menelik, without his own personal interests. Many modern politicians do not know how Gobana’s mixed ethnic identity shaped his political decisions to strengthen the unity of the Shoan Oromo family and the Amhara family into one strong country.

Long before he united with Menelik, Gobana and his horsemen were already powerful and very popular in the south. According to firsthand accounts by Alexander, “all the best fighting elements of Shoa thronged under his banners.” Gobana was visionary and his Shoan Oromo forces also acted as peacekeepers between Oromo clans who otherwise “slaughtered one another like cattle,” according to historian Prof. Donald Levine.

Other historical achievements that Ras Gobana is credited for include:

  1. destroying the Gojjam Amhara forces that opposed Shoa.
  2. settling disputes between warring Western Oromo clans
  3. convincing the King of Jimma to peacefully unite with Shoa
  4. helping save the Leqa Naqamte (welega) kingdom from Sudanese invasion.

These achievements prove that he was one of the visionary founders of a centralized Multi-ethnic Ethiopian state under Shoa rule. During his military leadership, other mixed Oromos were promoted into the highest ranks in the Ethiopian military, including the famous minister Habte Giyorgis Dinagde.

While he was not the first, Gobana’s achievements were a major milestone in our transformation into a multi-ethnic Ethiopian society. So from a viewpoint of one-ethnic based politics, YES, Gobana might look like a “traitor” (the same way as the south-born Abraham Lincoln was a “traitor” for the southern Confederate states.) But from the standpoint of the evolution of a supra-ethnic Ethiopian identity, Ras Gobana is a pan-Ethiopian trans national hero.

In Summary, we should not underestimate the impact of ethnic mixture in Ethiopian politics. It is a tradition in Ethiopia that most people pick their father’s side of ancestry during self-identification. But this bad tradition does not affect their school of thought or political consciousness, which is still defined by their mixed heritage. So I would argue that we improve our old tradition and embrace our mixed identities. Mixed people should be proud of their mixed heritage and avoid picking one-side of their family. They are simply “Ethnic Ethiopians” by birth since they are the byproduct of the Ethiopian nation-state formation.

In the book “Becoming Oromo” authored by Mekuria Bulcha, there is one short story of a man living in Sudan. He is originally from eastern Wallaga and he was approached by Oromo nationalists to recruit him for OLF. The OLF was apparently desperate and they did not know the man was a mixed Oromo. So an OLF representative eagerly asked him to join their organization. To their surprise, he rejected their offer by saying his ethnicity is “Ethiopian!”

In this important time for our country, it is time that all mixed Ethiopians stop picking only one part of their identity and embrace their whole being. It is time that we embrace our Ethiopian ethnicity by saying “Gosaye Ethiopia!”

Just like Ras Gobana, for millions of mixed Ethiopians, our “Gosa” is Ethiopia. The ethnic Oromo has Oromia region, the ethnic Amhara has Amhara region and the Tigrayans have Tigray; but for us ethnic Ethiopians both our identity and our ethnicity is Ethiopia. Thus defending the Ethiopian state is our duty just like Gobana and his grandson Ras Abebe Aregai did. Ras Abebe (son of Gobana’s daughter Askale Gobana) was the leader of the “Arbegnoch” in the 1930s, which defeated the Italian occupation and who later became the Minister of Defense under Emperor Haile Selassie.

Who among the TPLF camp would dare to tell Ras Abebe Aregai choose only one part of his ethnicity?

The writer can be reached at teshomeborago@yahoo.com

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Posted by on April 10, 2015. Filed under NEWS. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

4 Responses to Ras Gobana: a heroic story of ethnic Ethiopians

  1. Girma

    April 10, 2015 at 10:19 AM

    In my opinion, mixed ethiopians are probably 40% of the country. If we unite and declare that we want to be called ethiopian and only ethiopian, then we can easily defeat woyane ideology.
    If ethnic federalism has to stay, them it must grant statehood to ethnic ethiopians, especially in shewa, and we need our rights to self-determination upto secession

