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The Sidama people of Africa: The Institution of Cimeessa - The Respected Elder

1. Introduction

In my previous articles, I mentioned the Sidama grand social constitution Seera, and various sub constitutions which derive from this grand constitution. We have also seen that all social constitutions or Seera in Sidama were based on the Sidama moral code of halale, the true way of life. In this socio-cultural and socio-political system, the role of the elders was very important. Elders were bestowed with the power of enforcing the Seera and referring the recalcitrant to Magano or God if he/she refuses to abide by the Seera.

The power of elders in the Sidama society was not based on a simple age count as is the case in most modern societies. The Sidama elder is more the product of various social processes through which a person (usually a man) passes than the product of a simple aging. For a person to become a recognised elder with authority in Sidama, he has to become a Cimeessa (respected elder with authority) or Cimeeyye for many respected elders. There are three important socio-cultural processes that shape the Sidama elder who will have the required authority to enforce the Seera system in the society. These are: the Luwa cycle, Barcima (circumcision), and the Anga culture. In this brief article, we will revisit the cultures that shape the institution of Cimeessa in the Sidama society.

2. The Sidama Luwa Cycle

As I pointed out in my previous articles, the Luwa is administered by an age grade system where each grade rotates every 8 years. We have also seen that there are five rotating grades in the Luwa system, viz., Darara, Fullassa, Hirobora, Wawassa and Mogissa with Binancha as the sixth grade in the Malaga (Awassa) area of Sidama.

Although the Luwa is governed by an age grade system, the recruitment to a given Luwa grade does not depend on the age of the individual. It depends on the grade of one´s father. For instance, if we assume that Darara is the first cycle and Mogissa is the last cycle, and if the son of Darara becomes Mogissa, a son born to a person who is a member of the Darara cycle has to wait for 32-40 years to join the Mogissa grade. Therefore, in the Luwa cycle, it is possible that a child as well as a 40 years old adult can become members of the same Luwa cycle. Thus, age is not a sole criterion in the making of the Sidama Cimeessa (respected elder). An old person who did not pass through the Luwa cycles cannot become a Cimeessa while a younger person can qualify for a position if he fulfils Luwa and all other requirements.

Although the development of potential elders who will have authorities to replace the current elders (Cimeeyye) is an important objective of the Luwa system it is not the only one. Another grand objective of the Luwa system is the recruitment and training of the able bodied men for the defence of the nation. Women are not allowed to participate in the Luwa system. Therefore, they are automatically excluded from the nation´s defence forces as well as from becoming Cimeeyye or respected elders. However, the Sidama society has its own ways of showing respect for elderly women. Older women in Sidama are highly respected because the society believes that they possess a power of bringing good (Woxa in Sidama language) to the obedient and evil to the recalcitrant.

A fascinating aspect of the Sidama culture in this regard is that, younger people never call older people, men or women, by their names. They always use the name of their children, using as prefix, mother of "…." and father of "…". If they do not know the names of their children, they simply call them mother or father, even if they are not their real mothers and fathers. While many of the beautiful Sidama indigenous cultures have been lost since the annexation in 1891, this particular way of life survived until today.

Avoiding the direct contact with the mother-in-laws is another aspect of unique respect the Sidama society offers to women in general. A person who is newly married to the daughter of a woman will not stand in her way if he sees her walking in the street. He has to run in to the bushes to give the mother way to proceed with her trip. Not only he is not allowed to mention her name, but he is also required to talk with a language of respect such as Ki´ne (equivalent to English "thou" - in Sidaamuaffo). The wife is required to reciprocate the respect to her husband´s family. But she is required to reciprocate it primarily to the father, uncles and elder brothers of her husband, as she is required to be in close contact with the mother of her husband. This aspect of the Sidama culture is being gradually eroded due to massive conversion into Christianity. Today, over 90 percent of the Sidama people are Christians.

3. Barcima (Circumcision) and Its Social Implications

In Sidama society, male circumcision has been practiced since time immemorial. Circumcision is one of the processes of building respected elders (Cimeeyye) in Sidama society. After a person participates in the Luwa cycles he has to carry out circumcision before his sons´ Luwa cycle arrives. If he fails to circumcise before that, his progression to the class of respected elders can be seriously undermined. A non circumcised old person cannot be regarded as Cimeessa in Sidama society.

