Who Owns Addis Ababa?

Addissu Admas

I am not sure what the claim “Addis Ababa belongs to Oromia” means or implies. Does it mean that all non-Oromo Addis Abebans should now pack-up their belongings, load them up on buses, trains, mules, donkeys, and God knows what else, and vacate the city and trudge to their respective ethnic enclaves? Does it mean that beginning a certain date Addis Abebans will become resident aliens in their own native city and must apply to the Oromia Killil for permission to stay in the Capital? Does it mean that, not only Addis Ababa will, from now on, be known as Finfinne, but Oromiffa will become its only official language? Does it mean Addis Ababa will be entirely under Oromia’s jurisdiction, with all the consequences that such status dictates? And as a consequence of this will the federal government become a “host” of Oromia Killil? The questions, as one can clearly see don’t end here; there are many more that need answers.

I think that native Addis Abebans are owed an explanation by the radicals and provocateurs who appear to be solely intent at destabilizing an already destabilized nation. The simple fact of the matter is that as long as Ethiopia remains a nation composed of federal states (Killils), the current constitution has determined that Addis Ababa remain an independent Killil with no particular ethnicity to claim it as its own. From the historical perspective, the claim that the land upon which Addis Ababa was built belonged to Oromos from time immemorial is hardly a defensible one. The history of the entire region is one of a constant movement and resettlement of peoples. The question should not be one of “who owned the land first” but “how can we come together to forge a peaceful co-existence”. The primary cause of war in history has been claims over lands that could have been shared peaceably. And wars have rarely settled land issues permanently. They have in fact exacerbated existing enmities. The ugly belligerence displayed by some extremist Oromo individuals and parties can only galvanize non-Oromos to respond in kind. To hope for a solution to come out from confrontation, hostility, or outright war rather than from dialogue and negotiation is a pernicious delusion.

One thing that those extremist Oromo nationalists must understand is that cities, especially large capitals of nations, are not only multiethnic, but are in most cases cosmopolitan by necessity. Capital and large cities have never belonged de facto to any one particular “ethnicity”. By their very constitution they are meant to be spaces in which all humanity can come together, interact, intermingle, intermarry, etc… To claim them as belonging to an ethnic group is as retrograde as it is narrow-minded. The fact that a language prevails in a large or capital city is most often the result of historical happenstance than the consequence of deliberate policy. Trying to change such state of affair is a pure exercise in futility.

I am not here to belittle the injustices suffered by the Oromo people and their quest for a more equitable political arrangement. My issues are with the unreasonable demands made by the more extremist Oromo leaders and groups. I do not believe that it is unreasonable nor unjustifiable, on the other hand (and I have stated this before elsewhere) that Oromiffa become a second official language not only in Addis Ababa but in Ethiopia at large. We have many examples from around the world where such practice has done a great deal in promoting the peaceful coexistence of people of diverse ethnicities.

As any large capital city, Addis Ababa will inevitably be expanding even faster than in previous decades; and land will become an even bigger issue than it has been so far. Instead of arrogantly and dismissively dealing with the Oromo people of the hinterland, as the previous Woyane dominated administration has done, the government of Addis Ababa along with the federal government should seek to find an equitable solution to the problem. In essence, the city of Addis Ababa must consider itself quite simply as any individual purchaser of land willing to pay at market value land it wants to annex. Or better yet, to allow private and corporate parties to purchase land directly from the people in the hinterland with the proviso that it remain under the jurisdiction of Addis Ababa.

Unfortunately, these alternatives are the only ones we can envision under the current constitutional arrangements, which, not ironically, are at the source of the whole problem. Ideally, a more rational and lasting solution can only come with the complete overhaul of the current constitution. And it appears that not much has been debated on this crucial issue, i.e. the need to re-work or re-write the constitution, which in effect will determine – hopefully positively – the future of the country.


  1. Ato “Admas”
    Unless this is a tribute to Eskinder Naga’s boorish hullabaloos about Addis Ababa/ Finfinnee, your self-righteous and solipsistic observation is gratuitous vilification of Oromo activists. You’ve called them “extremist Oromos”—Quite the contrary! These Oromos liberated Ethiopia from the political, cultural yokes and economic burdens of the TPLF thugs!
    Until the Oromo youth—Qeerros and Qarrees, confronted the Wayannee thugs with bare hands, there was no visible challenge to the diabolical rule of the TPLF! All these “Ye dill Atibiya Arbanoch” were not visible, except the Fanno youth in Gonder! The entire Burraa Karayuu by all these Habashas regarding Addis is unnecessary and pointless rants! All the craven canards about the “Oromo extremist” will not elevate the dialogue an iota about identity and citizenship of “the Addis Abebans”
    The Oromo activists merely indicated that Finfinnee is the “the belly button” of Oromia. Hence, Oromos and Oromo Nation have legal and political ownership of the territory—as the capital city of the Empire, all citizens of the Empire have the rights and privileges to own property, live and work discounting their neither ethnicity nor territorial origin! Not a single Oromo Political entity or group advocated the removal of any citizen!
    We Oromos have come a long way to this matrix of our struggle! We kept our eyes on the prize—the struggle was and is momentous, five thousand (5,000 plus) Oromo youths were wantonly massacred by the TPLF Agazi (Nazis) army before the Qeerros and Qarrees kicked ass the vaunted Wayannee army. It was and is a historic and Pyrrhic victory over the fascist genocidal acts of TPLF!
    Individuals like Eskinder Nega nor any of those chauvinist members of “Balderas” groups’ assault will not scuttle the just struggle of Oromo Nation!
    Finally, we live in a parallel world in the Ethiopia Empire and the Horn of Africa; we are condemned by realities of geography, history, politics, and culture. We need to find a mediating paradigm to resolve the Empire’s predicament. Any discourse that relegates the Oromo quest to the outer edges is unacceptable!


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