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41 Gumi Gayo: Amendment and Declaration of Law

The Gada system is an indigenous egalitarian democratic system practised among the Borana-Oromo nation of East Africa for the last six hundred years. Among other structural elements of Gada system is its legislative body commonly known as Gada General Assembly (Gumi Gayo). The assembly takes place under a sycamore tree – a symbolic representation of dialogue and consensus.

Indigenous knowledge is a source of the contemporary world and a cradle of proud for the nation that hosts and leaves a legacy for the future generation. The Gada is the legacy of the Oromo to Ethiopia in particular, and the humankind in general, because it has been given recognition by many scholars of developed countries taking it as a source of democracy, governance and development. Consequently, it has been registered as the intangible world heritage by the UNESCO.

Gada is a holistic system of governance encompassing: political, social, cultural, economic and religious affairs of the Oromo people. As a system of governance, the Gada operates in stages (often ten stages with eight years separation). Unlike other, Western democratic systems, the Gada system has five permanent political parties whose members assume leadership once every eight years. Within forty years, all five parties serve their nation constituting ‘One Gada’.


Given the vastness of the Oromia (363,136 square kilometres) and its population (50 million), assemblies take place in several places and assemblies are named after the place of gatherings. For instance, among the Borana-Oromo it is known as Gumi-gayo (Gumi means assembly and Gayo refers to a place of water well); among the central Oromo it is called as Chaffe (meaning, assembly at the edge of prairie grass); among the Guji-Oromo it is known as Yaa’ii Me’ee-Bokuu (Yaa´ii means multitude and Me’ee-Boku refers to the place).

The following are the key amendments and declarations from the Borana 41st Gumi Gayo Assembly:

1) Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) declared illegal and whoever is found undertaking the same SHALL be fined One cow;
2) Marriage dowry SHALL not exceed 15 pieces of clothes and normal one Gormes, Buna Tambo, Ola (sheep) for those clan eg Digalu as normally required;
3) Sabo and Gonna SHALL marry from each other considering Luub and whoever marry eg Sabo from Sabo or Gonna from Gonna disregarding Luub also declared Haramu Khopu;
4) Parents SHALL look after girls properly and whoever found to have relationship with girls declared outcast (capan);
5) If girl impregnated and the same was not reported immediately after act occurred and pregnancy is seen afterwards Gumi declared there will be no case against the person who was responsible for the same, so if for instance rape occur it Shall be reported immediately;
6) Men are allowed to marry as many wives as they can manage;
7) Marrying girls under the age of 18 years declared unlawful;
8) Boys and girls Shall be educated equally;
9) Killing of wild animals starting from the smallest eg. Tarri (Dik dik) declared illegal;
10) Women are prohibited from leaving homes and undertaking unnecessary visits to places without husband consent;
11) Men are prohibited from serving themselves with food or drink in their houses without wife consent;
12) Any man found to have intercourse act with breastfeeding mother shall be fined five heads of cattle;
13) If the baby is boy fine is ten heads of cattle;
14) If the baby is girl fine is five heads of cattle;
15) And if a man found to have such affair with a woman who lost husband and still in a state of mourning (Amtu, Adeen) fine Shall be 15 heads of cattle;
16) When a woman delivers she must be accorded good care ( Ulma dansa);
17) Beating of women in Ulmaa period is an offence;
18) Whoever beat woman during Ulmaa must slaughter a cow for her as a fine;
19) Generally, beating of women declared retrogressive act;
20) Any woman found beating her husband should face serious punishment before elders
21) Any girl engaged whereby Bunn ayyana or Bunn dhageti take to her parents considered a wife to the man who is in engagement with her;
22) And any other man who marries such girl considered like a person who snatches one’s wife and shall face punishment in that regard; and
23) But if such girl gets married to another man before the man who is in engagement with her present Bunn Ayyana or Bunn Dhageti to her parents the man who she get married to SHALL compensate the other all the cost he incurred expect Bunna Tambo.
[videopress qTj4Tusa]

To get more of the amended laws watch this

Know your Customary Law


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Whispers from the North is an online platform that appreciates the ecological, cultural and socio-economic diversities of Northern Kenya. We also acknowledge that the lives of the communities of northern Kenya has been shaped by a number of intrinsic and extrinsic factors which have led to complex challenge that calls for a multifaceted approach.

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