Renaissance of Agaw People’s Priori Identity As a Support for the Oromo National Liberation Struggle

By Fayysis Oromia*
As far as the information I do have till now is concerned, in the ancient and modern history of the Cushitic Ethiopians, it is now almost becoming clear that the Oromo nation is the root and the stalk of all the other Cushites including the Agaw. The Oromo being initally Waaqeffataa nation, theAgaw started to have a new orientation towards Judaism, being influenced by the Jewish migrants (the Falaashaa), who came to the Cush kingdom about 3000 years ago. Despite such small differences, not only the Agaw, but all the Cushitic nations in the Horn of Africa seem to be the further derivations from the Oromo and yet having conflicts in some areas. Here it is enough to look at the common history and/or the conflict history of the Agaw and the Oromo nations because of the fact that Agaw-Midir is the north-western neighbour of Biyya-Oromo with the worse experience of being a victim in the Abyssinization process (the process sometimes seen as the method of being converted from Waaqeffannaa of Oromo and Judaism of Agaw to the Orthodox Christianity of Abyssinians). As already well recorded, the Abyssinized parts of the Agaw have got a conflict for many years specially with the non-Abyssinized part of the Oromo.

Even if the Agaw may not be the further differentiation from the Oromo, it is becoming historical fact that the Agaw nation is a main priori identity of most Amhara and Tegaru in Abyssinia. Different versions of history, legend and story do tell us that Agaw people in the north eastern Africa have been influenced both biologically and culturally by the Jewish immigrants and by certain immigrants from Southern Arabia, particularly from Yemen. I think the cultural influence by these few immigrants is stronger than their biological impact on the indigenious Agaw nation. That is why most of the Abyssinians do physically look like African Cushites, rather than like those from the middle east, despite the claim of their monarchs to be from Solomon dynasty. Certain historians do describe this phenomen as cultural Semetization of the Cushites and they do call the Abyssinian people as ‘the Semetic speaking Cushites’. Some writers even assert that Agaw people are the only indigenous inhabitants of most areas now occupied by the Amharinya and Tigrinya speakers.

One of the facts to verify this theory is the linguistic studies done by some specialists. These experts do narrate that Agaw language is a main substratum for the ethio-semetic languages. The assertion holds water because of the reality that the languages of Abyssinia have got the same grammatical structure to that of the Agaw, but enriched by different terms and vocabularies from Hebrew, Arab and Yemenite Heberew. This fact is the basic ground for the recent arguement regarding specially Amharinya, whether it is Cushitic or Semetic language. The answer is already given by some linguists, who tried to designate Amharinya as a ‘Semetized Cushitic language’. It was stated in literatures that Amharinya was the creation of the Abyssinian ruling class around 1270. The monarchs in Ankober started to use this language just for the sake of distancing themselves from the common people they do rule (from the Agaw and the Oromo). It is similar to the truely hitorical process of creating French language and its usage by the monarchs of the old Germans (e.g by the Franken) just to have a privilaged postion vis a vis the common people, who used to speak Deutsch (German language). German monarchs used to speak French, which can be seen as parallel to the Oromo monarchs, who prefered Amharinya as their working language. That means Amharinya is equivalent to French (as a language of the ruling class) and Afaan Oromo is the same to Deutsch (as a language of the common citizens).

Amharinya getting this privilaged position became the suprastratum on the substratum of either Agawinya or Afaan Oromo. Amharinya significantly influenced both substrata to the extent that most Agawinya speakers lost their own Cushitic language, whereas the Oromo tried to defend their language against such influence. The main mechanism used to destroy the Agaw language was the discrimination and the stigimatization of the Agawinya speakers so that they felt inferior to the Amharinya speakers. To be privilaged as a ruling class, the common sitizen had to give up their language of the common and strive to learn the language of the monarchs. Also in practice, those who assimilated themselves into the Amharinya speaking community have gotten the expected privilage and profit, which the ruling class reserved for its own group. This same method was also applied to the Oromo, so that the assimilated Oromo always could be treated as part of the Abyssinian ruling class and got the powerful positions, even to the extent of being kings and presidents of the Ethiopian empire.

