As a country home to about 76 ethnic groups, Ethiopia has many towns inhabited by more than one ethnic group. One of such towns is Shewa Robit, Located 225 kms north of Addis Ababa, and is a rapidly growing town in North Shewa zone of Amhara State.
It is now home to various nations who live together with tolerance. The Amhara, Argoba, Oromo, Afar, Tigray, Gurage and others are among the ethnic groups that give variety to the ethnic composition of the town. But the Argobas who are generally considered as ethnic minority nationwide account for 20 percent of the towns which is home to about 50, 000 total population. They stand second next only to the ethnic Amharas, native to the area.
Yitafer Dagnaw, the Zonal Culture and Tourism Office Coordinator on his part said that the town is inhabited by 5 to 10 nations and nationalities who live together peacefully and harmoniously. The peoples of Argobba are one of them. Though not exactly known, some historians believe that the Argobas first came to Ethiopia in the 12th century. Even though a large number of Argoba people are found in the town, they also have cross cousins who live in Afar region.
Nevertheless, they had a long time living with other nations in tolerance. Even if the peoples are beneficiary from infrastructure, but they have not been advantageous in terms of modern education. And the reason is that these people depend on religious thoughts only. Due to their strong attachment to their religion no one from argobas join the modern education. Their livelihood which is mainly dependent on trade has also led them lose interest for modern education, noted Yitafer.
According to Aminu Indiris , an Argoba elder and former constituent of Argoba peoples at the House of Peoples Representatives (HPR) the total population of the people was around 32000 during the 2005 census and is estimated to have raised to 60,000 after 10 years.
Aminu says the word Argoba is derived from '' Arab Geba'' literally meaning “Arabs came in”. According to him the peoples of Argobas entered to Ethiopia by the cause of conflict and not for state expansion.
Though it was not their original intention when coming to Ethiopia, Argobas have involved in the expansion of Mosques here. Accordingly, they have built 40 mosques. The first one is known as ‘‘Nejashi’’, among the historical religious shrines in Islam. The last historical mosque established in 722E.C is known as ''Gozze mosque'' found around Shewarobit town, and its meaning is that settling permanently.
Argobas are sub divided in to clans. The ''suppa'' are the first ethnic groups who have migrated to the country. However, they had not lasted a century, they returned to their country when peace was settled. The current Argoba peoples came to Ethiopia following the Suppas’ return. Jeberti is the first market place to Argoba peoples and it is found in Yifat of North Shewa Amhara State.
On the other hand, the expansion of Argobba peoples had caused the rise of Yifat dynasty. In addition to this, a large number of Argoba peoples have lived in Amhara State, particularly around Yifat. The Wolasema, another sub-ethnic group the Argoba, also live in this town and their livelihood is based on trade, agriculture, weaving, and hand craft, according to Aminu.
“There were two gateways when the Argobas entered to Ethiopia on the northern and the eastern borders. The ones who entered by the northern side passed through Tigray and expanded to Minjar-Berhet. The subethnic clans of these group are called the Shenkore fara (meaning traditional house builder), Abba morras (traders),Abba siyya( gave judged),and Assifa (teachers and traditional healers),” he noted.
The other group who have entered by the east began from Harrer and expanded to Awashr. “Those group of people have always been obedient to governments and tax collectors in ancient times,” according to Aminu.
Like many other ethnic groups in the country, Argobas also cherish a long-standing tradition of conflict resolution. ''Amedel mehide, Amedel hette, and mehidel herette''are the ancient conflict resolution systems of Argoba peoples.
''Amedel mehide had been the justice system that when someone killed another deliberately would be sentenced to death. But if the victim’s family show forgiveness, the punishment will be compromised by paying 100 camels for them.
Amedel hette on the other hand is traditional arbitration system that deals with people who killed others unintentionally. With this traditional system the punishment would only be paying camels.
According to Aminu the above three traditional conflict resolutions are practiced in a locality called Kallu. In addition to these ones, the people also practice arbitration systems called ‘‘Rekebote’’, a small coffee table where people gather around to drink coffee socially and ''Abagare'' a traditional system of Ombudzman practicing in and around Shewarobit town. If any offender refuses the decision of the elder , he will hand him/her over to the government to face legal measures.
BY MESERET BEHAILU