Who are the Garri people? One simple question, with a million different answers.
In a google site, Abdirashid Isaak seeks the answer to this question. He asks for “Written history of Garri people.” I’ve already addressed the lack of documented Garri history and the reasons for it in my first post. Never the less Isaak brings a good point to light when he states “I don’t buy the Garre–gardere-samale–theory that Garri is one of the sons of anarhic somali.” This statement echos the opinion of thousands of people and goes against a some-what flawed and well accepted theory of Garri origin.
Here’s a link to the google site I’m talking about. I choose to speak about it here because there is no way to give feedback on the site itself.
The more I seek answers to the question of Garri origin, the more apparent a particular pattern becomes. The pattern is as follows:
In the book, In Search of Cool Grounds: War, Flight, and homecoming In Northeast Africa by Tim Allen, there is a chapter focusing mainly on Garri migrations and captures a bit of the political attitudes towards Garri people in Ethiopia, and Kenya etc. The book is the only documented history of Garri people (so far). The author Getachew (who is a Garri from Ethiopia) writes a section titled “A Case Study of the Garri.” The pattern that I observed had a lot to do with the next chapter in the book which is written by an anthropologist of Somali background. He goes forth to create a “categorized” chart of tribes and he lists Garri and Gabra as Somali tribes. What I realized is that most of the times when Garris are labeled as Somali tribes it is by an individual of Somali background. Next comes yet another discovery which further leads me to believe that the theory of Garris being Somali is not just a big fib but also a propaganda that was initiated in the 1970s.
This discovery happens to be a movement created by the President of Somalia, Siad Barre, during the Ogaden War in 1976-1978. Barre coined the term “Somali Abbo” referring to the Garris, (Abbo is a slang word in the Garri language commonly used to address one another; it could mean “hey”, “bro”…etc). Barre went on to create the movement known as SALF or “Somali Abbo Liberation Front.” Garris were already frustrated with the Ethiopian government at the time due to the fact that they were facing religious persecutions. They also got the short end of the stick because the Ethiopian government (Under Haile Selassie and Haile Mariam) did not favor anyone who was “Oromo”. Barre saw an opportunity in the Garri people’s conflict with the Ethiopian government and used it to his advantage with the SALF. The Garris fought in Somalia’s war, disguised as their “liberation”, which eventually lead to their present day identity crisis.
From being Garri to becoming Somali Abbo. Garri people are labeled as Somali despite their deep-set roots in Ethiopia, simply because of their role in the Ogaden war and their alliance with Somalia in the late 1970s.
The song in the video link below talks about the time in the 1970s when Boranas and Garris were fighting, and Boranas killed many Garris. It is cited in different texts that the Boranas were equipped with weapons that were provided by the Ethiopian government. The song says “wan nu baran tane allah ilmi fula dabne”…”what happened to us that day, we lost the boys with the handsome faces”. They continue saying in pride “banderan Somali beka”… which is basically telling the Borana that “the flag is Somali”, because Siad Barre came to Garri aid. Somalia had Garri’s back, and in return Garris fought the Ogaden war.
Here’s the video. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=q0A8LofmvUk&feature=related
This book, is probably the only referrence for Garri history as of now.