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Ras Gobena Dacche (Ge'ez: ራስ፡ ጎበና, 1821 - July, 1889) was an ethnic Oromo member of the Shewan aristocrats of central Ethiopia in the mid-19th century. He is known for coordinating his Shewa Oromo army with the central army of Menelik II, who later became Ethiopian Emperor, to incorporate more lands into the Ethiopian Empire in the late 19th century.[1]

History[edit]

Early years[edit]

During his early years, Gobena was lord of Falle before he gained fame around the region for his bravery, strength and leadership ability. During the reign of Emperor Tewodros II, Gobena assisted southern rebellion who kept the Emperor's reign troubled with conflicts. In addition to Gobena's actions, other northern Oromo militias, Tigrayan rebellion, and the constant incursion of Ottoman Empire and Egyptian forces near the Red Sea weakened and contributed to the downfall of Emperor Tewodros II who died after his last battle with a British expeditionary force.

When the young Menelik escaped from Tewodros' fortress at Maqdala in 1865, Gobana was one of the first to submit to him and help him secure control of Shewa. In return, Menelik made him chief of his palace guard, which began Gobana's rapid rise to power. In 1878, Gobana was made Ras, which Mohammed Hassan believes makes Gobana "the first Christianized and Amharized Shawan Oromo to receive this highest title."[2]

In the 1870s, Gobena helped Menelik II to defeat another militia of the Amhara Negus Tekle Haymanot of Gojjam, a significant event which helped him to strengthen his alliance with Shewa Amhara rulers.

Southern expansion[edit]

Ras Gobena (earlier Dejazmach Gobena) became a famed Oromo chief who was close to the Aba Mudda, a spiritual head of the Oromo. He gained support among various Oromo clans, and he led the western and southern military movement of Menelik II. According to historian Donald Levine, Ras Gobena did most of the southern expansion that incorporated more Oromo speaking peoples into Menelik's Ethiopian Empire, helped by Oromo soldiers that were led by various famous Oromo chiefs like Moroda Bekere. In addition to Oromo communities, Ras Gobena defeated the militias of southern ethnic Sidama and Gurage communities. Near the end of his life in the 1880s, the Shewan army governed by Ras Gobena defeated the forces of the Muslim Gurage leader Hassen Injamo. On 14 October 1888, the allied forces of Ras Gobena and Moroda Bekere defeated the Mahdist Sudanese invasion of the Welega Oromo at the Battle of Guté Dili.[3]

Some of the southern communities militarily opposed Ras Gobana's army throughout his campaigns, while others, particularly the kingdoms in the Gibe region, embraced the alliance with Ras Gobena and Menelik II, who later became the Emperor of Ethiopia. Despite the opposition, historian Dr. Donald Levine states that some southern Oromo supported Ras Gobana and the Ethiopian centralization was "welcomed as a way to put an end" to 'intertribal fighting' between the Oromo communities.[4]

Some Oromo writers believe that the Oromo Ras Gobana and the Amhara Menelik II were the first two people in Ethiopia with the concept of national boundary that brought various ethno-linguistic communities under one rule.

The two most important historical figures who signify the introduction of the concepts of national boundary and sovereignty in Ethiopia are Emperor Menelik II and Ras Gobana Dache, who used guns manufactured in Europe to bring a large swath of Biyas (regions/nations) under a centralized rule.[5]

Popular culture[edit]

The sentiment of most Ethiopians toward Ras Gobana often correlates to 21st century Ethiopian politics. Ras Gobana is a controversial Oromo figure for some ethnic Oromos who think he was a traitor for allying with the Northern Ethiopians to conquer some southern regions. Mohammed Hassan translates the following song as an example of Oromo expression that Gobana betrayed his own people:

It is strange, it is strange, it is strange,

women do not raid houses;
she who gives birth to a dog is strange.
Relatives do not hurt each other,
the haft of an axe is strange
people of one stock do not sell each other
that of the son of Dacche is strange[6]

Though many Oromo communities battled and conquered each other for centuries, some contemporary Oromo politicians who favor ethno-political mobilization toward Oromo Unity often associate Oromo opposition to them as a betrayal act similar to that of the 19th century Ras Gobana and other Oromo leaders who allied with the Amhara and Tigray. And those Oromos who associated with Ethiopian governments of the past, including Derg and the Selassie Monarch are sometimes labeled "neo-Goobanaas." [7] In contrast, other Ethiopians who advocate Ethiopian unity and who oppose ethnocentric political movements often glorify Ras Gobana as an Ethiopian hero and as a unifying figure.

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Ras Gobena (1821-1889)", ethiopians.com
  2. ^ Mohammed Hassen, The Oromo of Ethiopia: A History 1570-1860 (Trenton: Red Sea Press, 1994), p. 198
  3. ^ Alessandro Triulzi, "Trade, Islam, and the Mahdia in Northwestern Wallagga, Ethiopia", Journal of African History, 16 (1975), p. 68
  4. ^ Donald Levine, Greater Ethiopia, the Evolution of a multicultural society (University of Chicago Press: 1974)
  5. ^ "Lenco Lata Vindicates Gobana Dache’s Participation in Building Ethiopia" Finfinne Times, 9 November 2008 (accessed 23 September 2009)
  6. ^ Hassan, The Oromo, pp. 198f
  7. ^ Neo Gobanas, Derg

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