Borana Oromo people
|Regions with significant populations|
|Traditional faith (Waaq), Islam, Christianity|
|Related ethnic groups|
|Barentu, other Oromo, and Somalis|
The Borana Oromo people, also called the Boran, are a subethnic section of the Oromo people who live in southern Ethiopia (Oromia) and northern Kenya. They speak a dialect of the Oromo language that is distinct enough that it is difficult for other Oromo speakers to understand. The Borana people are notable for their historic gadaa political system. They follow their traditional religions or (Ethiopian Orthodox) Christianity and Islam.
Demography and language
Between the twelfth and fifteenth centuries, the Oromo people had differentiated into two major confederation of pastoral tribes: the Borana and the Barentu, and several minor ones. The Barentu people thereafter expanded to the eastern regions now called Hararghe, Arsi, Wello and northeastern Shawa. The Borana people, empowered by their Gadda political and military organization expanded in the other directions, regions now called western Shawa, Welega, Illubabor, Kaffa, Gamu Goffa, Sidamo and thereafter into what is now northern Kenya regions. The Borana further subdivided into various subgroups such as Macha, Tulama, Sadacha and others.
The Borana speak Borana (or afaan Booranaa), a dialect of Oromo language, which is part of the Cushitic branch of the Afro-Asiatic family of languages. In the border regions of Ethiopia-Kenya and southwestern Somalia, one estimate places about 1,094,000 people as Boranas. Another estimate in 2019 suggests 874,000 Boranas in Ethiopia, 210,000 in Kenya and 10,000 in Somalia. The Borana are the southernmost Horners of the Horn peninsula.
The Borana, Gabbra and Sakuye peoples are sub-ethnic groups within the Oromo people group, and share language and culture. Some groups from the Oromo people from southern Ethiopia entered northern Kenya during the 16th century. They then differentiated into the cattle-keeping Borana, while the Gabbra and Sakuye specialized in camel-keeping. They lived together, each with different pastoral focus. As competition for grazing lands and resources increased, conflicts emerged.
The Oromo people were traditionally a culturally homogeneous society with genealogical ties. The Borana and other Oromo communities governed themselves in accordance with gadaa (literally "era"), a limited democratic socio-political system long before the 16th century, when major three party wars commenced between them and the Christian kingdom to their north and Islamic sultanates to their east and south. The Gadda system elected males from five Oromo miseensa (groups), for a period of eight years, for various judicial, political, ritual and religious roles. Retirement was compulsory after the eight year term, and each major clan followed the same gadaa system. Women and people belonging to the lower Oromo castes were excluded. Male born in the upper Oromo society went through five stages of eight years, where his life established his role and status for consideration to a gadaa office.
Under gadaa, every eight years, the Oromo would choose by consensus an Abbaa Bokkuu responsible for justice, peace, judicial and ritual processes, an Abbaa Duulaa responsible as the war leader, an Abbaa Sa'aa responsible as the leader for cows, and other positions.
Like other ethnic groups in the Horn of Africa and East Africa, Borana Oromo people regionally developed social stratification consisting of four hierarchical strata. The highest strata were the nobles called the Borana, below them were the Gabbaro (some 17th to 19th century Ethiopian texts refer them as the dhalatta). Below these two upper castes were the despised castes of artisans, and at the lowest level were the slaves.
- Oromo, Borana-Arsi-Guji (Ethnologue)
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