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Islam, the Orthodox Church and Oromo Nationalism

Published in 2002, Cahiers d’Études africaines, Gnamo, Abbas Haji - Archived on April 1st, 2012

Title: Islam, the Orthodox Church and Oromo Nationalism
Author: Abbas Haji Gnamo
Published: Cahiers d’Études africaines XLII-1, No. 165, 2002, pp. 99-120
Language: English
Keywords: Ethiopia, Oromo, ethnonationalism, fundamentalism, identity politics, Islam, official nationalism, Orthodox Christianity

The Oromo, the largest single national group in Ethiopia, follow Islam and Christianity since the middle of the 19th Century particularly after the conquest of the Ethiopian State, which triggered, directly or indirectly, a massive conversion. This article highlights the relationship between the Orthodox Church and Islam vis-à-vis the nascent but rapidly developing Oromo nationalism. Based on the analysis of Oromo ethnography, history, the system of thought and their contemporary political movements, the paper argues that Oromo nationalism is the antithesis of the Ethiopian state/official nationalism supported by the Orthodox Church. It also demonstrates that Islam is not a driving ideological force of Oromo’s political struggle. On one the hand, it is in contradiction with many aspects of the pre-existing culture such as Gadaa-Qaaluu and other values from which the nationalists try to take inspiration to build their future. On the other hand, from the strategic perspective, the adoption of Islam or Christianity as an ideological tool of their nationalism would be a factor of more division and fragmentation. Thus Oromo mainstream nationalism is evolving on a secular political trajectory.

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