Resistance and Integration in the Ethiopian Empire State: Direct Amhara Rule in the Oromo Province of Qellem, Ethiopia, 1918-1936

Key information

5:00 pm to 6:30 pm
Faber Building, 23/24 Russell Square

About this event

Etana Habte, PhD candidate History, SOAS

By the close of the 19th century, Abyssinia, like other European colonial powers, opted for colonial possessions in the Horn of Africa and was able to build the Ethiopian empire state with today’s boundaries. The empire, by a blend of war and diplomacy, subjugated many hitherto independent peoples and polities to the south of the Blue Nile. The Oromo of Ethiopia were not an exception. The Oromo polities of Qellem, located on the Ethio-Sudanese border, were incorporated into the empire in 1886 through mostly peaceful means and were entrusted to one of the strongest local leaders. Qellem was allowed considerable local autonomy, but remained throughout a rebellious region. Addis Ababa on its part moulded its own policy of integration within the empire as a nation state around a single culture, language and religion. To this end, it employed all available resources.
The paper analyses the dissolution of Qellem’s local autonomy from1918 onwards and its subjugation under direct Amhara rulers appointed by Addis Ababa. The result was an unprecedented exploitation of people and land that bred peasant and elite resistance in the region. Addis Ababa’s coercive measures in the 1920s only seem to have bred Oromo resistance into the formation of the Western Oromo Confederacy in May 1936 following the Fascist Italian invasion a few months earlier (1935). On the bases of these politico-military developments, I will attempt to show how far, between 1918 and 1936, the centrally-led integration that attempted to bind this resourceful region to the rest of the country, progressed in the Ethiopian empire, and how much it was opposed by Oromo resistance in the region.

Organiser: Dr Marie Rodet

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