Argobba people

The Argobba are an ethnic group inhabiting Ethiopia. A Muslim community, they are spread out through isolated village networks and towns in the northeastern and eastern parts of the country. Group members have typically been astute traders and merchants, and have adjusted to the economic trends in their area. These factors have led to a decline in usage of the Argobba language.[2][3] Argobba are considered endangered today due to exogamy and destitution.[4]

Total population
140,134 (2007 census)[1]
Regions with significant populations
Argobba, Oromo, Amharic, Harari, Arabic, and Saho-Afar
Sunni Islam
Related ethnic groups
Amhara, Harari, Gurage, Oromo, Somali, Tigrayans, Tigre and other Cushitic peoples.


According to scholars, the Kingdom of Aksum's army moved south beyond Angot, encountering a nomadic people named Gebal in eastern Shewa, who are supposedly the precursors to Argobba.[5] Gebal would develop into settlers of Hararghe known as Argobba after their conversion to Islam and having significant ties to the Muslim world, dominated trade in Zeila and Harar. Modern Argobba claim they originate from the Arabian Peninsula through Zeila in what is now Somaliland and first settled in the Harar plateau.[6] They were involved in launching the first Islamic state known in East Africa, the Sultanate of Showa in Hararghe, sometime in the ninth century.[7]

In the 13th century, Argobba created the ruling Walashma dynasty, which would become leaders of the Sultanate of Ifat and Adal Sultanate.[8][9]

The Argobba and the Harla people seem to have relied on each other in the Islamic period.[10] A power struggle erupted between the Abadir dynasty of Harari and the Walashma dynasty of Argobba throughout the Islamic period until Ahmad ibn Ibrahim al-Ghazi took control of Adal Sultanate by executing the Walashma sultan Abu Bakr ibn Muhammad in the 16th century.[11][12][13][14]

In the late sixteenth century, Argobba were involved in several conflicts with the Oromo during the Oromo migrations, and due to the withdrawal of Adal from Ethiopia, came partially under Ethiopian Empire rule losing land rights.[15][16] Many Argobba were forcibly baptized in Shewa by Menelik II.[17]

In the nineteenth century, Emperor Yohannes IV ordered the forced displacement of Argobba for refusing to convert to Christianity.[18][19] Due to expansions from two dominant ethnic groups, many Argobba speak either Amharic or Oromo in Wollo Province; however, those who self-identify as originally Argobba are substantial in the region. The last remaining villages of a once larger Argobba-speaking territory are Šonke and Ṭollaḥa.[20]

Under the new government of Ethiopia, the Ethiopian People's Revolutionary Democratic Front, ushered in the early 90s the Argobba obtained regional political power after launching Argoba Nationality Democratic Organization.[21]


Argobba communities can be found in the Afar, Harari, Amhara, and Oromia Regions, in and along the Great Rift Valley. They include Yimlawo, Gusa, Shonke, Berehet, Khayr Amba, Melka Jilo, Aliyu Amba, Metehara, Shewa Robit, and the surrounding rural villages.[22]


Argobba are exclusive adherents to the Muslim faith.[23] They are also widely believed to be the first to accept Islam collectively, in the Horn of Africa and vanguards for early Islamic expansion.[24] The Shonke Argobba reportedly forbid their children from attending school due to the possible unislamic influence it might have on them.[25]


The Argobba traditionally speak Argobba, an Ethiopian Semitic language within the Afroasiatic language family. According to Getahun Amare, Argobba is not a dialect of Amharic as previous linguists believed, but a separate language.[26] Argobba language evolved from proto Amharic and Argobba.[27] In other areas, the people have shifted to neighboring languages for economic reasons. At this time there are only a few areas left where the Argobba are not at least bilingual in Amharic, Oromo or Afar.[3][dead link]

