Gadaa (older spelling: Gada; literally: era) is the indigenous democratic system of governance used by the Oromos in Ethiopia and northern Kenya.[1] It is also practiced by the Konso and Gedeo people of southern Ethiopia. The system regulates political, economic, social and religious activities of the community.[2][3][4]

Under Gadaa, every eight years, the Oromo would choose by consensus nine leaders known as Salgan ya’ii Borana (the nine Borana assemblies).[5][6] A leader elected by the gadaa system remains in power only for 8 years, with an election taking place at the end of those 8 years.[7][8][9] Whenever an Abbaa Gadaa dies while exercising his functions, the bokkuu (the symbol of power) passes to his wife and she keeps the bokkuu and proclaims the laws.[10]

The Gada system has been inscribed by UNESCO as Intangible Cultural Heritage since 2016.[11] It is the brainchild of Oromo from the Madda Walabu district of Oromia.[12][13] Oromo people regarded the system as their common heritage and as a major part of their cultural identity.[14] It is the system with which the Oromo people have been governing themselves in a democratic way for centuries.[15][16]

The Oromo governed themselves in accordance with the Gadaa 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 result is that Oromo absorbs of the Christian and Islam religions. The Borana and Guji groups near the Ethiopian-Kenyan border able to practice Gadaa without interruption. State of Oromia under the Federal system of in Ethiopia, the Gadaa system across Oromia started renaissance. In 2015, the Gadaa Center at Odaa Bultum was inaugurated and in 2018, the Gadaa Center at Odaa Hullee reinstalled after two centuries of interruption.[17][18] In 2019, Bule Hora University launched a master's degree program in Gadaa studies.[19]




Luba is the Gadaa grade in which the society was structured into the peer group based on chronological age or genealogical generation. Each luba consists of all of the sons in another particular class. The entire grade progresses through eleven different grades, each based on an eight-year cycle, and each with its own set of rights and responsibilities.[20]

Gadaa Grades[21]
Daballe Junior Gaammee Foollee Kuusaa Raabaa Doorii Gadaa Yuuba I Yuuba II & III Gadaamoojjii Jaarsa
Age 0-8 9-16 17-24 25-32 33-40 41-48 49-56 57-64 & 65-72 73-80 >80
Characters No responsibility Student Military trainee Military Warrior Leader Advisor Repositories of law Conducts Rites No responsibliity

The grade passes from one stage of development to the next every eight years.


Baallii is a process of transferring power from one Gadaa party to the next.

Gadaa Party (Gogeessa Gadaa)

There are five Gadaa parties known as shanan Gadaa Oromoo. These parties follow the five world views of the Oromo people. The five Gadaa parties orderly come to power. A party come to power once every forty years. Hence, there would not be direct competition among the five Gadaa parties, rather the competition would be among individuals within a party. The five Gadaa parties have different names among Boorana, Maccaa-Tuulama, Arsii, Gujii and Ituu-Humbannaa.[22][23]

Gadaa Parties
Boorana Maccaa-Tuulama Arsii Gujii Ituu-Humbannaa
Meelba / Harmufaa Birmajii Birmajii Harmufa Horata
Muudana / Roobalee Michilee / Muudana Roobalee Roobalee Dibbaaqa
Kiilolee / Birmajii Duuloo / Halchiisa Bahara Muudana Dibbeessa
Biifolee / Muldhata Meelbaa / Hambissaa Horata Halchiisa Fadata
Michilee / Duuloo Roobalee Daraara


A number of scholars have studied Gadaa. Legesse[24] has written that Gadaa is "one of the most astonishing and instructive turns the evolution of human society has taken". In addition to his Harvard PhD dissertation, Legesse has published a book[25] positioning Gadaa as an African democracy that could inform constitutional thinkers. The late Donald Levine has said[26] that Gadaa is "one of the most complex systems of social organization ever devised by the human imagination". For Jalata, Gadaa represents "the totality of Oromo civilization".

The Role of Oromo Women in Gadaa System

Primarily, Gadaa system is an ancient philosophy of socio-political system that responsible for regulating Political stability, Economic growth, social services, Cultural commitments, Ethical contract, the of religious order of the Oromo society and practice Gadaa Democracy that require equal participation of both male and female. Still academically debatable as Oromo women have no influences throughout the age of Gadaa decree or clan leadership structure but the wife of designated Abbaa Gadaa is equitably treated like the Abbaa Gadaa himself.[27] Siinqee feminist represent women in the gadaa system.[28]

Current status

Considering the symbolic significance of Gadaa for the Oromo, as well as its structural innovations, researchers in law, indigenous studies, and pan-Africanism are exploring how the system could be utilized in the 21st century. For example, a thesis by Z. Sirna[29] entitled "Ethiopia: When the Gadaa Democracy Rules in a Federal State" explores how the system could be integrated with the contemporary federal structure of Ethiopia, serving as a governance mechanism for the Oromia Regional National State. Sirna has analysed the Gadaa system in relation to deliberative forms of political participation used in Western contexts. He concludes that the Gadaa systems' technique of 'consensus through dialogue' is unique but firmly rooted in Western democratic norms, and thus well suited to adoption within Ethiopia's federally structured democracy.[30] A political party known as GSAP (Gadaa System Advancement Party) bases its ideology on the principles of Gadaa. A futuristic, governance 2.0 project called BitGadaa[31] draws inspiration from the principles and structure of Gadaa.

