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Tribute to the Late Dr. Paul Baxter (1925-2014) March 20, 2014

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The Oromo Studies Association’s Tribute to the Late Dr. Paul Baxter (1925-2014)

It is with great sadness that the Oromo Studies Association (OSA) informs the Oromo and friends of Oromo about the passing away of Dr. Paul Baxter on March 2, 2014. He was 89. Dr. Paul Baxter was a distinguished British anthropologist who devoted his life to Oromo studies. He is one of the finest human being, who contributed immensely to the development of Oromo studies at the time when the scholarship on the Oromo people was extremely discouraged in Ethiopia. His death is a significant loss for his family, all those who knew and were touched by his humanity and kindness, and for the students of Oromo studies. Dr. Paul Baxter is survived by his wife, Pat Baxter, his son, Adam Baxter, and his three grandsons and their children.

Born on January 30, 1925 in England, Paul Trevor William Baxter, popularly known as Paul Baxter or P.T.W. Baxter, earned his BA degree from Cambridge University. Influenced by famous scholars such as Bronisław Kasper Malinowski, Charles Gabriel Seligman, and Evans Pritchard, Paul Baxter had a solid affection for social anthropology. He went to the famous Oxford University to study social anthropology.

It was at the zenith of the Amharization project of Emperor Haile Selassie that he developed a strong interest to study the social organization of the Oromo people. In fact, in 1952, he wanted to go to Ethiopia to study the Oromo Gada system. Let alone tolerating this type of research, Ethiopia was in the middle of the massive project to eradicate the memory of the Oromo from their historic and indigenous territories. The Assimilation policy was in the full swing. Little spared from an attempt was made to change everything Oromo into Amharic. Even the Oromo names of urban centers were rechristened into Amharic names. It is no wonder that Ethiopia was reluctant to welcome a researcher like Baxter who was looking for the soul of the Oromo culture in the homogenizing Ethiopian Empire. Nonetheless, the challenge did not bother the young and exuberant Baxter to pursue his studies. He was determined more than ever to study the social fabric of the Oromo nation. Failed to get permission to do research among the Oromo in Ethiopia, he went to the British Colony Kenya to study the Borana Oromo social organization in northern Kenya. He spent two years (1952 and 1953) among them, which resulted in his PhD dissertation: ‘The Social Organization of the Oromo of Northern Kenya’, in 1954. This research became a foundation for more of his researches to come and a reference for the students of Oromo studies. Besides, the research disqualified many of the myths and pseudo facts that assume the Oromos were a people without civilization, culture, and history. Dr. Paul Baxter did not stop here. He continued with his studies and spent several decades studying different aspects of the Oromo society. It was through his extended research among the Oromos that he deconstructed some of the myths that portrayed the Oromo people as a “warlike” or “barbarian” nation. The title of essays in his honor, in 1994, “A River of Blessings” speaks to his perception and reality of the Oromo as a peace-loving nation. In his article, “Ethiopia’s Unacknowledged Problem: The Oromo,” he highlighted some of the Oromophobic and barbaric manners of the Ethiopian Empire, and he suggested that peace with the Oromo nation was the only lasting panacea to the Ethiopian political sickening.

In his long academic and research career, he studied the Oromo from northern Kenya to Wallo and Arsi to Guji and so on. He edited a number of books on Oromo studies and published many other articles and book chapters in the field of social anthropology. He participated several times on OSA annual conferences. During the 1960s and 1970s, Dr. Paul Baxter was known as the finest living social anthropologist in the United Kingdom. Besides his impressive scholarship on the Oromo society, Dr. Paul Baxter’s lasting legacy is that he educated so many scholars who have studied Oromo culture both in Kenya and Ethiopia. Dr. Paul Baxter’s passion and determination will inspire the generation of students of the Oromo studies. Our prayers and thoughts are with his family, friends, and Oromos and friends of Oromo studies during this difficult time.

Ibrahim Elemo, M.D., M.P.H
President, the Oromo Studies Association

Mohammed Hassen, Ph.D.
Board Chairman, the Oromo Studies Association

A partial list of his scholarly works on the Oromo includes the followings:

1. “The Social Organization of the [Oromo] of Northern Kenya,” Ph.D. Dissertation, Oxford University, 1954.

2. “Repetition in Certain Boran Ceremonies” In African Systems of Thought, ed. M. Fortes and G. Dieterlin, (London: Oxford University Press for International African Institute, 1960), 64-78.

3. “Acceptance and Rejection of Islam among the Boran of the Northern Frontier District of Kenya” In Islam in Tropical Africa, edited by I.O. Lewis (London: Oxford University Press, 1966), 233-250.