Despite such mechanism of assimilation, the Oromo people resisted and preserved our culture and language to some extent. Even though almost all Oromo nationals living in the north part of Oromia, as an immediate neighbours to the Abyssinized Agaw, lost their priori language, they could save their Oromo culture from being extinct. This is what we already observed among the Raayya-, Wallo- and Yejju-Oromo. For the sake of resisting the Abyssinization process which is mostly considered to be equivalent to the Christianization through the Orthodox church, these part of the Oromo people accepted Islam as their own religion and with that distanced themselves from the classical Abyssinians. Because of this step, they had to pay the sacrifice of being massacred by the Abyssinian warlord, Yohannes, and being discriminated by the other Abyssinian kings and rulers. This same process was applied in the whole Oromia after the invasion by the Abyssinian warlord, Minilk from Ankober, the town which was part and parcel of Oromia for it is the birth place of Obbo Guddisa, the grandfather of H/Sillasie.
It was such discrimination, Abyssinization and stigimatization of the common citizens, which lead to the start of the coordinated national liberation movement of the Oromo people. In fact Oromo people have been in liberation struggle since the beginning of the cultural and political influence by the immigrants from Yemen calling themselves Habashat. The 16th century Oromo “migration” being part of the liberation movement, the Oromo did fight against the Abyssinian invaders especially since the end of the 19th century. The Oromo leaders, who declared Afaan Oromo be the working language of the monarchy in Gondar palace were part of this Oromo national resistance against the Abyssinization process. The movements like that of Raayya, Bale, Macaa and Tullama, Afran Qallo, Me’ison, Ici’at and the well formulated as well as organized liberation movement lead especially by the OLF can also be given as an example of the resistance. These movements could help the Oromo to cope better than the Agaw people, who couldn’t survive as such, but now need to revive their priori identity.

Interestingly, the politically conscious Agaw nationals have already started this revival movement. The sub-groups like Bilen, Awi and Waag-Xamta have already started to use their own language and to be proud of being part of the Agaw nation, despite all pressures and subjugations from their Abyssinized neighbors. The Qemant/Kemant around Gondar are now demanding the same self-determination to develop and use their own language as well as to rule themselves, being free from the Abyssinian oppressors. Those who already lost their priori identity, like the Lasta-Lalibela of western Wallo, the Wayixo around Bahir Dar, the Gaffat of the whole eastern Gojjam and southern Gondar, the Kunfal of western Gojjam, the Bejjaa-Midir (Begemdir), the Quara and the Semien of the western and northern Gondar, the Axumites and the Abergele of western Tigrai are now trying to come back to their true self and resurrect their lost language, instead of being seen as Amhara and Tegaru, which is actually their false self. They now started to assert like the famous South African freedom fighter, Steve Biko, once said: ”you can beat or jail or even kill me, but I am not going to be what you want me to be.” Here, he rejected the false self imposed on him and he was determined to keep and maintain his true self.

The question now to be asked should be: is such renaissance of the Agaw identity possible? The answer is in short yes, but to be successful, this traumatized nation is now in a desperate need of help from its brotherly Cushitic nations like the Oromo, the Somali, the Sidama and the Afar. Speaking Amharinya and Tigrinya doesn’t make these people other than being Agaw. Just like the Brazilians are not Protuguese by speaking the language of their colonizer, Portugal, the Agaw people can not be non-Agaw for not speaking their priori language. If they want to revive their true identity, all the Agaw nationals first need to be politically conscious. I personally think and believe that people in Abyssinia are the Abyssinized parts of the Cushitic Afar, Beja, Agaw, Saho and Oromo (the Cushitic ABASO), who denied their true self. To mention as further examples, the southern part of Tigrai (the Raayya) are Oromo, the eastern part are Afar, the north-eastern part are Saho and the rest are Agaw. Regarding Eritrea, the western part are mostly the Abyssinized Bejjaa, the center as well as the southern part are the Abyssinized Agaw and the eastern part are the Abyssinized as well as the non-Abyssinized Saho and Afar.

If especially the Agaw nation starts to resurrect and revive its true self, this is what we can call part of the true Cushitic Ethiopian renaissance or in short Cush renaissance. Some Abyssinians mistakenly do talk about this renaissance by making it to be the same as a continuation and strengthening of the Abyssinization process. Meles Zenawi’s rhetoric about Ethiopian renaissance is such a classical misconception. If he really is serious, then he had to promote and support the Agaw people of Abyssinia come back to their true self. Such de-Abyssinization (giving up the false self) or re-Cushitization (coming back to the true self) is what we can accept and respect as a genuine Ethiopian renaissance. This phenomena must be coupled with a revival of the Agaw cultural and national identity. Actually all Abyssinians, including the the Abyssinized Oromo, should have entertained this attempt of finding true self by putting their false self in question.

