Awuramba Community: Short History and Current Social Status
Sisay Mengeste Sep 20, 2014
Awuramba community is found in the
north-western part of the Amhara National Regional State, south Godar
Administrative Zone nearby eastern part of Lake Tana areas. The term Awuramba
is the name of a village and a community found in Wojina Awuramba Kebele of
Fogera Woreda. It is also located about 68kms.far from the capital city of
Amhara region, Bahar Dar, via Wereta town alongside the main road from Wereta
to Woldia town of north Wollo Administrative Zone. The total population of
Awuramba community is 403, of which 196 male, 207 female and 119 are house hold
heads include both men and women.
However, according to the survey
conducted by Organization for Rehabilitation and Development for Amhara (ORDA)
planning team, the Awuramba community’s total land area of the village owned by
the Awurambas is only 43 hectares of land, which is insufficient to the
population size of the community. In other words, the Awurambas do not have sufficient
plot of land to use for both agricultural and other off farm activities
including rearing of domestic animals.
Therefore, marginalization of such
segments of the society starts from this negative reaction, and extends to
condemning members of the community by leveling different names that are
degrading the social status of individuals who want to be part and parcel of
Awuramba community. Though farm land was redistributed in the name of some
individual members of Awuramba community in 2004, land and domestic animals are
commonly owned as well as managed by all community members as they are
considered once as common properties of the whole community.
When we examine the origin and
history of Awuramba community, it is highly associated with a person whose name
is Zumra Nuru, a founder and community leader of such community. He was born in
1946 from his mother Trusew Kassaye and his father Nuru Mohammed who were
peasant dwellers of Simada Woreda, in the former province of Gondar, currently
known as south Gonder Administrative Zone of Amhara Region. The first incident
that Zumra confronted the long established existing religious tradition in his
younger age, when his mother accused him of eating piece of meat from their
As he remembered such event, he
immediately asked his mother why he was not allowed to eat such meat while the
meat come from similar animal that they had at home, and Zumra was not
satisfied at his mother’s answer and continued raising related questions why
the existing social structure that divided members of the community based on
sex, occupation and other related philosophical issues though his relatives and
neighbors considered him as a mad person. Moreover, around 1950 when he was a
four year old boy, he started evaluating the existing relationship of his
father and mother pertaining to their social status as well as classification
of work based on sex in the peasant community of Amhara Region.
According to him he tried to help his mother involving in homestead works,
however, he did not satisfy at his short term solution and started thinking
about the whole social interaction and he realized that patriarchal authority
of male is the major source of such misery life of women and children including
his mother. Other activities which are considered as evil things such as
stealing, telling lies, robbery, violation of human rights including the rights
of children attracted his attention and started fighting against them and
thinking about sustainable solution of these societal problems. To the writer of
this piece the view of Zumra on the present imbalance societal interaction and
his perception on the rights of women as well as children makes him a
traditional human rights activist. However, until he became seventeen, he was
moving from place to place including Gojam, Wollo and Gonder provinces and
finally he stationed at Wojina Awuramba Kebele of Fogera Woreda, after getting
some people who were at least voluntary to listen his thoughts.
In other words, it was at the age of
eighteen that Zumra firmly convinced himself to fight against these harmful
traditional practices and revitalize the old socio-economic and traditional
system by creating the ideal community for the betterment of the whole society
of the country.
And Zumra’s vision for creating such ideal society was started its full function
in 1972 after many sacrifices of the founder of this community. Hence, his life
has been primarily associated with fundamental principles of his thoughts i.e.
helping the poor, believing in hard work and cooperation; abolish patriarchal
authority of the male and subjugation of women in relation to his opposition to
the traditional Amhara marriage system.
Though the founding members of the
community of Awuramba had no the same descendants, in their own eyes as well as
in the eyes of the outside observer, the Awurambas constitute a family,
psychologically speaking, bound by ties of common residence, common experience,
a common past and a common present and a common future of their fate, and
mutual aid-all the ties which bind a family-as well as a common ideology.
Besides the majorities of the founders of the community including the leader of
the community were originally Muslim in religion though they changed
immediately their belief into the spirit of strong working culture, respect all
human beings and believe in equality, making love and peace for common life as
well as avoiding harmful traditional practices including the religious supported
ones among others.
