The Borana is one of the two major subgroups of the Oromo people. They live in the Borena Zone of the Oromia Region and Liben Zone of the Somali Region of Ethiopia, former Northern Frontier District of Northern Kenya,Tana River in the former coast province of Kenya and also in central Somalia. Boranas living in Kenya and Ethiopia speak a dialect of Oromo and those living in central Somalia share a dialet with Dirr communities of Somalia, a language that is closely related to both Borana Language and Somali Language. The Borana people are notable for practicing Gadaa system without interruption especially those residing in the Oromia region of Ethiopia, a larger percentage of Boranas in Liban Zone of Somali region and those in central Somalia were Muslims, where as those living in Borena Zone of Ethiopia and those in Kenya majorly practicing Christian and Islamic religion, but few still hold purely to their culture especially those in Sakhu Constituency of Marsabit County.

Borana Market (49151713417).jpg
Borana women at the market
Regions with significant populations
874,000 Ethiopia 276,236 Kenya[1]
Majority Sunni Islam with minorities of Christianity and Waaqeffanna[3][4][5][6]
Related ethnic groups
Barento Oromo[7]
Alaba umata Borana kawaltqaba, Aboti Gadha, Wara Qalutufi Dargago Borana ipsaa
Borana Gadha flag representing Gadha system, Qalu systems and Defense systems

Demography and languageEdit

Borana girls smiling in Borena zone, Oromia, Ethiopia

The Borana were believed to have originated from Odesa, settled in Egypt during the reign of Firaun that was mentions in both holy books of Bible and Quran, help in securing the Firaun kingdom, assist in building of Pyramid, accomodated as part of royal families and later left during the disagreement between the Firaun and Israelites. They migrated through Sudan and Settled in a present location.

Through Gadha system, Boranas believed to have conquered and protected their territory named, Dirre, Dirr Liban, Golbo, Wajer, Dibayu, Torban Jia(all original name) till the second world war where they were overpowered by the colonial politics. since they were semi-nomadic, their population growth do not match with those of their neighbors both in Kenya and Ethiopia, this make them risk to loose much of their territories.

Boranas territory depicted in green

Boranas share same name with Oromo speaking populations and share same lineage with Dirr communities of Somalia,Boranas bore the Oromo communities and Dirr communities of Somalia and believed that the whole Oromo communities were their children who originated from Borana and Barentu, Dirr communites originated from intermarriages between Borana and Nubians of Somalia.Those in Kenya and Ethiopia speaks Borana language that is closely related to Oromo, which is part of the Cushitic branch of the Afro-Asiatic large languages family. In the border regions of Ethiopia-Kenya and southwestern Somalia, one estimate places about 1,094,000 people as Boranas.[8] Another estimate in 2019 suggests 874,000 Boranas in Ethiopia, 210,000 in Kenya and 10,000 in Somalia.[9]


Borana Gadha system- a form of government that is in existence for the last 567 yearsEdit

Borana have their own form of an overhaul system for the last 567 years that is recognized by UNESCO as a heritage that need to be protected; the system covers political, social , economical and spiritual ways of life.

Politically it has a political system of government where the overall leader is God Himself and many unknown things is referred us 'Waqa Bekh', a sentence that can be equated to a Supreme Being knows. The second in command who is also the supreme leader of the whole Borana community is referred to us Abagadha, he is the overall in charge of all affairs of the Borana community and answerable to Gumi Gayo( Parliament).

Abagadha is anointed at an early age of 1-8 years and he and others of his age passed through an education system that will last for forty years after which he will take over the leadership as Abagadha. He and his team will vote from 17 sub-clans of Borana, a parliament member one from each sub-clan. Parliament called Gumi Gayo functions as just like present day senate with same roles.

Economically Borana from those time immemorial up to date have laws that is passed in Gumi Gayo covering Borana traditional land and natural resources. Since Boranas were mixed farmers rearing cattle, camels, goats and planting food crops; farming land, grazing land, water sources and their traditional boundaries is paramount to them and many cases fight broke between Borana and their neighbors who take advantage of Borana kindness and forcefully rear their animals in Borana grazing land and take over some of the Borana water sources traditionally called Tula Saglan. As of today the Borana Boundaries were infiltrated by both three current government surrounding the Borana territory which include Ethiopia, Kenya and Somalia.