Here, I must stress that not only the Abyssinized Agaw, but also the Abyssinized Oromo of the north Shoa in Amhara region, east Wallo, south Tigrai and south Gojjam should try to resurrect their true identity. I know that most of them didn’t lose their Cushitic culture, but surely they already lost their Afaan Oromo. Now, it is the right time for them to try to find their priori identity and say no to the ongoing entertainment of the false self. I am sure, if they count back seven generation of their ancestors, they all can find who they really are, instead of just looking at the language they do now speak and identify themselves as Amhara or Tegaru. Also this lost part of the Oromo community need the necessary help of the politically conscious Oromo nationalists.

The movements of the Agaw and the Oromo people against the hitherto and the ongoing Abyssinization process can synergize each other, if the two brotherly nations try to work together. It is a good sign that the Abyssinized Agaw and the Abyssinized Oromo nowadays started to call themselves as Amhara instead of hiding behind the already contaminated identity called Ethiopian. But now they have to move further and ask: who is Abesha/Abyssinian in general and who is Amhara in particular? Till now I read two authors writing on such question and topic regarding the Amhara. Both versions are diametrically opposite, yet the attempt of the authors to answer this question is good. I encourage every Amhara and Tegaru to ask her-/himself: ‘who is my true self’? Surely majority of them can find the reality of being a descendant of Agaw or Oromo or that of the other Cushitic nations.

If this process of finding and getting one’s true self will continue, definitely in the future, both Agaw-Midir (which is wrongly designated as the Axum empire, Abyssinia, Ethiopia or Amhara-Tigrai) and Biyya-Oromo can be a very good peaceful neighboring states under the common home – the African Union (the future African Federation). This can be a common vision for both the Agaw people and the Oromo nationals, if they want to struggle together and get rid of the currently ruling Abyssinian tormentors, who are still promoting the de-Agawnization and the de-Oromonization towards the false self of being an Ethiopian, the code name for the Abyssinization process. I think both Agawinnet and Oromummaa as the respective true self of the two brotherly nations and as an anti-dote against Abyssinianism must be further developed and promoted in order to get rid of being Abyssinian (the false self of the Abyssinized Cushites).
All the Cushitic nations of the region in general and the Abyssinized Agaw in particular need to rally behind the common vision of a future good neighborhood. Only a sort of supra-national union of independent nations like the free Agaw-Midir, Oromia, Afar-Saho, Somalia and Sidama under certain common name, call it Cush Community, Ethiopian union, or Horn Confederation can be the lasting and optimal solution for the complicated political situation of the region. That is why Oromian independence is indispensable and even Agaw-Midir’s independence is possible. Oromo nationalists need to work on this process and project. All the Cushites including the Agaw people need to come back to their priori identity in order to galvanize the liberation movement against the rule of the elites with such false self, who are the worst servants of alien forces as we do still see in case of the Woyane. If all the stakeholders in the region will agree in having a sort of independent nations’ union (Cush Community), surely both Agaw-Midir and Biyya-Oromo will be the strongest pillars of the union, just as France and Germany are to the European Union.

By getting victory over these servants of the alien forces, who already denied their true nature, all the brotherly Cushitic nations and all the members of Cush Community in the Horn including the non-Cushitic minor nationalities in the region can live in the future with all the necessary harmony and peace. To this effect, what is important above all things is the renaissance of the lost good values like the Gadaa democracy of the Oromo and the true national identity of the Agaw. This approach of helping Agaw’s identity resurrection is one way of tackling the dictatorial culture of the Abyssinian elites. That is why Oromo nationalists have to promote the national revival struggle of the Agaw people, because of the fact that Agaw’s renaissance in turn will be the best support for the Oromo national liberation movement. We just ought to start this virtuous cycle, which really can have a positive feed-back for the Oromo struggle. May Rabbi/Waaqa help the Agaw nation resurrect its priori identity and revive its own national culture and language.


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15 Responses to Renaissance of Agaw People’s Priori Identity As a Support for the Oromo National Liberation Struggle

  1. Chakol says:

    The dear author, thank you for this outstanding article. Yes, renaissance of Agaw people to priori identity is imperative and healthy humanity. Natural-self acceptance as group or individual is basic humanity everyone has to do. Even if we mask with something else our natural identity agawness is still with us. It is not something we can rid of by choice or modification as the case of our behaviors. The renaissance defined by the author signifies human rights being one’s true self beyond political liberty.

