The Gurgura Ethnic Identity Controversy in DireDawa Administrative Region EastEthiopia

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Addis Ababa University


This study was carried out with general objective of assessing socio-historical dynamics of the Gurgura social institutions in relation to their ethnicity and identity in DireDawa Administrative region, as well as the neighboring dwelling areas in the Oromia and Somali regional states. Specifically, the study intended to explore how the Gurgura express their ethnic identity and how they are perceived by the adjacent societal groups. In addition, this study attempted to investigate the Gurgura relationship with neighboring societal groups in divergent socio-cultural and political settings. By generating empirical data and consulting secondary sources, this study attempted to vividly indicate the ongoing socio-historical dynamics among the various Gurgura institutions in the context of their emic perspectives towards claims and counter of ethnic and identity formations. To undertake this study qualitative research method was used as the sole technique of data collection and analysis.Information pertinent to the study was gathered through unstructured interviews, observation and focus group discussion. Theories of ethnicity and identity such as the ' primordialism', 'instrumentalism' and constructivism’ were reviewed and used in order to shed light on history, ethnicity and identity formation of the Gurgura society. All these concepts and theories were useful to better understand themes related with this study. As the concepts of ethnicity and identity are complex and dynamically changing, current linguistic status of the Gurgura was used to show diachronic changes and continuities to make comparative analysis among Gurgura community residing across different political, administrative and geographical settings.Findings from this study show that the current linguistic status of Gurgura is dominated by the Oromo language as their mother tongue. Due to the adopted language of Afaan Oromo and cultural assimilation, majority of Gurgura have compelled to be in controversial situationabout their ethnic identity. The findings depict that overwhelming majority of Gurgura community speak Afaan Oromo as their mother tongue, while many of Gurgura community speak Somali as their first language. Therefore, recently there is division between Gurgura society as the result of the controversial election of the new Ugaz Hajji Yusuf Ibrahim who merely speak Afaan Oromo.Moreover, the findings of this study suggest that there are different perspectives among Gurgura regarding their ethnic identity. Today, majority of Gurgura believe that ethnic identity is based on common origin which depends on patrilineal descent line. While, many of Gurgura community believe that ethnic identity is something acquired based on the existing givens of language, culture, social, political and economic situations, the Gurgura community who are living among Oromo, in the Oromia regional state are claiming their ethnic identity as Oromo. On the contrary, the Gurgura community who are living among Somali in the Somali regional state claim their ethnic identity as Somali. Therefore, recently Gurgura community find themselves in controversialsituation about their ethnic identity as the result of their current intermingling with different linguistic, religious and socio-political compositions such as adoption of language, cultural assimilation and ethno-territorialty influences emanating from close interactions with the neighboring societal groups. Kewords. Ethnicity, identity



Ethnicity, Identity