4. “Stock Management and the Diffusion of Property Rights among the Boran” In Proceedings of the Third International Conference of Ethiopian Studies, (Addis Ababa: Institute of Ethiopian Studies, Haile Selassie I University, 1966), 116-127.

5. “Some Preliminary Observations on a type of Arssi Song” In Proceedings of the Third International Congress of Ethiopian Studies, ed. E. Cerulli (Rome: 1972).

6. “Boran Age-Sets and Generation-set: Gada, a Puzzle or a maze?” In Age Generation and time: Some Features of East African Age Oroganisations, ed. P.T.W. Baxter and U. Almagor, ( London: C. Hurst, 1978), 151-182.

7. “Ethiopia’s Unacknowledged Problem: The Oromo”, African Affairs, Volume 77, Number 208 (1978): 283-296.

8. “Atete: A Congregation of Arssi Women” North East African Studies, Volume I (1979), 1-22.

9. Boran Age-Sets and Warfare”, in Warfare among East African Herders, ed. D. Turton and K. Fukui, Senri Ethnological Studies, Number 3, Osaka: National Museum of Ethnology( 1979), 69-95.

10. “Always on the outside looking in: A view of the 1969 Ethiopian elections from a rural constituency” Ethnos, Number 45(1980): 39-59.

11. “The Problem of the Oromo or the Problem for the Oromo” in Nationalism and Self-Determination in the Horn of Africa, ed. I.M. Lewis, (London: Ithaca Press, 1983), 129-150.

12. “Butter for Barley and Barley for Cash: Petty Transactions and small Transformations in an Arssi Market” In Proceedings of Seventh Congress of Ethiopian Studies (Lund: 1984), 459-472.

13. “The Present State of Oromo Studies: a Resume,” Bulletin des Etudes africaine de l’ Inalco, Vol. VI, Number 11(1986): 53-82.

14. “Giraffes and Poetry: Some Observations on Giraffe Hunting among the Boran” Paiduma: Mitteilungen fur Kulturkunde Volume 32 (1986), 103-115.

15. “Some Observations on the short Hymns sung in Praise of Shaikh Nur Hussein of Bale” In The Diversity of the Muslim Community, ed. Ahmed el –Shahi, (London: Ithaca Press, 1987), 139-152.

16. “L’impact de la revolution chez les Oromo: Commentl’ont-ils percu, comment ont-ils reagi?” In La Revolution ethiopienne comme phenomene de societe, edited by Joseph Tubiana, (Paris: l’Harmattan, Bibliotheque Peiresc, 1990), 75-92.

17. “Big men and cattle licks in Oromoland” Social change and Applied Anthropology; Essays in Honor of David David W. Brokensha, edited by Miriam Chaiken & Anne K. Fleuret,( Boulder: Westview Press, 1990), 246-261.

18. “Oromo Blessings and Greetings” In The Creative Communion, edited by Anita Jacoson-Widding & W. Van Beek (Uppsala, Uppsala Studies in Cultural Anthropology , 1990), 235-250.

19. “Introduction “In Guji Oromo Culture in Southern Ethiopia by J. Van de Loo, ( Berli: ReinMer, 1991).

20. “Ethnic Boundaries and Development: Speculations on the Oromo Case” In Inventions and Boundaries: Historical and Anthropological Approaches to the Study of Ethnicity & Nationalism, edited by Kaarsholm Preben & Jan Hultin, (Denmark: Roskilde University, 1994): 247-260.

21. “The Creation & Constitution of Oromo Nationality” In Ethnicity & Conflict in the Horn of Africa, edited by Fukui Katsuyoshi & John Markarkis, (London: James Currey, 1994): 166-86.

22. “Towards a Comparative Ethnography of the Oromo” In Being and Becoming Oromo: Historical & Anthropological Enquiries, edited by Paul Baxter et al, (Uppsala: Nordiska Afikanistitutet, 1996): 178-189.

23. “Components of moral Ethnicity: The case of the Oromo.” In Ethnicity and the state in Eastern Africa, edited by Mohammed Salih & John Markarkis, (Uppsala: OSSREA & SIAS, 1998).