  2. Alamirew G/H says:

    Fayysis Oromia* has produced an interesting article regards to Renaissance of Agaw People’s Priori Identity As a Support for the Oromo National Liberation Struggle.It is well known that the Ethiopian history has been distorted by pseudo assumption, Solomonic Dynasty since the end of the 13th century. Here, I prefer to use the term Ethiopia not only for the current Ethiopia, but for the whole region of the Horn of Africa including the southern parts of Egypt which had strong Cushitic kingdoms at the time of the Nile Civilizations. Namely Napata,Meroe,Nubia,Peaxumite,Axum ,Zagwe,Gonadar and others.Frankly speaking the name Ethiopia was not solely given to us.The Great Cushitic Kingdoms of the Nile Civilization are forefathers to other kingdoms and civilizations.The majority of the populace of the region is Cushitic like Agaw,Beja,Oromia,Afar,Somalia,Sidam etc. Of course many areas of Cushitic areas have been replaced with artificial designation.There should be noted the term Abyssinia (Habash) was given in negative context by our neighbors from the other side of Red Sea.The term semitization is not also an appropriate one.It is an expression of ruling feudel cliques of the country who undermined the indigenous people.At the same time term Falasha is given to the Agew followers of Judiasim and it is an arrogant term.I myself believe that the so called Falasha people are Agews, not immigrants.Some believe Agews have been highly assimilated with Amharas. In spite of this,the Agew natural identity should be respected so that they can be psychologically free as the citizens of Ethiopia.

  3. Dawit T M says:

    After reading this article, I have come to conclusion that no more physical conflict between Abyssinized Agaws and Oromos. Now on words, everyone including these in state leadership position has to work for renaissance of Agewness to end suffering in the region granting lasting peace and harmony.

  4. Agugnahu says:

    The author must be a true intellectual whom speaks the truth. As the author put it some of our brothers shall be good neighbors. Others will be part of either of the state.It is just the matter of time.

  5. Alamirew G/H says:

    I extend my thanks to Dawit and Agugnahu for your interest on those articles of concerning the Agew Identity.

  6. chambalala says:

    I have really been touched by this interesting article. The author tried to show the link b/n the struggle of Agaw people and the movement of Oromos for liberation within this country. I believe too that these big brothers must work together to revive the true identity in the aura of Ethiopia. The same is true for other cushites in Ethiopia. As the author correctly mentioned, the so called semites-Amharas and Tigreans-must see the movement for freedom as common agenda that will benefit them too. Truth always speaks louder that falsity. Concerning Felashas, I agree with what Alamirew G/Hiwot said. The other important thing is that we should always continue our struggle for the liberation of all cushites by way of positive influence on all Ethiopians, not negative influence like insulting bad words or otherwise against Amharas and Tigreans. It is obvious that leaders from these groups had imposed oppression on cushites in history. Let us tell them and make them believe about the truth by citing tangible historical evidences. It is not for the leaders but for the common peoples of them! we have to show our wisdom by being so democrat, not by being dictator, to resurrect our natural identity and natural freedom of self-determination!!

  7. Beshaw says:

    Persuasion for “Amharas” is like honey for a donkey.

  8. Beshaw says:

    Oromia shall become a free and independent state. For this realization, they should get help from their neighbors, the different Agew branches. TPLF AND EPLF had the support of their neighbors, including Sudan. Why not the Oromo and Agew cooperate? Why not the Agew Awi, and the Agew Himira help the Kemant who are still under the oppression and domination of the Abyssinian dictators?

  9. Worke Ante says:

    Galatooma for unity of Cushits, the author’s dream is attainable, it takes time and needs commitment and patience. Nowadays, genocide in Gondar is raising against our people time to time. All atrocity has not been documented by human right agencies, because the people in back home has no access to such agencies to report. Reporting to the right agencies could have been handled by those supporters and Agaws in Diaspora.
    Balance of power in the post-EPRDF empire is clear. It appears in favor of oppressed people. I disagree with Mr. Beshaw’s analogy, which puts TPLF and EPLF on the same side, it should be the past sentiment not reality. I believe Cushitis are against the system of the empire not individuals or any group. This should be clear for anyone.

  10. Mizegena says:

    We unit when we all believe and have a conviction to see undivided ethiopia that all citizens have internal freedom and self administration…… First let everybody come to one’s self and believe we all are Ethiopians. I have strong stand everybody should be free from any domination but remain Ethiopian. If we are not happy with the name “Ethiopia itself” we can agree to change the name without…. division…..Of course, this unity should not be a camouflage for racial agony and domination like it was during the legend Solomonic dynasty. It must be true and genuine.