  2. kassye juke

    April 11, 2015 at 9:19 PM

    Reading on ethiomedia your knowledge about Ras Gobena and your suggestion about Mixed Ethiopia:
    1- First of all it seems your are not neutral
    2-How in your idea ethnicity = “Gossaye?”
    3-How you compare Abraham Lincoln with Gobena? Because of Abraham Lincoln, African-American became free and including you. So really your idea not totally work and please think,think…….. So because of Gobena Oromia became independent?
    4-“Slaughtered one another like cattle” ,you mentioned by saying according to one of the historian-Donald Levine. Based on the Oromo tradition, really is it true on the ground by this time? who is cruel more? who is today intentionally blinding their kids eye and make them a beggar?
    5- You did not mentioned the name of Gobena’s mother name? why? May be Gobena was the first man who choose on his mother side? is that an Oromo tradition? Really here it not work for you and think again, please?
    6-Stll you you think as before when your ancestors thought you that about an Oromo imigration? this history actually closed and the base and resourse of these site because of it was not true this department was closed and be update your self please. If it is difficult for you to swallow the true where Oromo lived and will live and you can vomit and then you can get relive,please? But the difficulty is you are living to swallow such truth which seems to you poison,sorry.
    7- Know day it is not like you think that all Oromo people consider Gobena as a “traitor?” Gobena approaches Minilik acording to an Oromo tradition and that is when Minilik escape from north. Because of Amhara non honest approach to him and his follower failed under Minilik.
    8- if you think Gobena was an Ethiopian hero and why we do not see memorial for him during previous regime or the current regime? please can you tell us who killed Gobena and how?


  3. Tedla Asfaw

    April 12, 2015 at 8:21 PM

    ena Yestelen Wendem Tesfaye

    I saw your piece few days ago but I was looking for the right time to read it. After Eastern/Fasika celebration late in the afternoon ET I read it and share this small note with you.

    I grew up playing “at Ras Abebe Meda” in Aware. I knew where his grand daughter Sosina Abebe used to live. I heard as a child also the death of her brother on airplane accident. I never see Ras Abebe because I was very little when he was murdered on the “Tahsas Giriger”.

    One of the main reasons I did not agree with those who murdered him is because he was a patriot. I never even know or question his “Gosa”. He fought for all Ethiopia. All who died, lost eyes and limbs in fascist occupation of our country are our heroes. Ras Abebe Aregai was Ethiopian fighter who attacked and punished fascists surrounding Addis Ababa for five years.

    His death was a celebration for fascists and Ethiopian bandas but a shame for Ethiopia. Ras Gobena Datche whose name is smeared by those who never know what a real fight for independence looks like is shameful to say the least.

    I appreciate your courage to speak on these Giants after we left the field for ethnic supermacist haters for more than two decades now. They should be said Enough !! We are Menelik, We are Gobena, We are Ras Abebe, We are Haileselassie so on and on. Our Gosa is Ethiopian !!!!

  4. Namaga

    April 24, 2015 at 11:23 PM

    The Italian colonization of Ethiopia was good for Oromo, southwest and southeast Ethiopians. Italians abolished feudalism, the gebbar system, returned stolen lands to the original land owners. Italian also abolished the tyranny of the neftenyas on subject populations as violent , and setllers in Oromo, southwest and southeast Ethiooia. A large number of neftenyas were forced to give up the lands they stole from local communities and returned to Addis and other cities, some to Shewa and north. In view of the conquered and subject populations of majority of Ethiopians, Italian colonization of Ethiopia and dethronement of the feudal emperor HSI was a liberation of the oppressed Ethiopians.

    The writer could as well be a Tutsi, who for political disfiguration and caricaturing of the majority Hutus, preach to claim one’s ethnicity is treason and betrayal of the Rwanda nation, while Mr.Paul Kagame over threw a Hutu government by violence to empower his Tutsi tribe.

    I see no harm done to Ethiopia by allowing ethnic groups to administer themselves by local leaders who speak their language, who live their culture and who are part of the history of the tribe. Neftenya king Menelick and his follower king Haile Sellasie appointed largely Amara ethnic administrators to ethnic groups whose languages they did not know. They spoke in Amharic and local translators with limited Amharic language tried to translate as much they could understand the neftenya ruler.

    All that is no more. Local governments are administer in local languages. Courts and clinics conduct official business in the languages of the people they serve. Primary Schools teach pupils in their mother tongues. A huge recourse in the re-empowerment of a conquered and badly treated populace to wht should have remained if Menelick had not used European weapons to prostitute ethnic relationships of the people of northeast Africa.