“…The efflorescence of feelings of common nationhood and of aspirations of self-determination among the the cluster of peoples who speak Oromo has not been much commented upon. Yet the problem of the Oromo people has been a major and central one in the Ethiopian Empire ever since it was created by Menelik in the last two decades of the nineteenth century. If the Oromo people only obtain a portion of the freedoms which they seek the balance of political power will be completely altered. If the Oromo act with unity they must necessarily constitute a powerful force. … If the Ogaden and Eritrea were detached Ethiopia would merely be diminished, but if the Oromo were to detach themselves, then it is not just that the centre could not hold, the centre would be part of the detached Oromo land. The Empire, which Menelik stuck together and Haile Selassie held together, would just fall apart. The Amhara would then forced back to their barren and remote hills. … The slogan of the Oromo Liberation Front is ‘Let Oromo freedom flower today! (addi bilisumma Oromo Ha’dararuu!).This may be a very over-optimistic hope but, if not today, the time of flowering and fruiting cannot be delayed forever.”

Professor Paul Baxter, Manchester University, in his article
Ethiopia’s Unacknowledged Problem: The Oromo
African Affairs 1978 Volume LXXVII (pp. 283-296) Published for Royal African Society by Oxford University Press.

Baxter daadhiin jala haa yaatu


My friend, the social anthropologist PTW (Paul) Baxter, who has died aged 89, made a significant contribution to western understanding of the Oromo peoples of northern Kenya and Ethiopia and championed their culture, which was frequently denigrated by colonial and local elites.

His work on the plight of the Ethiopian Oromo became a standard text in Oromo studies and a rallying point for the Oromo cause. Paul was not always comfortable with the praise he received as a result, and was often self-deprecating, describing himself as the world’s most unpublished anthropologist. That was a harsh judgment, since a complete list of his output is respectably long. He also made a wider contribution by editing the journal Africa and sitting on the Royal African Society board.

Born in Leamington Spa – his father was a primary school headteacher in the town – Paul attended Warwick school. Academic ambitions were put aside when he joined the commandos in 1943, serving in the Netherlands and occupied Germany. He married Pat, whom he had met at school, in 1944, and after the war went to Downing College, Cambridge, studying English under FR Leavis before switching to anthropology.

On graduation he moved to Oxford, where anthropology under EE Evans-Pritchard was flourishing. Field research on the pastoral Borana people in northern Kenya followed for two years, accompanied by Pat and their son, Timothy. He gained his DPhil in 1954 and more fieldwork followed among the Kiga of Uganda.

With UK jobs scarce, he took a position at the University College of Ghana. This was a happy time for the family, who found Ghana delightful. Returning to the UK in 1960, he was offered a one-year lectureship at the University of Manchester by the sociology and social anthropology head, Max Gluckman, after a recommendation by Evans-Pritchard. He then spent two years at the University College of Swansea (now Swansea University) before returning permanently to the University of Manchester. Over the next 26 years Paul contributed significantly to anthropological studies and to Oromo research, spending 12 months among the Arssi Oromo of Ethiopia before retiring in 1989.

Paul was never interested in winning academic prizes; instead his focus was on helping people. Generations of students, both at home and overseas, benefited from friendship and, often, a warm welcome in his home.

Paul’s life was touched by sadness, particularly Timothy’s death from multiple sclerosis in 2005, but he took great pleasure in his family. He is survived by Pat, their son Adam, four grandchildren and three great-grandchildren.