That means according to personal
observation of the writer, currently they are neither Muslim nor Christian,
rather their emphasis is respecting a Devine Power (God) as well as shared
values and principles of their own. Awurambas, then, is a community which is
founded for the most part, by men and women, fired with strong conviction and
purpose, which banded together and deliberately chose to be strong workers. By
so choosing, they reversed both the traditional prestigious hierarchy and
patriarchy system of Ethiopians. Instead of aspiring to “rise” in the social
ladder, they are aspiring to ‘social equality’ through social cooperation and
According to Zumra Nuru, who is the
founder of the community, neighboring people were and are not happy by the
Awuramba’s new belief, culture and way of life; especially by the conditions of
their strong belief in working hard and equality between men and women which
contradicts with the existing working tradition, religious doctrines and other
cultural values of such neighboring people. Because of their different belief
and indiscriminate working tradition and equal treatment of the whole society they
developed, neighboring people continued blaming and alleging that Zumra
together with his followers is not only anti existing religious values and beliefs
but also he became anti Degue regime rather he is inclined to support Ethiopian
Peoples Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF)
though he had no any relationship with such political organization until it
became the governing party of the country.
To the neighboring people, Awurambas are
suspicious, secretive, pagan and deviant caste social groups though some other
neighborly individuals oppose this hasty generalization and characterized them
as hard working, highly disciplined and trustworthy community. To the latter
ones, although the Awurambas are pagans, they are trustworthy and they do not
steal as well as do not tell a lie.
The writer of this Article observes that peoples that are condemning the Awurambas
community as deviant and pagan are mostly followers of the Muslim religion and
some Christian fundamentalists who are very reluctant to accept such new
culture and way of life that is different from theirs.
Of course members of Awuramba
community has become suspicious of members of their neighboring community as
they develop negative perception against their new culture, belief and way of
life. In this regard some respondents living nearby the village of Awuramba community
stipulate that members of Awuramba community are always in fear of neighboring
people and guard themselves day and night.
To Mohamed and other neighboring people who believe same, even Zumra, who is
the founder and community leader of Awuramba community, has his own body guard.
When they come to market place they do not drink and eat anything even in the
tea rooms found around such market places and their children always flock
together making a line when they go to school and back home.
According to these neighborly people, Awuramba community is isolating
themselves and being ashamed of their deviant behavior as well as afraid of
what they might suspect of their potential ‘opponents’ and they always
segregate themselves from their neighboring people.
Though nowadays the degree of
marginalization and segregation by neighboring people is lowering, we can
understand the negative perception of neighbors from the aforementioned
statement that describes the behavior of the community and this problem still
exists as well as continuing for some time in the future too. For instance the
neighboring people are not ready to enter into marriage relationship with
members of Awuramba community due to such wrong perception and negative
attitude they developed. And even the experts of different government offices
of Fogera Woreda and south Gondar administrative zone particularly the experts
of cooperative expansion offices of same are still reluctant to professionally
assist this community though they are duty bound to equally treat them like
that of their neighboring people.
In this regard we can take a concret
example to show the reality Awuramba community is facing. Experts of Fogera
Woreda Cooperative Expansion Office were and are still resisting to recognize
the organization of Awuramba community in the form of cooperative and to audit
same. The writer of this piece witnesses the negative reaction of such officers
when he was in his office as well as during the data collection process.
Moreover, the community leader told the writer of this Article that most of the
experts are not ready to support the Awurambas value and philosophy.
(2008), The Working Traditions and their Contribution to Rural Development, in
Awuramba Community, Northern Amhara Region-Ethiopia, M.A Thesis, Mekele
Atinafu (2004), Social Transformation among Awuramba Community: the Role of
Gender, M.A Thesis, Addis Ababa University.
Mengistie Addisu (2010), Treatments of the Rights of Minorities in Amhara
National Regional state: Law and Practice, LL.M Thesis Addis Ababa University.
Mengistie Addisu (2014)፣ Awuramba Comminity: Foundation
and Philosophy (Amharic Version), Presented to the Workshop Organized by Ethiopian
Tourism and Hotel Training Institute, Addis Ababa.
Nuru Belay, Public Relations officer,
Moizer Ali, neighbor of Awurambas