Oromo Indigenous Religion: Waaqeffannaa

Bedassa Gebissa Aga*


This paper discusses the African Traditional religion with a particular reference to the Oromo Indigenous religion, Waaqeffannaa in Ethiopia. It aimed to explore status of Waaqeffannaa religion in interreligious interaction. It also intends to introduce the reader with Waaqeffannaa’s mythology, ritual activities, and how it interrelates and shares with other African Traditional religions. Additionally it explains some unique character of Waaqeffannaa and examines the impacts of the ethnic based colonization and its blatant action to Oromo touched values in general and Waaqeffannaa in a particular. For further it assess the impacts of ethnic based discrimination under different regimes of Ethiopia and the impact of Abrahamic religion has been discussed.


Until the 1970s and 1980s Western scholars had maintained erroneous views about African indigenous religions, including the local concept of the Supreme Being (God, divinities and sprit). Judging African indigenous religions by their Western religious ontology, i.e. Christianity, Western scholars invariably describe followers of Africans indigenous religions as animist. Africans who they thought did not worship the Christian Supreme Being, but rather than worshiped idols, lakes, moons, hills and/or fabricated beings, were grouped in this religious category.1

Africa is a large continent with diverse nations and complex cultures, languages and dialects. In spite of all these differences, there are many essential resemblances in their religious concepts and rituals. For instance, while different nations use different names to refer to the concept of God, nearly all of them conceive him as a supreme being across the continent.2 In Nigeria, the Yoruba refer to this being as „Olorun‟, meaning „the owner of heaven‟ or „the Lord of heaven‟, showing God as the author of all things visible and invisible. The Igbo call him Chukwu, meaning the „source of being – the great one from whom all beings originate‟. In Ghana, the Akan and Ga people use the term OdamankomaHe who in His grace has completed everything in heaven and on earth. The Mande people of Sierra-Leone call him as Ngewo which means the eternal one who rules from above.3 Similar to these African nations, the Oromo believe in and worship a supreme being called Waaqaa – the Creator of the universe. From Waaqaa, the Oromo indigenous concept of the Supreme Being Waaqeffanna evolved as a religion of the entire Oromo nation before the introduction of the Abrahamic religions among the Oromo and a good number of them converted mainly to Christianity and Islam.4

Waaqeffannaa is the religion of the Oromo people. Given the hypothesis that Oromo culture is a part of the ancient Cushitic cultures that extended from what is today called Ethiopia through ancient Egypt over the past three thousand years, it can be posited that Waaqeffannaa predates the Abrahamic religion in its origin.5 It is a monotheistic religion that emanates from and based on belief in the Supreme Being of Waaqaa. To believe in Waaqaa, means to be loyal to his laws, acknowledge his wisdom as the creator and source of all lives. According to Oromo mythology, Waaqeffannaa, the Oromo God created all human beings. He cares for all creatures as he brought them into life and earth for the sustenance of life. He does not discriminate among human races too.6 In Waaqeffannaa, therefore, there is no need for intermediaries between the believer and Waaqaa. The religion actively promotes peace (nagaa), reconciliation (araara), love (jaalala) and harmony (walta’iinsa, waliin jireenya).7Waaqeffannaa –an indigenous faith system of the Oromo people, is therefore, one version of the monotheistic African Traditional Religion, where the followers of this faith system do believe in only one Supreme Being.

Full Text: Waaqeffannaa01-08

Source: http://www.rsisinternational.org/IJRSI/Issue26/01-08.pdf

*Bedassa Gebissa Aga is a lecturer of Human Rights at Civics and Ethical Studies Program, Department of Governance, College of Social Science, of Wollega University, Ethiopia


1 Emeka C. Ekeke, “African Traditional Religion: a Conceptual and Philosophical Analysis” LUMINA, Vol. 22, No.2, (nd):211-212 2 J. O.

2 Awolalu, “What is African Traditional Religion?,”Studies in Comparative Religion; Vol. 10, No.2. (1976): 1-2

3 Emeke C. Ekeke and A. Ekeopara, “God, Divinities and Spirits in African Traditional Religious ontology”American Journal of Social and Management Sciences 209-218, (2010):.211-212

4 Gumii Waaqeffattota Addunyaa (GWA) , “Waaqeffannaa,” Gumii Waaqeffeffattoota Addunyaa, http://waaqeffannaa.org/duudhaa-amantiiwaaqeffannaa/ (accessed on December 10, 2013)

5 Charles Verharen, “Comparing Oromo and Ancient Egyptian Philosophy,” Journal of Oromo Studies, 15: 2 (2008): 3.

6 DirribiDamisieBokkuu, Oromo wisdom in Black Civilization, (Finfinnee: Finfinnee Printing and Publishing S.C, 2011), 29

7 Gumii Waaqeffattota Addunyaa (GWA) , “Waaqeffannaa,” Gumii Waaqeffeffattoota Addunyaa, http://waaqeffannaa.org/duudhaa-amantiiwaaqeffannaa/ (accessed on December 10, 2013)