Oromo nationals in UK paid their last respect  to Dr. Paul Baxter at the  final  emotional farewell service held on the 18th March 2014,   Stockport, Bramhall  Baptist  church.
Owwaalchi Prof. Paul Baxter sirna ho’aan Bitootessa 18, 2014 raawwate. Sirni owwaalchaa kun kan raawwate bakka dhaloota Prof. Baxter magaalaa Stockport jedhamu keessatti yommuu ta’u maatii fi firoota isaanii dabalatee namoonni hedduun irratti argamaniiru. Sirna kana irratti  ‘London’  fi ‘Manchester’ keessa kan jiraatan Oromoonni hedduunis argamuun gadda isaanii ibsan.
Magaalaa ‘Stockport’ keessa  waldaa ‘Bramhall Baptist church’ jedhamu keessatti tajaajila yaadannoo isaaniitiif gaggeeffame irratti namoota haasaa godhan keessaa tokko Obbo Xahaa Abdii turan. Obbo Xahaan uummata Oromoo bakka bu’uun yeroo kanatti yommuu dubbatan Prof. Paul Baxter fira jabaa uummata Oromoo akka turan ibsan. Obbo Xahaan itti fufuun yommuu dubbatan kanneen biroo seenaa, aadaa fi eenyummaan Oromoo akka owwaalamuuf tattaaffi cimaa yommuu godhaa turan keessa bara 1954 Prof Baxter waan gaarii Oromoon qabu ifa baasuun barreessuu isaanii himan. Paul Baxter waa’ee Oromoo irratti akka qorannoo hin gaggeessineef yeroo sirni mootummaa biyya Itoophiyaa hayyama isaan dhorku karaa biyya ‘Kenya’ seenuun Boorana keessatti hojjechuu isaanii dubbatan. Ethiopia: the Unacknowledged problem: The Oromo:’ ka jedhu caaffata maxxansuu isaaniis Obbo Xahaan ifa godhan. Prof Baxter dhimma Oromoo ilaalchisuun waraqaa adda addaa barreessuun, akkasumas Oromoota barnoota isaanii xumuruuf qorannoo gaggeessanii fi warra hojii barbaadaniifis gorsa barbaachisuun cina dhaabbachaa akka turan dabalanii ibsan.  Obbo Xahaan dhuma irrattis haadhawarraa Prof. Baxter ka turan Aadde Pat, ijoolee isaanii  fi ijoolleen ijoollee isaanii gadda irraa akka if  jabeessan dubbachuun Prof Baxteriif ammoo boqonnaa gaarii akka ta’uuf hawwii isaanii ibsan.
Akkasumas dhalootaan Boorana ‘Kenya’ ka ta’e dargaggoon Oromoo Kevin Waldie jedhamu hojii Paul Baxter Oromoof hojjetan ilaalchisee Obbo Xahaatti aanuun dubbate. Prof Baxter hujii gaarii  Oromoof hojjetan yoom iyyuu taanaan irraanfatamuu akka hindandeenye Kevin ibse.
Oromootni waldaa warra wangeelaa Oromoo Londonirraa sirna kana irratti argamanis tajaajila faarfan-
naa guyyaa kanaaf ta’u kennuun qalbii namootaa harkisuu danda’uu isaaniitiif dinqisiifaman. Tajaajilli
faarfannaa kun dhimma kristaanotaa qofaa otoo hintaane dhimma Oromoo hundaati jechuun Oromoonni amantii adda addaa qaban illee ol ka’anii cina dhaabbachuun warra faarfaataniif tumsa gaarii godhaniiru.
 Bakka sirni bunaa fi ciree gaggeeffame irratti Oromootni hedduun dhuunfaa dhuunfaan namoota
Stockport jiraatan waliin haasawaa turan. Warra waa’ee Oromoo hinbeekiniifis hanga danda’ametti
ibsa gabaabaa kennuun Oromoo beeksisuuf yaalii godhame. Battala kanatti yoon dogoggore namootni
bakka sana turan akka na qajeelchan abdachaa haati warraa Prof Baxter ” There is the Oromoo promise. Please get in touch with me” sagalee jedhu waan dhageessisaa turan natti fakkaata. Waan kana itti
hatattamaan deebinee addaan baafachuun waan nurra eegamu ta’a.
Miseensotni hawaasa Oromoo UK kanneen sirna owwaalcha fira jabaa Oromoo kana irratti yeroo fi
horii keessan gumaachuun argamtan galata guddaa qabdu.  Maqaa dhahuuf i) Obbo Xahaa Abdii
ii) Obbo Mangashaa Riqituu iii) Obbo Moosisaa Raggaasaa iv) Obbo Mokonnon Guutaa v) Obbo
Damissee Tulluu vi) Obbo Zalaalam Bantii vii) Obbo Tashaalaa Joobaa viii) Obbo Eyyaasuu Bulaa ix)
Obbo Boonsaa Waltajjii x) Obbo Tolasaa Adabaa xi) Obbo Taarikuu Baanjoo xii) Obbo Immiruu
Kanneen hayyama hojii dhabuu irraa deemuu hanqattan garuu  horii keessan  baasuun warra deemaniif gargaarsa geejibaa gootanis akkasuma galata guddaa qabdu. Maqaa dhahuuf i) ObboTaaddasaa
Dabalaa ii) Obbo Abdulwasii Ahmed iii) Aadde Baayyee Fufaa
Akkasumas kanneen deemuuf fedha guddaa otoo qabdanii hujii fi karuma hundaa isinii mijatuu
hanqates galata guddaa qabdu.
Walumaa gala Owwaalchi Prof Paul Baxter sirna gaariin yommuu gaggeeffamu Oromoon heddumatuun
sirna kana irratti argamuun isaa maatii fi firoota Prof Baxter  hedduu gammachiisee jira.
” Professor Paul Baxter du’aan biyya lafaa kana irraa godaanan illee hujiin isaan Oromoof hojjetan
   barabaraan jiraata.”
Koree hojii gaggeessituu hawaasa Oromoo UK


1. oromoland - March 12, 2014

Reblogged this on Oromo Land.

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