Drug-Addicted Society

The driver of the rented tour company van drove our research team up into a beautiful mountain range. The terraced mountainsides were covered with a deep green foliage called “khat.” The valleys were speckled with shocks of sorghum that recently had been harvested.

A family was resting under a tree above their khat farm. The husband was chewing khat, and beside him was an AK-47. It was evident that he was providing protection for his crops. Upon inquiry, I found that the family harvested khat leaves three times a week and made a profit of 20,000 Ethiopian birr (about $1,111). No wonder everyone was growing it! Sadly, during the next two days, wherever we visited and regardless of the time, the Hararghe Oromo people were chewing khat. It is a khat-addicted society.

I stopped at a roadside shed in a small town where coffee was being served. A 16-year-old girl wearing a miniskirt was standing at a table preparing coffee for customers while her parents sat behind her drinking coffee and chewing khat. I sat near the parents and ordered a cup of coffee. The young girl went out and came back wearing tights to cover her legs. It was interesting that in this drug-addicted society, modesty was still valued.

I moved on to a small shop a few meters down from the coffee shop. The shop owner was selling basic supplies: sugar, salt, rice, etc. On the counter was a balance scale.

“How do I know that when ordering a pound of rice, it is truly a pound?” I asked.

The owner took time to demonstrate and showed me where both sides of the scale must match. It seemed very important to him to prove that he was an honest businessman. Honesty is another value evident in Hararghe Oromo culture.

The Hararghe Oromo are modest, basically honest, very hospitable, and primarily Islamic, their life centered around a big cash crop and relying on a daily high from khat. Their society has found something greatly desired by others, but instead of offering something better to others, the Hararghe Oromo are contributing to their downfall.

Messengers of Jesus Christ offer deliverance, not bondage; truth, not deception; a happy heart, not depression; eternal life, not an early death: and peace, not fear. God has a plan for the Hararghe Oromo just as He had for Israel, “Plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future” (Jeremiah 29:11).

May the light of the gospel of Jesus Christ shine brightly throughout Eastern and Western Harerge, Ethiopia – homeland of the Hararghe Oromo – and reveal Jesus as their true deliverer.


Hararghe Oromo Profile

General Description:

The various Oromo people groups are the largest, most widely dispersed groups in Ethiopia. They also reside in Kenya and Somalia. Composed of approximately a dozen tribal clusters, they prefer the term "Oromo" when speaking of themselves. Nearly all of these peoples speak mutually intelligible dialects of a language called Oromiffa. Although their descent systems are similar, they differ considerably in religion, lifestyle and political organization.

Hararge is situated in the eastern part of Ethiopia, and the first geographic boundary of the zone is reached after driving some 200 km east of Addis Ababa. For administration purposes, Hararge is divided into the east and west Hararge zones of Oromia Regional State. This area is characterized by three agroecological zones: the lowlands (30-40 percent), the midlands (35-45 percent) and the highlands (15-20 percent).

Geography and Population:

Mirab Hararge (or West Hararghe) is one of the two Hararge zones in the Ethiopian region of Oromia. Mirab Hararge takes its name from the former province of Hararge. Mirab Hararge is bordered on the south by the Shebelle River, on the southwest by Arsi, on the northwest by the Afar Region, on the north by the Somali Region, and on the east by Misraq (East) Hararge. Towns in Mirab Hararge include Asebe TeferiBedessaGelemsoand Mieso. Based on the 2007 census, the population of the Mirab was approximately 1,871,706. The three largest ethnic groups reported were the Oromo (90.12 percent), the Amhara (7.24 percent) and the Somali (1.26 percent); all other ethnic groups made up 1.38 percent of the population. 

East Hararge is located in the northeastern part of Oromyia region and borders the Somali region as well as the urban administrative regions of Dire Dawa and Harari. It comprises three agroclimatic zones: kolla (lowlands, about 36.5 percent of the subregion's surface), weyna dega (midlands, 44 percent) and dega (highlands, 19.5 percent). The highest point in this zone is Mount Arba Gugu (3,574 meters). Crop cultivation at lower altitudes is usually rather limited, leading to a more livestock-based economy. The economy at higher altitudes is characterized by both food crops and cash crops. The population in 2007 was estimated at 1,484,585. The ethnic distribution is similar to the West Hararge, although a higher percentage of Somalis would be expected due to its proximity to Somalia.

[It should be noted, however, that Etnopedia reports the 2010 total population of the two zones as 6,212,000, as opposed to the 2007 total of 3,356,291 used above. Joshua Project gives the total as 4,753,000.]

There are two rainy seasons: March to May and June to September. The early rains are mainly used for land preparation and planting of long-cycle crops, such as maize and sorghum, and seedbed preparation for late-rain crops. In the midlands and highlands, the later rains are used for planting cereal crops, such as barley, teff and wheat, and vegetable crops, such as onions and potatoes. Peanuts are grown in the lowlands. Later rains are also responsible for the growth and development of perennial crops, such as coffee and khat.