  11. Sam says:

    Yes, I like this article and similar article titled by ‘The Review of Agaw_Awi Family Tree’ article very much. It will give overview about The Agaw people. The true history about Agaw people in particular and Ethiopia in general is written by neutral peoples of the West and Middle East on different foreign languages. When we look to the Awi people who are one of the Agaw people, we can look at the work of Hetzron (1969) who did his PhD in Awigni Language of Awi people. Hetzron came to Ethiopia thinking that the origin of Jewish people could be Ethiopia hypothesizing around Abay (Blue Nile) River. He decided to study the culture of the people who live in the source of Abay (Blue Nile) River. He then went to Gojjam to the source of this river and found people who live on the source of Abay (Blue Nile) River (by present name Seqela) are Awi people of Agaw. So, he decided to study their language, Awgni. In his study, he found that The Agaw People use to live in the whole North and Central part of Ethiopia. He says, except inaccessible island or pocket regions (the present: Awgni of Awi Zone in Gojjam, Qura and Kemant in Gonder, Xamta in Wolo and part in Shire Endasilassie in Tigiray and Bilen in Eritrea), other parts of Agaw people were sematized and shaded by two languages: Amharic and Tigrigna. To know the truth that people in whole North and Central part of Ethiopia are The Agaw’s, let alone Hetzron (1969) and the like articles, the current status witnesses the truth of this. That is currently we find The Agaw people in North and Central part of Ethiopia. Let’s start from North: In North from Eritrea we find Bilen; in Tigray and Wolo we find Xamta, in Gonder we find Qura and Kemant; in Gojjam we find Awgni of Awi Zone. Hetzron (1969) work also shows that there are Agaw people near to Addis Ababa (This is the truth, anyone who is interested can look this truth from Hetzron (1969)). Therefore, it should be concern of mankind that the three questions that this article, ‘The Review of Agaw_Awi Family Tree’, posed should get answer:

    When we think of Ethiopia, the prominent image that comes to the mind of all Ethiopians and foreigners is works of Lalibela and Axum. These works are recognized by UNESCO as world heritage. Not only all Ethiopians but also the whole world is proud of these incredible and ever outshining works! The truth is, these works Lalibela and Axum are works of The Agaw People. So, don’t you think that we all Ethiopians and the whole world is responsible to investigate and answer those three questions (1.Whereabouts of the Agaw people who lived throughout Central Shua to Eritrea. 2. Reasons for discontinuation of the Agaw civilization. 3. Whether the Ethiopian history literature is impartial) the article, ‘The Review of Agaw_Awi Family Tree’ posed and revive their culture and such golden and amusing architectural works back? Thanks!

  12. Lali says:

    Dear fellow Country Men
    I am an agew awi and Amharic speaking Gojjamis as well! As far as I know the Agaws and the Gumz in former Gojjam owned their land and governed by their chief at local level or the neftegna system was not imposed there!
    All Awi people do not compromise their Ethiopian nationalism and Orthodox religion ( nearly 99 %). Whether we like it or not some irreversible process of miniaturization and displacement of nationalities have occurred in Ethiopia due to war of conquest Aaxumities and “Amahara” elites and massive immigration and we do not have to quarrell over that. . The medieval people of Damot which were below the Abay river were displaced to north of Abay in Damot, Gafat people in north and south of Abay and may people around Modjo disappeared and the awi and Kemant size decreased via amaharization. The Many people in eastern Shoa and The Enraya people melted their identity. The Raya people have been oromized and then the Tigriainized and amaharized The Amahara people in wollo were oromized for 3 centuries and reamharized. Nobody of present generation is accountable for this

    The current Ethiopian constitution allow self government of nations and nationalities at regional, zone and woreda level depending on their size and settlement. The minimum requirement occupying certain area and speaking language.
    It is possible to have Kemant special zone of Amahara Region, if this is the wish of the people and they occupy a geographically bounded area. I think, still this special zone is going to be Amharic speaking !

    Instead of wasting our time mislead by external agents, let us resolve the issue with due respect and reason considering the condition for self-rule of nation, nationalities and people and advantages and disadvantage in creating an economic entity. Let us not give chance enemies of Ethiopia to divide us along this line!I

  13. johndav says:


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  15. Teshome walya says:

    I got it somewhat logical explanation but still it needs clarification!

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