The Karrayyu are a pastoralist tribe from Ethiopia living in the Awash
Valley, around the volcano of Mount Fentale and the Metehara Plain.
They belong to the larger ethnic group of the Oromos, who represent
the majority (32 per cent) of the ethiopian population. It is said the
Karrayyu arrived in the area 200 hundreds years ago, during the so
called « great expansion », of the Oromo, during which Oromo settled
in different parts of Ethiopia,. This led to cultural diversification.
In spite of local differences between those subgroups, they share the
same Cushistic language (Afaan Oromo) religion (Waaqeffata) and
governance system (Gada). The Karrayyu are one of the last Oromo
ethnic subgroups to follow these rules and to preserve the original
Oromo lifestyle and culture, and its pastoralist way of life.
There are only 10 000 to 55 000 Karrayyus (because of their nomadic lifestyle it is difficult to have precise figures) whereas they used to be 200 000 at the beginning of the 20th century. Karrayyu are on the verge of instinction. Such a drop was due to the persecutions the Oromos, including the Karrayyu people had to face during Menelik’s II reign (1889-1913). This emperor, from the Amhara ethnic group led the unification of Ethiopia, and imposed the Amhara rule to the Oromos. Later, during the 20th century, the Karrayyu were deprived of most of their lands because of the establishment of national parks and modern farms. In the last four decades, Karrayyu’s were dispossed from 70 per cent of their land, including their shrines, by the government to make sugar and cotton plantations.
The traditional Karrayyu religion is Waaqeffata, which is a monotheistic religion based on belief in a supreme being called « Waaqa ». This religion is closely related to the natural world as the Oromo pray to Waaqa at sites believed to be particularly blessed. However Kaarrayyu are muslim. Their religion consists in a syncretism of and Waaqa. Islam is the religion of 40 per cent of the Oromo people, including the Karrayyus.
Unfortunately the Karrayyu are also famous for the female genital cutting the women have to face and suffer from. According to the 2005 Ethiopian Demographic Health Survey, more than 74 per cent of women between the age of 15 and 49 have undergone some form of genital mutilation and cutting. Parents believe this practice guarantees their young daughter’s virginity, which is a prerequisite for an honourable marriage.
© Eric Lafforgue