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ "Census 2007" Archived March 5, 2009, at the Wayback Machine, first draft, Table 5.
  2. ^ "Argobba of Ethiopia". Ethnic people profile. Joshua Project. Retrieved 6 February 2013.
  3. ^ a b Leyew, Zelealem and Ralph Siebert. (2001) "Sociolinguistic survey report of the Argobba language of Ethiopia", SIL International (accessed 25 May 2009)
  4. ^ Olson, James (1996). The Peoples of Africa: An Ethnohistorical Dictionary. Greenwood Publishing Group. p. 37. ISBN 9780313279188.
  5. ^ A short history on Argobba (PDF). p. 174.
  6. ^ A short history on Argobba (PDF). p. 179.
  7. ^ Begashaw, Kassaye. The Archaeology of Islam in North East Shoa (PDF). p. 15.
  8. ^ Kifleyesus, Abbebe (2006). Tradition and Transformation: The Argobba of Ethiopia. Otto Harrassowitz Verlag. p. 84. ISBN 978-3-447-05341-9.
  9. ^ Mohammed, Abdul Kader Saleh (2013). The Saho of Eritrea: Ethnic Identity and National Consciousness. LIT Verlag Münster. p. 174. ISBN 978-3-643-90332-7.
  10. ^ Braukämper, Ulrich (1977). "Islamic Principalities in Southeast Ethiopia Between the Thirteenth and Sixteenth Centuries (Part 1)". Ethiopianist Notes. 1 (1): 27. JSTOR 42731359.
  11. ^ Begashaw, Kassaye. The Archaeology of Islam in North East Shoa (PDF). Proceedings of the 16th International Conference of Ethiopian Studies. p. 14. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2016-03-03.
  12. ^ History of Harar and Hararis (PDF). Harar Tourism. p. 48.
  13. ^ Hassen, Mohammed. The Oromo of Ethiopia (PDF). University of London. p. 27.
  14. ^ Shack, William A. (2017). The Central Ethiopians, Amhara, Tigriňa and Related Peoples: North Eastern Africa Part IV. Taylor & Francis. p. 224. ISBN 978-1-315-30769-5.
  15. ^ Vernacular Architecture of Argobba, Ethiopia. p. 41.
  16. ^ Enyew, Mehari. vernacular Architecture of Argobba, Ethiopia: The Case of Shonke Amba. Addis Ababa University. p. 43.
  17. ^ Gnamo, Abbas (2014). Conquest and Resistance in the Ethiopian Empire, 1880 - 1974: The Case of the Arsi Oromo. BRILL. p. 180. ISBN 978-90-04-26548-6.
  18. ^ Ancel, Stephane. A Muslim Prophecy Justifying the Conversion of Ethiopian Muslims to Christianity during Yoḥannəs IV's Reign. A Text Found in a Manuscript in Eastern Tigray. p. 328.
  19. ^ Hailu, Tesfaye. History and culture of the Argobba : recent investigations. p. 197.
  20. ^ Wetter, Andreas. Two Argobba manuscripts from Wällo. Humboldt Universität zu Berlin. p. 297.
  21. ^ Alemu, Getnet; Yoseph, Getachew (2007). Proceedings of the Fourth International Conference on the Ethiopian Economy. Ethiopian Economic Association. ISBN 978-99944-54-03-7.
  22. ^ "Argobba: A language of Ethiopia", Ethnologue website (accessed 25 May 2009)
  23. ^ Naim, Abdullah (11 October 2002). Islamic Family Law in A Changing World: A Global Resource Book. Zed Books. p. 71. ISBN 9781842770931.
  24. ^ Begashaw, Kassaye. The Archaeology of Islam in North East Shoa (PDF). p. 15.
  25. ^ Sociolinguistic Survey Report of the Argobba Language of Ethiopia (PDF). SIL International. pp. 30–31.
  26. ^ Amare, Getahun (2017). Argobba and Amharic: Putting a Stop to a Quandary. Addis Ababa University.
  27. ^ Hudson, Grover. Reviewed Work: Ethiopic Documents: Argobba Grammar and Dictionary by Wolf Leslau. Trustees of Indiana University. p. 406.

External linksEdit

Further readingEdit

  • Abebe Kifleyesus, Tradition and Transformation: The Argobba of Ethiopia. Wiesbaden: Harrassowitz Verlag, 2006. ISBN 978-3-447-05341-9
  • Richard Wilding, The Arla, the Argobba and Links between the Coast and the Highlands. A Preliminary Archeological Survey. Addis Ababa University, Faculty of Arts, 1975