Christian Patriot or Oromo Traitor? The Ethiopian State in the Memories of Ras Gobäna Dace
In this article, Yates explores the memories of a key Oromo figure, ras Gobäna Dace, to argue for their use in past and contemporary versions of the modern Ethiopian state. Yates uses theoretical frameworks on memory by Gary Alan Fine, Allesandro Portelli and John Lonsdale to situate various memories on Gobäna. The source base includes folklore, oral interviews and late nineteenth century manuscripts that center on Gobäna. Yates uses the memories of three key moments in this Oromo life: his birth, his conquests of Oromo lands, and his death, and argues that memories of these moments are inextricably linked to notions of the Ethiopian state. For many oppressed Oromo, Ethiopia is a state where the Oromo cannot, do not and will not have a role and cast Gobäna as a cautionary tale for all Oromo who desire to work for Ethiopia. For the ruling elites, Ethiopia is a place for solely civilized Christian state construction, and Gobäna remains a shadowy figure in this discourse and when he is mentioned it is his Christianity that is emphasized and not his ethnicity. Ras Gobäna, an Oromo state architect, cannot be used in either version of Ethiopia’s history, which remain separate and in competition.