The circumcision ceremony is one of the biggest social events in Sidama society. Depending on the level of wealth of the individual, such as the size of farm and farm land owned, the size of Enset or coffee plantation, and the number of cattle the person owns, he can organize a huge ceremony involving hundreds of elders and young men and women from the area and far apart for the ceremony. Everyone invited or present in the ceremony is provided with Buurisame (food made from Enset and soaked in butter) and Malawo (drinks made from pure honey) beginning with the oldest and going down to the youngest. This process is called Malawo Tuma (the Honey Ceremony).

For a person to prepare the Honey Ceremony during his circumcision, he has to pass through one of the Luwa cycles with in the past 40 years but not beyond. Thus, during the ceremony every body praises not only the person who is going to be circumcised but also his Luwa grade, stating that the Honey Ceremony belongs to such a person and such a Luwa grade. At the beginning of the Honey Ceremony, the person to be circumcised declares that it is his time now to circumcise and that he makes his Luwa grade and the Sidama society proud by willing to defend the nation and become an elder to serve the society.

Most of these types of ceremonies are not practiced any more due mainly to massive conversion into Christianity which discourages all traditional practices. The next stage in the making of the Sidama Cimeessa institution is the Anga culture.

4. The Anga Culture

The Anga culture is the most complicated part of the Sidama culture. Anga, which literally means "hand", has a different meaning when it is used in the context of the development of Cimeessa or Cimeeyye, respected elders or elders with authority. An elder with the Anga authority must have already participated in the Luwa cycles, must have been circumcised and most notably organized the grand Honey Ceremony. An elder who did not pass through those stages cannot claim to have the Anga authority.

An elder or Cimeessa who has Anga has superior moral authorities to all other Cimeessa in the society. In other words, the Anga is the last stage in the making of the Sidama Cimeessa or an elder with full moral authority to enforce Seera (social constitution) in the Sidama society. The last Mote (King) of Sidama, Baalichcha Worawo, who was assassinated in 1891 following the annexation of Sidama in to the current Ethiopian territory, was the last authority in the land to fully enforce the Sidama cultural values.

In addition to passing though the Luwa cycles, circumcision and Honey Ceremonies, the elder who claims the Anga authority has to make Kakalo (sacrifices) to the ancestors to declare his position as a holder of the Anga Authority.

An elder with Anga authority does not participate in any ordinary activities in the society. He does not eat any meat unless the animal is slaughtered either by himself or some one who has similar Anga authority like him. One fascinating aspects of the Anga culture is that when the Cimeessa with the Anga authority is a in a house dining alone or with some one, every body must keep quite. This is because, if some one mentions some names which are considered to be impure while the Cimeessa with the Anga was eating, then he will automatically stop eating. These names include animal names such as pigs, dogs or sounds like shouting, whistling and so on. If the Cimeessa with Anga listens to those names and sounds while he is eating, he has to automatically stop eating and leave. If he does not do so, he loses his Anga authority and has to offer other sacrifices to reclaim the Anga.

The Anga culture is practiced by the Sidama clan called the Xummano or the Yemerechcho. However, the Luwa, Circumcision and Honey Ceremonies are practiced by any member of the Sidama society. Like many other traditional practices, that are the foundations of the Sidama Cimeessa (Respcted Elder) system, the Anga culture is almost extinct at present. Consequently, the authority of Cimeessa has been highly undermined and its significance has significantly diminished.