The Hararge zones are underdeveloped, and the people are mostly poor. According to a May 24, 2004, World Bank memorandum, only 9 percent of inhabitants of West Hararge have access to electricity. This zone has a road density of 23.6 kilometers per 1,000 square kilometers (compared to the national average of 30 kilometers). The average rural household has 0.5 hectare of land (compared to the national average of 1.01 hectares of land and an average of 1.14 hectares for the Oromia Region) and the equivalent of 0.6 head of livestock. Nonfarm-related jobs employ 16.4 percent of the population, compared to the national average of 25 percent and a regional average of 24 percent. Concerning education, only 55 percent of all eligible children are enrolled in primary school, and just 8 percent are enrolled in secondary schools. Concerning health, 92 percent of the zone is exposed to malaria, and none to the tsetse fly. There are frequent droughts in the region.

In general, the Oromo have a reputation for being easygoing and sociable. They value hospitality and almsgiving, especially to relatives and friends.

The Oromo are herdsmen with a warrior tradition. They determine a man's status by the number of livestock he owns. Virility and male attributes are considered desirable, and bravery and war skills are stressed. Riding, spear throwing and fighting are also emphasized. Although warfare against enemies is honored, peace within the group is demanded.

The Oromo live in rural areas and make a living primarily from raising animals and farming. The typical dwelling is a tukal, a circular hut made of acacia branches covered with grass mats. The cone-shaped roof has an opening that allows smoke to escape. Villages are made up of 10-80 families. Their staple diet includes durra (a cereal grain), maize, beans, rice, milk, meat and wild fruits. Coffee and tea are both popular beverages.

The Oromo family is headed by an authoritarian father who has the right to expect total obedience. Men usually have only one wife, and children are considered a necessity. The more children and grandchildren a man has, the greater his prestige.

One basic value of the Oromo is tokuma, which is identification with the group. The religious, social, political and economic life of the Oromo revolves around this. Cooperation is central to this system, especially in work arrangements.

Some Oromo have moved to towns, attracted by employment opportunities and modern schooling. Others have entered national security forces, the industrial labor force, or fields of trade, transportation and education.


Primary language: Eastern Hararghe, also known as Oromiffa.  In one survey it was given as a first language by 89.47 percent of the population. Amharic was spoken by 8.82 percent and Somali by 1.2 percent. The remaining 0.51 percent spoke one of several other primary languages reported.


It is believed that the Oromo were pushed westward from the Horn of Africa by the Somali during the 10th century. Together with the Amhara and the Tigrai they dominated the government and military classes of the Ethiopian Empire. In the 1700s and 1800s, these peoples became a prominent force in Abyssinian (Ethiopian) politics. During the 19th century, they converted to Islam.

The Hararghe Oromo are the descendants of the Barentu confederacy that moved toward the east of the Ganale River during the Oromo migration of the 16th century. They consist of the Ittu, Ania, Ala, Nole, Jarso and Babile tribes. They were able to occupy the Harar uplands where they came in contact with the Somali and the Harar city-state. They became sedentary agriculturalists. Some of their tribes, such as the Nole and the Babile, live mixed together with the Somali.


The majority of the Hararghe Oromo, became converted to Islam through the influence of the Harar city-state, which also became instrumental in spreading Islam to the rest of southern Ethiopia. The Ittu have remained largely followers of their ethnic religion.

The primary religion is Sunni Islam,with 88.05 percent of the population as adherents. Another 11.11 percent of the population professes Ethiopian Orthodox Christianity.  However, traditional religion is still practiced by a minority of the population. These ethnic religionists worship a supreme being named Waqa.  Wadaja feasts are organized on various occasions, and livestock is sacrificed in Waqa's honor. Today, these feasts reflect a Muslim influence. 

Many people still believe that objects, such as trees, springs and rocks, have spirits. It is also believed that spirits called jinn may take possession of people. While fasting during Ramadan (the Muslim holy month) is observed by most adults, celebration of other Muslim festivals is minimal.

Progress of the Gospel:

Not much has been done to evangelize the Hararghe Oromo. The few believers that are from among the people have left their community to join Christian communities from other people groups. The report of one major mission states the while this people group is less than 2 percent evangelical, initial or concentrated church planting has taken place among them within the past two years.

Bible Translations: Not Available

Jesus Film: Not Available

Gospel Recordings: Available

Radio Broadcast: Not Available


As with other chronically food-insecure areas in the country, the Hararghe suffer from population pressure, land shortage, soil erosion and periodic droughts. Therefore, Hararghe agropastoralists have been under critical food insecurity at times over the years, entailing intense humanitarian assistance.