Nilo-Ethiopian Studies No.16

Nilo-Ethiopian Studies No.16 (2011)


The Christian kingdom of northern Ethiopia lost almost half its territory to the Oromo during the second half of the 16th century. "The History of the Galla" (Zenahu la Galla) written by Bahrey in 1593 is the most important work on this Oromo invasion. The chronicle of Sarsa Dengel (r. 1563-1597) was contemporaneous with "The History of the Galla" and is one of the royal chronicles that represent the nucleus of the historiography related to this region. The present paper considers the characteristics of historiography in northern Ethiopia during the second half of the Solomonic Period (1540-1769) by examining why Bahrey had to defend his writing of "The History of the Galla" and why the authors of the royal chronicles devoted so many pages to
the monarchs' military victories.
The following hypotheses are proposed:
1. Bahrey wrote "The History of the Galla" to assert that the Oromo frequendy defeated the Christian armies because the social institutions and customs of the Oromo were better suited for warfare. On the other hand, intellectuals thought that historical accounts should be written to praise deeds of "good Christians." Therefore, Bahrey justified his writing about the history of the Oromo, who were non-Christians, by citing the works of the famous Coptic historian al-Makin, who had devoted many pages to Muslim history.
2. The author of "The Chronicle of Sarsa Dengel" criticized al-Makin's work and did not describe in detail the damage caused by the Oromo because his purpose was to reveal the miracles of God, which he found in the monarchs' deeds, especially their military successes. The authors of the royal chronicles during the 17th and 18th centuries continued this policy. The impact of the Oromo incursion was addressed in 1he History of the Galla. However, the impact of these events on historiography was transient. The defense of Christianity continued to be a characteristic of the historiography of northern Ethiopia throughout the second half of the Solomonic Period.

Keywords: Ethiopia, Amhara, Oromo, Solomonic dynasty, historiography, Christianity


This paper explores the refugee life of the Gabra Miigo based on life history data collected from 54 informants. The Gabra Miigo are pastoralists in southern Ethiopia and have often become refugees since the 1960s due to international conflicts. When they became refugees, they applied subsistence strategies developed for the harsh arid environment to manage the difficulties of their lives. This paper evaluates such applications as a major contributor to rebuilding their pastoral life after repatriation. This paper also explains the modern political situation in Ethiopia that causes ethnic conflicts, characterized as the 'new war' according to Kaldor (1999). We then discuss the importance of subsistence strategies for pastoralist survival during the 'new war.'

Key words: Gabra Miigo, refugee, subsistence strategy, rebuilding, survival, new war