|Finfinne or Addis
Ababa – What is in the Name?
In a recent interview
published in this website, Professor Muhammad S. Megalommatis
explained that mostly Cushitic African people and other group of
Semitic people with their roots in Yemen live in the present day
Ethiopia. In a list of evidences that shows that some Yemenite
people immigrated to East Africa, we find the near extinct Gueze
language, which is considered the ancestor to the two main
Semitic languages spoken in Ethiopia: Amarigna and Tigrigna. In
fact, all the three languages use the same Sabean alphabet.
Addis Ababa is a combination of two Amharic words, which mean
new and flower, respectively.
The name was coined about
a century ago after Oromo land was conquered by King Menelik II
of Abyssinia. The area where the city was founded is known as
Finfinne, an Oromo word that signifies a spring and specifically
refers to the area around the spring near Zeuditu
Hospital in the center of the city. Inhabitants of this continuously
outstretching city, which is surrounded by the Cushitic Oromo
people, generally speak Amarigna. Consequently, it has been
slowly dominating Afaan Oromo (Oromo language). These are clear
evidences indicating the recent conquer still fresh in the Oromo
The direct implication of
this is that the names of Finfinne and Addis Ababa have African
and Yemeni roots, respectively. Incidentally, this city is the
seat of the African Union (AU), European Commission for Africa (ECA)
and other international organizations. A credit Meles Zenawi
deserves is his debate a few years ago with African leaders for
the seat of the AU to remain in
shouldn’t the city’s name reflect its true African identity in
its name? It should! Otherwise, it would give a mixed feeling of
whether one is in Africa or across the Red Sea from Africa when
one is visiting the seat of the AU and the ECA. Of course, the
Oromo people have called it and continue to call it Finfinne.
Unless this city truly reflects its African root, the
continent’s diplomats may have to wonder whether they are going
to the African side or the Asian side of the Red Sea whenever
they board their planes to one of the business visits to the
city of the seat of the AU. What is more, the diplomats in the
city might wonder on which side of the Red Sea they are as they
do their businesses there. Even more so, all the countries that
have their diplomatic missions in Ethiopia may have to wonder to
which side of the Red Sea they may have sent their diplomats.
Zenawi, this is an opportunity to use his power and officially
render truly African identity to the city that he told African
leaders bears a symbol of African independence. Failing to do so
would mean he has yet to learn from the Oromo people what the
resilience of African independence means.