By Yoseph Mulugeta Baba (Ph.D.)*

Part IV

GumiGayoIn my previous article, Part III, I tried to elucidate the way in which the Oromo’ understanding and interpretation of Reality (i.e., Uuma, Waaqa, Ayyaanaa) has eventually led to pluralistic interpretations of the universe. In so doing, I clearly indicated how the Oromo have adopted and developed a philosophic method of enquiry (i.e., the ilaa-fi-ilaamee-philosophic-mode-of-thought) to identify and determine the tenable form of interpretation whenever various competing interpretations arise. In the present article, I explicate why one should adhere to an ilaa-fi-ilaamee-philosophic-mode-of-thought to properly identify the tenable form of an interpretation to the case in question. In line with my previous article, I single out Gumii Gaayo as the possible justification for an ilaa-fi-ilaamee-philosophic-mode-of-thought.

In an ilaa-fi-ilaamee-philosophic-mode-of-thought, what identifies and determines the possibility or the tenability of an answer to the case in question is not a form of an interpretation that an individual employs, but the case in question itself. In Gumii Gaayo, the tenability of the solution has nothing to do with the form of an interpretation that one offers. It is, rather, determined by what the problem at issue is. When Gumii meet every eight years and a long debate is held between hayyu — councilors and ya’a — assemblies, what becomes apparent first is not the proclamation of or the interpretation of the new laws. Nor, is it the resolving of whatever major conflicts could not be resolved at lower levels of their judicial organization. It is rather, the reality of various forms of questions that essentially arise from a life-crises in the jiruu-fi-jireenya-nama, crises which every individual and the community have experienced with in different Gadaa classes.

The Gumii sees and discusses what the Gadaa has done for the country during the last eight years. The Gumii shows the right direction to the Gadaa, and whenever they are on wrong ways, it suggests ways of filling the gaps observed in the duties of the Gadaa. The Gumii deposes the Gadaa who misuses the power of the people; and Oromo is governed or administered by the laws formulated by human beings (the rule of law) in contrast to the divine or religious rules; and there is no more witness than the function of Gumii for this. ( Dirribi, 2011, p. 258)

As such, each interpretation and its understanding must be radically based on the reality of the class then in leadership which will last for eight years. Hence, the period of eight years provides horizons through which individuals must echo the life-crisis that they have gone through and experienced.

In this manner, whenever competing interpretations arise, one can clearly identify as well as determine the tenable mode of interpretation to the problem at hand. It would thus be absurd to try to offer a tenable answer without a proper knowledge of what the case at issue is. Therefore, the philosophical thought that characterizes Gumii Gaayo can be subsumed under three claims:

  1. A tenable solution to any problem is determined by the case in question that comes to be identified during every Gadaa class of eight years.
  2. The mode of interpretation used for the problem at issue is a determinant of the tenability of a solution to a life-crisis in the jiruu-fi-jireenya-nama— ontological characteristic of human being.
  3. Ergo, it is not impossible for the latter claim to be unconditionally determined by the former claim, but not viceversa.

As I have argued above, Gumii is not the debater’s arena but a place for sober reflection. The main reason is that once the case in question is identified, there should be little room for the radical mode of thought. A radical mode of thought is a peculiar fallacy that inherently involves defending or refuting any form of a thesis on the grounds that it was the answer when one’s own method of enquiry was used. However, ‘x’ or ‘y’ does so without admitting that, wittingly or unwittingly, a correct thesis can only be arrived at by the case in question rather than a method of enquiry of one’s choosing. 

Therefore, the assumption that the case in question essentially determines any form of interpretation and its tenability is the crux of an ilaa-fi-ilaamee-philosophic-mode-thought. Consequently, the mode of reasoning and an individual’s very intention is neither to justify his/her interpretation nor to dismiss that of the others. Rather, it is to give a proper and tenable form of interpretation in accordance with the case in question. As such, an individual should arrive at two judgments: (a) a decision to successfully dismiss any radical mode of though; and (b) a decision to impartially identify a tenable solution to the problem at hand. In this manner, one can dismiss some pseudo-epistemological assumptions inherent not only in one’s interpretation, but also in that of others. Asmarom is thus quite right when he explicitly affirms the basic principles that underlie Gumii: “Do not look for the worst in what others have said in order to undermine their position and to win an argument; look for the best they have to offer, so as to find the common ground for the meeting of minds.” (Asmarom, 2000/2006, p. 213)

Hence, in an ilaa-fi-ilaamee-philosophic-mode-of-thought, the central issue is not to take a stand, but to properly understand the case in question. It is not to win an argument. Nor is it an art of getting one’s own way. Neither is it an arguing for a desired outcome so that others get out of one’s way without being challenged intellectually. Neither is it a way to place Others under one’s mental bondage by forcing them to accept one’s understanding of Reality. Nor is it seen as a positive value to hold onto a rigid approach to the last dying effort. In contradistinction, an ilaa-fi-ilaamee-mode-of-thought involves becoming aware of alternative solutions based on whatever the case at issue is. For in reality there is no such thing as a solution without a consideration of the case in question, just as there is not any form of question without pondering a given life crisis in jiruu-fi-jireenya-nama.

Here the question arises whether Heidegger was always original in his way of conceiving Dasein i.e. jiruu-fi-jireenyaa-nama. According to Heidegger, the Dasein is a distinctive being (Sein) compared with all other beings (Seiendes); i.e. it is a being (Seiendes) whose Being (Sein) not only has the determinative character of existence, but also is endowed with the privilege of understanding Being. (Heidegger, 1978, p. 32) To do indigenous thinkers/philosophers justice, we need to take a closer look at the fundamental distinction which characterizes the thought of Oromo philosophy’s of jireenya—existence. This is the distinction between jiruu-fi-jireenyaa-nama and jireenya. As I argued in my previous articles, in Oromo philosophical thought, it would be meaningless or absurd to identify human “existence” with that of the existence of other entities. Man’s very “existence” differs by virtue of his/her “activity”. In contradistinction to all other entities—jireenya—the very jiruu-fi-jireenyaa-nama is endowed with understanding and interpreting his/her “activity”. It is capable of understanding Reality (Uumaa, Waaqa, Saffu) as this manifested in the systematic knowledge of the “world”—Ilaa.

In a similar vein, it is capable of interpretingIlaamee—one’s understanding in the space-time world—Uumaa. The jiruu-fi-jireenyaa-nama manifests itself in its temporality and everydayness has to be interpreted—Ilaamee. Ilaamee is always a process of understanding and then interpreting the Ilaa. This is crystal clear in Gumii Gaayo where the period of eight years (Gadaa) provides horizons through which individual echoes the life-crises s/he has gone through and experienced. Therefore, Heidegger’s conceptions of Dasein and hermeneutic phenomenology can hardly be original, in a thorough sense.

(to be continued)

Note: The responsibility for the article is entirely mine.



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yoseph_mulugeta_babaYoseph Mulugeta Baba received his B.A; M.A; and Ph.D degrees in Philosophy from the CUEA. His research areas include Metaphilosophy, Oromo Philosophy, Continental Philosophy, Post-colonial African Political Philosophy, Postmodernism, and Ethiopian historiography. Currently, he is completing his forthcoming book (CUEA PRESS)—on The Ilaa-fi-Ilaamee Philosophical Method of Enquiry. He can be reached at

Previous articles:

The Oromo Concept of Reality or Dhugaa-Ganama, Part I
The Oromo Concept of Reality or Dhugaa-Ganama, Part II
The Oromo Concept of Reality or Dhugaa-Ganama, Part III

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