See also


  1. ^ "Gada system, an indigenous democratic socio-political system of the Oromo" .
  2. ^ "Gada system, an indigenous democratic socio-political system of the Oromo" .
  3. ^ Intro to the Gadaa System
  4. ^ Oromo Indigenous Philosophy (Gadaa System): The Case of 74th Gujii Oromo Gadaa Power Transition (PDF)
  5. ^ Galla, Candace (2012). "Sustaining generations of Indigenous voices: Reclaiming language and integrating multimedia technology" . {World Indigenous Nations Higher Education Consortium Journal: 46–48.
  6. ^ Tesema Ta'a (2006). The Political Economy of an African Society in Transformation: the Case of Macca Oromo (Ethiopia) . Otto Harrassowitz Verlag. pp. 26–27. ISBN 978-3-447-05419-5.
  7. ^ John Ralph Willis (2005). Slaves and Slavery in Africa: Volume Two: The Servile Estate . Routledge. pp. 122–127, 129–134, 137. ISBN 978-1-135-78017-3.
  8. ^ John Ralph Willis (2005). Slaves and Slavery in Africa: Volume Two: The Servile Estate . Routledge. pp. 128–134. ISBN 978-1-135-78016-6.
  9. ^ Ira M. Lapidus (2014). A History of Islamic Societies . Cambridge University Press. p. 483. ISBN 978-1-139-99150-6.
  10. ^ "The Gadaa System and Some of Its Institutions among the Booranaa: A Historical Perspective" . pp. 91–92.
  11. ^ "Gada system, an indigenous democratic socio-political system of the Oromo" .
  12. ^ "A heroic send-off for Aliyi Cirri, a pioneer Oromo freedom fighter whose courage and bravery inspired generations" .
  13. ^ "Historical Background" .
  14. ^ "The Gada sysytem; full Dimocratical politics of Oromo;71stBorana BalliHand overing Day Febrawary 2009/20017:The Gada of Kura Jarso" (PDF).
  15. ^ "Gada System inscribed in UNESCO as Intangible World Heritage" .
  16. ^ "Briefing: What is Oromo's Gada system?" .
  17. ^ "The 2015 Commemoration of Odaa-Bultum (One of the Major Oromo Gadaa System's Administrative Centers)" .
  18. ^ "A Journey to Revitalizing Gadaa at Odaa Hullee: Tracing Jimma University's Unwavering Commitment" .
  19. ^ "Bule Hora University Journey" .
  20. ^ Participedia Contributors. "The Gadaa System of the Oromo People" . Retrieved 29 January 2019.
  21. ^ "Gadaa Grades" .
  22. ^ Sirna, Zelalem. "A Future Gaze: Gadaa Oriented Constitutional Structure for Oromia" . Gadaa journal: 15–16.
  23. ^ "Waa'ee Gadaa wantoota beekuu qabdan shan" [Five things you should know about Gadaa].
  24. ^ Asmarom Legesse, "Gadaa: Three Approaches to the Study of African Society", 1973
  25. ^ Asmarom Legesse, "Oromo Democracy: an Indigenous African Political System", 2006
  26. ^ Donald Levine, "Greater Ethiopia: The Evolution of a Multiethnic Society", 1974
  27. ^ Oromo Indigenous Philosophy (Gadaa System): The Case of 74th Gujii Oromo Gadaa Power Transition (PDF)
  28. ^ Oromo Indigenous Philosophy (Gadaa System): The Case of 74th Gujii Oromo Gadaa Power Transition (PDF)
  29. ^ Z. Sirna, "Ethiopia: When the Gadaa Democracy Rules in a Federal State", 2012
  30. ^ Participedia Contributors. "The Gadaa System of the Oromo People" . Retrieved 29 January 2019.
  31. ^ "BitGadaa | Futuristic African Democracy" . 2015-09-09. Archived from the original on 2015-09-09. Retrieved 2019-10-30.


Categories: Oromo people | Ethiopian culture | Kenyan culture | Kenyan society | Accountability | Leadership | Policy | Political philosophy | African traditional governments | Politics of Africa

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