Reader Contribution By Wahaaj

Garri Garrum

I would like to air my opinion with regards to this mystery surrounding the history of Garreh (I know you don’t like the spelling but give me a chance to explain it first). The identity of Garreh nation has been subject of controversies for a very long time and its time someone took the initiative to put this debate to rest. I don’t have enough words to express my gratitude to the author of this blog spot, Garri nation whose intelligence wowed me, just when i started to give up on the existence of the Garreh intelligentsia, I come across someone who is well versed in understanding the history of our people ( ka abeera kiya galat qabd). I also wish to acknowledge the input of Issack Adow although am not too sure I will agree with him but the information looks historically sensible to me the only thing he can do further is just to prove the hypothesis.

Once I was travelling with a friend of mine and while we are at the airport in the transit lounge conversing in Garreh language a woman came to us and started to make a conversation in language we later understood as Hausa of Nigeria. When we started to explain to her we don’t understand her language she said to us boldly ” I just heard you making conversation in Hausa” and we were like, no that is not Hausa its Garreh language the lady left us not convinced at all and later she came back and started talking to us in Hausa when we started laughing and totally flabbergasted by her words she believed us and said in English ” I would have sworn i heard you guys speaking Hausa”.

Coming back to the history of our nation it’s very important to understand who the Garrehs are. Many times people ask the wrong question like when they ask, Are Garrehs Oromo or Somali. The debate is everywhere especially in the diaspora and question sometimes is irritating not to mention the need for our community to solve this identity crisis. The Garrehs answered these questions in our oral tradition by statements like “Garri Garrum “or “keligiis bilisow”.

This statement explains why our people are so independent to the extent that they don’t need to affiliate themselves with any one. It’s very important to understand that Garrehs are independent nation that migrated from North Africa before the Christian era. The land of punt existed as mentioned in the bible portrays that people existed in Somalia then and this people happen to trade with the Egyptians and products like frankincense (lubaadin) and Myrrh (qumbi) whenever I thinks of this international trade I remember all my brothers who are doing business around the borders of the world Busia, Namanga, Moyale, Ndola, Juba, and Malaba. Name them you will find a Garreh man doing what his forefathers do best, trade. The reason why I excluded other Somalis from this history is very simple the fact that they all trace their lineage to the descendants of prophet Muhammad (sallalahu alleyhi wasallam) means their time line can only commence after the turmoil of the third caliph that led to many Arabian muslims to migrate to Africa and other world or when the swahabas conquered the red sea and fought the Berbers of north Africa. If you consider all the major clan of the Somalis except the Rahaweyn they claim their forefather is an Arab or specifically a Hashemite (Click Here for further detail). The fact that the horn of Africa existed prior to the start of the Islamic era is very evident in the historical archives as we have solomonic emperors in our neighbouring Abyssinia and not forgetting the Kush kingdom in Sudan prior to that and judging by the historical evolution of our people majority of them were just pastoralists all this time and they have no access to any form of interactions whatsoever with the outside world except the few who are merchants in the cities.

Garrehs became Somali clan

The Somalis started organizing themselves in to sultanate and dynasties as early 1000 AD where the likes of saad din 2 and fakrudiin manage to lead them form Muslim sultanates like awdal, ajuraan and others and in this time there were major conflicts with all the clans especially ajuraan who are said to be decimated during this time. The Garrehs are Somalis during this time I will give you a simple example, think of going backwards in tracing your fore fathers am sure all the grandfathers taught their children especially the first born  how to trace their lineage i.e.  Abtirsacha now when I do the abtirsacha I can go back may be up to 15 great grandfathers and guess what? Many of them are Somali names, and the last one always has a funny name! (Remember the last phrase lafti duuban danqara) And I have seen that with my friends too. Anyway if we do a simple back track to the original time line we can get up to may be 400-500 years same time as kedhiguuray ( the great trek). During this time the conflict were so serious and ruthless to the extent that many clans decided to migrate towards the west of Somalia in to now Kenya and Ethiopia. Among the clans that embarked on this trek are The Garrehs, Ajuraans, Dogodia, Rendille and the Gabras.

During this conflict all the oral tradition refers to the Garrehs leaders of the Garreh community as Aw which means mister or respectable title very common with Garrehs that affiliates with the May culture possibly the current Garre koofar. Aw abookar mashar, Aw Aliow Hache and the third one that I could not remember his name had special skills or powers so to speak that had resemblance of the then spiritual piousness that was very common with the Sufis. All this happened some 600 years ago and in this time according to the borana oral tradition the Garrehs crossed their boundary from the famous Dhadach waraab. Some Garrehs chose to remain in Somalia and became Garreh koofar while the others went ahead to liban (historically Garreh County in Kenya and liban zone of Ethiopia) and interacted with borans by supplying them  with the cloth loved by the borans (Abu jadi , andaar, guntiina and agoogo)  and in this time the social cohesion facilitated the Garrehs to learn borana language for communication purposes and over the years the amalgamation of the Garreh language mixed with boran is now afaan Garreh. (I will bring the clip of the Garre poets in future especially Bahar Abdo and Guraacho to prove my point. if you let a borana person to listen to it and ask him to translate I am 100% sure he will get 40% right). Try this “gaaf saala sirgigaae ini sariigti dhabe….” (Bahar Abdo rahmatullahi alleyhi) or Guraacho said “Ooro buburakhtu farso bubulgaatuu! Bokhondhaw jarsaf jaartiin isaaan farso beled keesat alpaat”.

The Borans traded with Garrehs by supplying coffees and cattle and ghees. During this interaction due to the cultural difference between the Garrehs who are muslims and the Borans who are pagans there were conflict between the two communities and a lot of war was fought over the years and also they were times of peace where many Borans converted in to muslims and peaceful coexistence materialized only to be exploited by the colonialist in the form of British or the Amharas.

In conclusion there is a major missing link to our history like the famous phrase lafti duuban danqara means there is a huge communication breakdown between the last great grandfather of this generation and the other older generation due to something that happened in the past that lead to this breakdown it can be war even famine the only factors that can make the ancient clans to migrate from their original homelands.

One thing I know for sure that Garrehs are independent African tribe that originated from either chad or Sudan but the missing link should be established. A lot of questions to be asked:

  1. Why is our language very familiar with languages in Nigeria and mali please listen to the songs By Ali Farkatoure of Mali. (You will be amazed by the similarities).
  2.  Why are the Somalis not convinced Garrehs identity as Somalis
  3. Why are the Oromos insisting on claiming Garrehs are oromos
  4. If you settle on saying we are Somalis what is our lineage?  Hawiye, Dir, Digil or Darood

As for now I will settle being Somali for now unless you get me the identity of those great grandfathers with funny names.


2 thoughts on “Reader Contribution By Wahaaj

  1. There is so much of indiginous African history to be documented – oral traditions must be recorded and then future generations can refine matters. Bravo for sharing this.

  2. ————————————–
    The 16th century Oromo expansion brought great disruption to these Somaloid peoples causing migrations south and westward from their southern Ethiopia and Somalia homes. These peoples were further separated when some groups of them developed ritual kinship arrangements with Oromo (Borana) peoples for protection. The Rendille were the southernmost of these Somaloid peoples and maintained their own culture and language more intact.

    Through adoption and cultural assimilation, these conquered peoples (Garre and Rendille)
    were Oromoized a new people emerged the Sakuye and Gabra.

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