Oromo People

Inge Huver writes:

I just returned from my visit to Ethiopia and really liked the guidebook, in fact, my Ethiopian friends also liked it and I gave it to them as a present. Although, while reading we also saw one thing is completely wrong, and because it is a bit of a danger to use it in Ethiopia I’ll write it here. In the introduction, you write that hte Oromo people are also callad “Galla”. This is now a forbidden name, originally given to the people by their enemies. So using this name can give some problems.


10 thoughts on “Oromo People

  1. Liza says:

    The name Galla is as suggested here pejorative and can only be found in outdated literature. It should not be used in any context. It is like calling someone the N word in English.

  2. philipbriggs says:

    I’ll weed out the handful of uses for the next edition Liza. I mentioned it mainly because a great deal of historical literature about Ethiopia used (and effectively still uses) the term Galla as opposed to Oromo. But one reference to this (and an explanation that it is pejorative) will be sufficient in future editions…

    • Mav says:

      The term has been disapproved as derogative for about two decades now and it has never been recognized/accepted among the OROMOs. It is illegal to use it in any way or format and so I disagree with your assertion that it is effectively used @Philipbringgs

      • philipbriggs says:

        Hi Mav,

        You have misunderstood me. What I mean is that almost historical writing about Ethiopia prior to the late 20th century used the name Galla instead of Oromo. So if you are doing any historical reading or research about the country, you tend to come across the term all the time. That is a matter of fact not opinion.

        However, I think it makes complete sense to remove the term from future editions of the Bradt guide, and I will be sure to do that, failing one mention i.e. that it is an archaic and pejorative term readers may still come across in older books.

        In the guide itself it is only really used in a historical context, and if that has caused any offence I apologise, though in my defence most of the history was written 20-odd years ago, in pre-internet days, and I was reliant on a lot of older books as my main historical source.

        I might also add that this is the first time the issue has been drawn to my attention, or anybody has complained about it, so it also my first opportunity to address it – which I have made clear I will do!

        Cheers, Philip

      • philipbriggs says:

        Example – Paul Henze’s Ethiopian Journey, published in Ethiopia by Shama books, has about 30 references to Galla in the index, but none whatsoever to Oromo. Another is Ethiopian Borderlands, by the eminent historian Richard Pankhurst, & published by the Red Sea Press in Eritrea in 1997, which has a similar number of index references to Galla as to Oromo. I can only apologise if I have perpetuated the misuse of the term Galla in historical sections of the Bradt Guide, but the fact is that it is very widespread in historical writing about Ethiopia, and I do use the name Oromo exclusively in a modern context!

  3. gwaan says:

    Philip Briggs has shown he is a sensitive writer towards Ethiopia. It is a good idea to remove any reference to the word because nowadays it is akind to a travel guide to the USA stating something like “the pleasant n-gg-r town of So and So is 40 miles away”. It would cause a storm!

    However, I agree with Philip Briggs that he should at least mention that it is a common word still found in older historical literature. Failure to do so would mean picking up Mordechai Abir’s classic work “The Era of Princes” (anyone interested in late Gondar life, read this!) and not understanding who they are constantly talking about (including “g–a” Emperors of the Yejju Dynsasty, etc.)

    On a side note, Paul B. Henze’s not using the word Oromo says as much about past usage as to his love-affair for the classic Abyssinian angle of things. A cursory read of his works, from Layers of Time to the Downfall of the Derg, makes a point in hand.

  4. philipbriggs says:

    Just to clarify, lest gwaan’s comment creates the wrong impression, I am not aware of any use of the word in the book comparable to a phrase like “the pleasant n-gg-r town of so and so is 40 miles away”. So far as I’m aware, it is used only in the history section (in line with practically all historical sources talking about pre-20th century Ethiopia), then once or twice, in parenthesis, in other factual sections, mainly to alert readers to existence (and widespread literary usage) of this name. In a modern travel context, the Oromo people are referred to exclusively as the Oromo. Sorry to be defensive, but with around 3,000 guidebook pages in print, I’m open enough to attack for what I have written without starting to get flak for phrases I never wrote in the first place!

    Meantime, as I brace up to three months’ travel in Ethiopia later in the year, updating the next edition of the Bradt guide, which involves spending most of the day wandering around towns checking maps & looking at hotels, restaurants & other landmarks, I find myself tensing up every time I think of how many times daily I’m going to have to put up with children yelling f****ji at me or idiots addressing me as f****ji and how many times will I be told I being told I must pay f****ji prices or must want to eat f****ji food… all of which I personally find offensive, disrespectful and very, very tedious! Maybe the f- word could be banned too? 🙂

    • Liza says:

      Sorry Phil, but as much as I love Ethiopia, sometimes you need to know, that they are allowed to do things we’re not. In the ‘quod licet iovi non licet bovi’ and we’re the bovi in this one. They can call us farenji, or China more often now in rural areas. They can ask a long line of personal questions, but it you were to ask them it would be considered rude.
      And the Galla word has the connotations of slave in them. Farenji as you know comes from French, and literally just refers to a foreigner. Muzungu, Toubabu, Nassara, Yovo, Obruni, many names for the pale skinned man in Africa.
      I agree it is not pleasant, but hey, no one asked us to come here, really…

    • gwaan says:

      My apologies, I didn’t mean to suggest you had written anything of the sort or similar to it. I just wanted to add my 2 cents on just how strong the feelings about this word are now.

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