Abbas Haji Gnamo

Abbas Gnamo

Professor Gnamo, who teaches Third World Politics, African government and Politics and the politics of Development at the University of Toronto/Ryerson, is best known for his groundbreaking study on the Arsi Oromo political and military resistance against Abyssinian king Menelik II. His new book on the same subject, “Conquest and Resistance in the Ethiopian Empire, 1880 -1974: The Case of the Arsi Oromo”, is the first wide-ranging scholarly work on the longest and one of the most bloody chapter in Ethiopian history of conquest and colonization.

Could you tell us a little bit about yourself.

 My name is Abbas Haji Gnamo; I was born in Hexosa district in Arsi zone, Oromia Regional State in Ethiopia. I attended Etaya Elementary and Junior Secondary School and Assela Comprehensive Secondary School. I then studied at Addis Ababa University where I earned BA in History in 1982. I did my graduate and post-graduate studies at Paris University I (Pantheon-Sorbonne) where I obtained MA and Ph.D. in Anthropology as well as DEA (M.Phil.) in Political Science/African Studies. I came to Toronto, Canada in the late 1990s, where I have lived and taught ever since.

What motivated you to pursue this discipline?

My motivation comes from my peoples’ aspirations and lack of access to formal education and limitations imposed on us by the system. The moment I understood education is the only way out of poverty for our people and myself, I pursued it without hesitation and I seized the opportunities I got. In the process, I became multilingual to be able to publish and teach both in English and French with equal facility. I teach all level courses in political science, anthropology and history, disciplines in which I received a full academic training over a decade (1979-1982 & 1985-1992). Also, my current book and my other publications reflect my multidisciplinary training and approaches.

I won scholarships and prestigious and competitive research grants for my projects and I have taught for some reputed universities including Ryerson, York University and the University of Toronto, the top university in Canada. I teach mainly in Political Science field (World Politics, Third World Politics, African Politics, Comparative Politics, Politics of Development, Peace and Conflict & human rights). I must also add that I worked at the Institute of Ethiopian Studies, Addis Ababa University, for some years In brief, I have been in the higher learning institutions and in academia for over 30 years as a student, teacher and researcher.

Briefly tell us about your latest book: Conquest and Resistance in the Ethiopian Empire

This book is the most comprehensive and holistic book on Oromo history, culture and socio-political condition of pre-and-post colonial era. It is based on decades of research including extensive fieldwork in Arsi-Bale regions of Oromia. It examines the cultural heritage, history and identity of the Oromo people as well as continuity and change in their sociopolitical institutions, their historical and political experience in the Ethiopian empire including conquest and resistance, political administration and political economy over a century.

The book combines the disciplines of social sciences such as anthropology, history and political science. Thus, it is likely to answer many questions about the Oromo people, social organization, and political culture and history both in historical and contemporary settings. It is designed as a scholarly book to be used in colleges and universities.

At the same time, it is written in accessible way to the general public and readers, Oromo and no-Oromos alike. I just wanted to share my experiences in teaching and research over many years with people who are interested in Oromo history, culture and political experience in the Ethiopian imperial polity and the origins of a rapidly growing Oromo nationalism and identity politics in Ethiopia. It has to be noted that although the case study is the Arsi Oromo, the largest single branch of the Oromo nation, a large body of the data is transposable to the whole Oromo society.

I hope it will make a contribution to the Oromo studies and Ethiopian history.


Areas of interest: comparative politics, African Studies, politics of the Global South. including state-society relations, religious revivalism, nationalism and civil conflicts and peace building, human rights, democratization, etc. He is working on a SSHRC funded project “Identity Politics and Ethnonationalism in the Horn of Africa”. Recent publications: The Rwandan Genocide and the Collapse of Mobutu’s Kleptocracy in H.

Adelman & A. Suhrke (eds.), The Path of a Genocide, Transaction Press 1999; “Islam, the Orthodox Church and Oromo Nationalism, Ethiopia” in Cahiers d’Etudes africaines 165, LLII-1, (2002, pp.99-120); “The Role of the Interhamwe in the Regional Conflict: The Origins of Unrest in Kivu, Zaire” in War and Peace In Zaire/Congo edited b H. Adelman and G. Rao 2004; “Scramble for Oromo Land: Menelik’s Colonial Conquest and Arsi Oromo Resistance, 1881-1886,” in Ezekiel Gebissa, ed., Contested Terrain: The Oromo and Ethiopian Studies, Minneapolis: The Lutheran University Press, 2014, pp. 60-92.and Conquest and Resistance in the Ethiopian Empire, 1880-1974. Boston-Leiden: Brill Academic Publishing, 2014, 370 pp.

Research Interests

  • Centre-Periphery Relations
  • State Failure
  • Civil Wars
  • Religious Revivalism
  • Ethnonationalism and Identity Politics
  • Forced Displacement
  • Conflict Management and Resolution
  • Democratization and Development


  • MESc, Addis Ababa University
  • M.A., Université Paris 1 Panthéon-Sorbonne
  • D.E.A., Université Paris 1 Panthéon-Sorbonne
  • Ph.D., Université Paris 1 Panthéon-Sorbonne


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