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የመንግሥት ስልጠና የምርጫ ቅስቀሳ አካል ነው ብሏል  የምርጫ ጊዜ ሰሌዳ ለምን ወጣ መባሉ ተገቢ አይደለም - ምርጫ ቦርድ ምርጫ ቦርድ ከኢህአዴግ ተፅዕኖ ሙሉ ለሙሉ ነፃ መሆኑ ሳይረጋገጥና የምርጫ አፈፃፀም ችግሮች ሳይወገዱ የምርጫ የጊዜ ሰሌዳ ለማወጅ መዘጋጀቱ ተገቢ አይደለም ሲል ፕ/ር በየነ ጴጥሮስ የሚመሩት ኢማዴ-ደህአፓ ተቃወመ፡፡ መንግስት፤ የዩኒቨርሲቲ መምህራንና ተማሪዎችን ጨምሮ ለተለያዩ የህብረተሰብ ክፍሎች እየሰጠ ያለው ስልጠና የምርጫ ቅስቀሳ አካል ነው ሲልም ፓርቲው ኮንኗል፡፡  የኢትዮጵያ ማህበረ ዴሞክራሲ ደቡብ ህዝቦች አንድነት ፓርቲ ሰሞኑን ለብሄራዊ ምርጫ ቦርድ ባስገባው ግልፅ ደብዳቤ፤ ያለፉት አገር አቀፍና የአካባቢ ምርጫዎች ከመካሄዳቸው በፊት በምርጫ ችግሮችና መፍትሄዎቻቸው ዙሪያ ኢህአዴግ ከተቃዋሚዎች ጋር የሚወያይበት መድረክ እንዲዘጋጅ በተደጋጋሚ ብንጠይቅም እስካሁን ከቦርዱ የተሰጠ ተግባራዊ ምላሽ የለም ብሏል፡፡  ሃገሪቱ “በአንድ አውራ ፓርቲ” ብቸኛ ቁጥጥር ስር መውደቋ አደገኛና አሳሳቢ ነው ያለው ፓርቲው፤ የመድብለ ፓርቲ ስርአት የመገንባት ተስፋችን ጨርሶ እንዳይከስም ቦርዱ ሃላፊነቱን መወጣት እንዳለበት አሳስቧል፡፡ ነፃና ፍትሃዊ ምርጫ የሚካሄድበትን ሁኔታ ለመፍጠር ገዥው ፓርቲና ሃቀኛ ተቃዋሚ ፓርቲዎች የሚወያዩበት መድረክ እንዲያመቻች በህግ ስልጣን የተሰጠው ምርጫ ቦርድ የገባውን ቃል በማጠፍ መድረኩን ሳያመቻች የምርጫ ጊዜ ሰሌዳ ማዘጋጀቱ ፋይዳ የለውም ብሏል - ፓርቲው፡፡  ገዥው ፓርቲ ኢህአዴግ በተሻሻለው የምርጫ ህግ፣ ለቦርዱ የተሰጠውን የፖለቲካ ፓርቲዎች የጋራ መድረክ የማስተባበር ስልጣን ለመቀማት ታማኝ ፓርቲዎችን በተቃዋሚ ስም አሰባስቦ “የፖለቲካ ፓርቲዎች የጋራ መድረክ” በመፍጠር የምርጫ ውድድር አሯሯጭ አሰልፏል ሲ

የጀርመን መንግስት ዜጎቹ ወደ ሀዋሳ እና አከባቢዋ በሚጓዙበት ጊዜ ጥንቃቄ እንዲያድርጉ መከረ

የጀርመን መንግስት ዜጎቹ ወደ ሀዋሳ እና አከባቢዋ በሚጓዙበት ጊዜ ጥንቃቄ እንዲያድርጉ አስጠነቀቀ ዛሬ በአገሪቱ የውጭ ጉዳይ ሚኒስትር ድረገጽ ላይ ባወጣው ማስጠንቀቂያ እንዳመለከተው፤ የጀርመን ዜጎች በኢትዮጵያ ውስጥ በሚቀሳቀሱበት ጊዜ ከጸጥታ አንጻር ማድረግ ባለባቸው እና መሄድ በሌለባቸው የኢትዮጵያ አከባቢዎች ላይ ሰፋ ያለ መረጃ ስጥቷል። በጽሁፉ ላይ እንደተጠቀሰው በኢትዮጵያ በበርካታ አከባቢዎች ግጭቶች መኖራቸው የተጠቀስ ሲሆን፤ በሲዳማ ክልል የነበረውን ግጭት አስታውሷል። አክሎም በወላይታ ዞን የጸጥታ ስጋት መኖሩን ጠቅሶ ወደ ሲዳማዋ ዋና ከተማ ሀዋሳ የምንቀሳቀሱ ዜጎቿ የተለየ ጥንቃቄ እንዲያደርጉ መክሯል። ዝርዝሩን ከታች ከሊንኩ ላይ ያንቡ Äthiopien: Reise- und Sicherheitshinweise