Due to this Borana lost much of their top grazing land far from their central area where they use to take their animals during the drought; They economically affected and politically caught between this colonial government and many struggles between it. As of today the nine wells of Borana ( Tulla Saglan), Borana traditional settlements and their traditional grazing land are scattered across this colonial boundaries and others are inaccessible to the larger Boranas.

Socially Boranas were known to be very kind people especially to the visitors, a weakness that both this three colonial government used to strip off them most of their ancestral heritages not limited to land, water sources, natural resources and top grazing areas. Boranas harmoniously live with their neighbors through sharing and helping during hard times like prolonged drought seasons till colonial powers set in and instigated colonial wars and redraw the African territories into colonial boundaries.

Spiritually Boranas believe that they is a supreme Being in charge of their worldly affairs and upper dominion, they believe that they is a creator called 'WAQ', many in Borana tradition prefer to be a Muslim than Christians since the religion of Islam concur in many ways with their tradition. Years back Boranas became Muslims three time of three consecutive Abagadhas and goes back to fully to their tradition three consecutive Abagadhas after this. Since then they system remains fully tradition but still they are Boranasa who were Muslims and others who were Christians as well and they all value their system as an asset.

Spiritually Boranas have a supreme spiritual leader known as FITE QALU, besides being a supreme spiritually in charge of a prayer in all Borana Gatherings including in Borana parliament, he is also in charge of Administration who appoint other QALU in charge of smaller administration which can be equated to a present state president, a QALU who in turns appoints other smaller administrators in his jurisdiction called JALAB( Governor) in charge of smaller administration, meaning one QALU is in charge of many JALAB under his state. And Jalab also appoints Qae ( Village) in charge of villages under him. Qae is answerable to Jalab, Jalab is answerable to Qalu, and Qalu is answerable to Fite Qalu.Only Fite Qalu and Qalu have an authority to make a prayer in all gatherings and Jalab and Qae were deprived of that roles. No Borana gatherings are recognized without the presence of either Fite Qalu or Qalu who opens the gatherings with a prayers.

Boranas also have a special warriors that defend the community from an enemy,they were in a last stage to the Gadha stage and are in one parts of stages of Borana system, only those between 32-40 years were allowed to be part of this special Borana Defense Forces, they were all in an immediate stage to the Gadha stage called Dori, they serve their community for Eight years and met three times in that years. One before they depart to different region of Borana for community protection and second after four years, they also met again at the end of their eight years making a ceremony of giving the roles and power of protection to other upcoming members of that age of Dori who were in Raba before. Their time cut across two consecutive supreme leader and serve and take instructions from both.

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ "2019 Kenya Population and Housing Census Volume IV: Distribution of Population by Socio-Economic Characteristics". Kenya National Bureau of Statistics. Retrieved 24 March 2020.
  2. ^ Oromo, Borana-Arsi-Guji (Ethnologue)
  3. ^
  4. ^ 2007 Population and Housing Census of Ethiopia
  5. ^ Aguilar, Mario (1996). "The Eagle as Messenger, Pilgrim and Voice: Divinatory Processes among the Waso Boorana of Kenya". Journal of Religion in Africa. 26 (Fasc. 1): 56–72. doi:10.1163/157006696X00352. JSTOR 1581894.
  6. ^ The Oromo of East Africa, Southwestern Journal of Anthropology, Vol. 12, No. 2 (Summer, 1956), pages 171-190
  7. ^ Sarah Tishkoff; et al. (2009). "The Genetic Structure and History of Africans and African Americans" (PDF). Science. 324 (5930): 1035–44. Bibcode:2009Sci...324.1035T. doi:10.1126/science.1172257. PMC 2947357. PMID 19407144. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2017-08-08. Retrieved 2017-12-07.
  8. ^ Appiah & Gates 2010, p. 196.
  9. ^ Steven L. Danver (2015). Native Peoples of the World: An Encyclopedia of Groups, Cultures and Contemporary Issues. Routledge. pp. 24–25. ISBN 978-1-317-46400-6.


Further readingEdit

  • Asmarom Legesse. Gada Three Approaches to the Study of African Society. The Free Press A Division of McMillan Co. Inc, 1973
  • Beckingham and G.W.B. Huntingford, Some records of Ethiopia Hakluyt Society, 1954
  • Bassi Marco, Decisions in the Shade. Political and juridical processes among the Oromo-Borana Red Sea Press, 2005
  • Clifford H F Plowman CMG OBE, Notes On The Gedamoch Ceremonies Among The Boran, Journal of the Royal African Society, Vol. 18, No. 70 (Jan 1919), pp. 114–121