Ethiopian Tribal Groups


Figure 1.-- Here we see two children in Ethiopia's famed Omo Valley. We are not sure of the specific tribe.

Ethiopia has more than 80 ethnic groups, a term many Africans prefer to tribes. These tribal groups not only constitute ethnic differencesm but cultural and linguistic differences as well. The most important group is the Oromo who make up about 40 percent of the population. The two other major groups are the Amhara (25 percent) and the Tigre for (12 percent). The three groups constitute about 75 percent of the countru's overall population. There are a number of smaller groups, including the Gurage (3.3 percent), the Ometo (2.7 percent), and the Sidamo (2.4 percent). In addition to these groups are much smaller tribal groups including e the Falasha, Nilotic tribes, the Beja, the Agau, the Shankella, the Somali and the Afar, and many other even smaller groups. The Omo Valley is an especially interesting area of Ethiopia ethnically. Ethiopia's tribal groups are centered in different geographic regions and play a major role in the country's cultural and political life. Amharas and Tigrayans centered in the northern highlands have played a dominant political role. The large Oromo tribe were largely subjugated during the 19th century. About 50 percent of Ethiopia's ethnic groups live there. The Government attempts to deal with ethnic tensions through a federal system with political boundaries largely along ethnic lines. Federalism gives regional states and thus the tribal groups substantial control over their own affairs. The Oromiya regional government, for example, in 1999 required that all primary schools adopt Oromiffa as the language of instruction. This resulted in protests from smaller non-Oromiffa speakers. There are reports of dismisals of public employees and teachers who are not Oromo, Similar reports exist from other regions where other tribal groups dominate the regional state government.

Ethnic/Tribal Groups

Ethiopia has more than 80 ethnic groups, a term many Africans prefer to tribes. These tribal groups not only constitute ethnic differencesm but cultural and linguistic differences as well. The most important group is the Oromo who make up about 40 percent of the population. The two other major groups are the Amhara (25 percent) and the Tigre for (12 percent). The three groups constitute about 75 percent of the countru's overall population. There are a number of smaller groups, including the Gurage (3.3 percent), the Ometo (2.7 percent), and the Sidamo (2.4 percent). In addition to these groups are much smaller tribal groups including e the Falasha, Nilotic tribes, the Beja, the Agau, the Shankella, the Somali and the Afar, and many other even smaller groups. Ethiopia's tribal groups are centered in different geographic regions and play a major role in the country's cultural and political life. Amharas and Tigrayans centered in the northern highlands have played a dominant political role. The large Oromo tribe were largely subjugated during the 19th century. About 50 percent of Ethiopia's ethnic groups live there.

Omo River Valley

This Omo river rises in the Shewan highlands and flows generally south wuth several major bends along its 760 kilometer course. It flows into Lake Turkana--one of the several lakes of the Great Rift Valley. It falls 2,000 meters from the souece to its outlet into Lake Turkana. This substantial fall makes it a generally rapid river with several falls. It is navigable only a short distance from the Lake. The Omo once formed the eastern boundaries for the rival Ethiopian kingdoms of Janjero and Garo. The Omo Valley is an especially interesting area of Ethiopia ethnically. It has been described as a virgin environment, Here people can still be found with tribal traditions dating back to ancient times. The women still dress in elaborately decorated skins and the men celebrate adulthood with special coloured hair buns. Elaborate body painting is practiced by many tribes. The Mursi are famous for women with huge lip plates and whose men participate in ritualistic stick duelling. The Hamar women, reportedly among the most beautiful in East Africa, use various metal ornaments indicate their marital status. The Karo are known for their body painting and erotic dancing. Other tribes like the Tsamai, Bana, Erbore, Konso, Gabbra and Borana have their own fascinating traditions.

Individual Tribes

There are a large number of tribal groups in Ethiopia. Many are quite small. And many of these small tribes are related to neighboring tribes. We have some limited information on individual Egiopisn tribal groups, but we have begun to slowly develop some basic information. Many of the most destinctive tribes live in the Omo Valley. The Ebore (Abore) are one of the Omo Valley tribes which practice body painting. The girls shave their heads until they are married. The Hamer are noted for their body painting. The Hamer are known for their bull-jumping ceremony, which young men must experience in order to qualify for adulthood. The Karo are noted for their body painting and adornment. The Konso are noted for their terraced agriculture and rituals. The Mursi are noted for their their clay lip plates and primitive life style. These groups still maintain ancient traditions such as dance, music and rituals from birth to marriage. The Mursi are one of the Surma tribes. The Suri is anotgher Surma tribe.

Federalism

The Government attempts to deal with ethnic tensions through a federal system with political boundaries largely along ethnic lines. Federalism gives regional states and thus the tribal groups substantial control over their own affairs. The Oromiya regional government, for example, in 1999 required that all primary schools adopt Oromiffa as the language of instruction. This resulted in protests from smaller non-Oromiffa speakers. There are reports of dismisals of public employees and teachers who are not Oromo, Similar reports exist from other regions where other tribal groups dominate the regional state government.

Ethnic Conflict

There are continued reports of ethnic clashes in which of deaths and injuries have occurred. There are several points of conflict. One is that between the Oromo Borena community and ethnic-Somali Garre pastoralists in the southeast, often resultungbfrom disputes over livestock--especially grazing and watering rights. There are tensions between the Oromo and Tigrayans. This resulted in clashes at Addis Ababa University when a Tigrayan student presented a paper which allegedly included a derogatory statement about Oromos.





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Created: 3:39 AM 5/14/2009
Last updated: 6:47 PM 5/9/2011