By Ahmed Y. Omar
Tribe is a general term used in various controversial ways. It can best be defined for the purpose of this brief analysis, in a general sense as a traditional political entity that organizes fragmented nomadic (pastoral) and sedentary (agricultural and urban) populations into large-scale alliances. Gurgura solidarity remained relatively durable (not as strong as the Issa, though) in contrast to the solidarity (tribal bonding), which was formed latter on, in larger scale alliances. What are the social ingredients that serve as the basis for a tribal solidarity? The family and kinship played an important role for a genuine sentiment of group feeling within the smaller branches of a tribal solidarity, such as the extended families or a coalition of related families. However, the basis for solidarity within a larger unit such as the Gurgura consists of the following unifying features, which include generally accepted popular figures, such as a hero, a wise or generous person, a religious leader or an ancestor. Any symbolic or historical attributes that have an effect of binding the group together such as the myth of a common remote ancestor are considered the basis of a tribal solidarity or confederation, and are thus, expressed in the name of a tribe. Tribe is, in this sense, regarded as a political organization from which tribal solidarities such as Gurgura drive a feeling of a common identity.
The name Gurgura before the Italian occupation of Ethiopia and during the expansion of Minilik's 'MalkaycC rule over the Dire Dawa region, entails a tribal confederation, consisting of seven sub-tribal groups or clans; namely: Ga'alwaaq, Kundhuble, Ba'iida, Cufattiile, Sannaya, Sancheele, and Nibiddor. These shared-descent groups within Gurgura tribal confederation can each further be subdivided into several branches, totaling approximately, twenty sub-lineage groups and sub-clans, categorized into two bonds of union known as 'Dar' and 'Dudub'. Accoiding to local legend recounted by traditional Gurgura Elders ; 'Manguddo'/'Odeyaar, Gurgura evolved as a social group, out of a recurrence of tribal solidarities into a tribal confederation during the period extending, perhaps, from the end of the Middle Ages to the end of the Ottoman Empire. Gurgura is a tribal solidarity based on a local custom and a traditional oral law known as 'Heera'/'Heer', in the absence of the nation-state.
While a considerable proportion of the Gugura are bilingual, the majority speaks afaari-Oromo. But almost one half of the total population speaks af-Somali, which is still regarded as the language that binds them together. Gurgura traditional elders called their two languages, afaan-Gurgura and af-Gurgura respectively, confirming a bilingual identity. There are some community elders who recount traditional stories, 'Sheekko' (folktales), whereby 'Afara-af was regarded as an ancestral language. Moreover, The Gurgura joined with tribal solidarities such as Oroino and Haleele forming a triad tribal confederation called 'Hole. Latter on, the Nole together with 'Ala', 'Oborra', and so on, formed a larger tribal/ethnic alliance called 'Afranqalou'. According to a local legend, Gurgura were identified as the oldest descendants among several tribes and nationalities of the same stock, related to a common ancestor such as the Issa, gadaboursi, Issaq, and so on, tracing their descent from a common lineage of an ancient family or clan called 'Dir' who is traditionally regarded as the first founder of the earliest clan. There had nevertheless, been a common belief, according to some legend that the 'ShehkHash' were the oldest of the 'Dif lineages. However, according to another popular legend it is also maintained that the Gur^.uia are descendants of an anonymous ancestor. The Gurgura, therefore, trace their respective lineage to a common ancestor, and their respective ethnological urn-ins to varying branches of a. Cushetic Language Family such as Aiar, Oromo, and Soniaii.
The Gurgura are recognized to be a coalesccnt group within a cluster of minority nationalities in Ethiopia. The Gurgura were regarded as an ancient small society comprised of nomadic and sedentary (agriculturalists and commercial) communities that built the first permanent settlements in the region of Dire Dawa city, or as it is sometimes also called Dare Dawa. Due to the fact, that the Gurgura permanent, as well as, nomadic settlements were neither extended across the republic of Djibouti boundaries, nor the North Somali borders, the Gurgura tended to habitually associate themselves with their neighboring communal societies distributed adjacent to their local regions within the boundaries of Ethiopia, i.e., Ethiopia's International Boundaries as recognized by the United Nations (UN) ant! the Organisation of African Unity (OAU).
While, the Gurgura have historically maintained their shared local Somali language and much of the traditional ways of life with their neighboring Issa, Gadaboursi, arid Is sag on the one hand, they have also maintained their shared local Oromo language and the traditional life style and custom with their neighboring Haleele, Oromo, Ala, and Oborra on the other. According to some critics, the Gurgura and Issa have not been successful in achieving their respective social and economic aim for progress. Neither have they used the opportunity to develop any tangible or any politically useful alliance with each other, except in response to the usual crisis time solidarities, significantly during the earlier periods before the existence of any "modem state " in the area. However, a profound cultural bond and a wide range of undeniable mutual cooperation existed between the Issa and Gurgura. These practices of cooperation were, primarily, carried out through their respective tribal council of representcitives, each being headed by a tribal confederation leader 'Ugaaz'. With regards to the Issa and Gurgura nomadic pastorals, sharing grazing lands and engaging in a traditional territorial defense were considered important aspects of mutual cooperation.
The Gurgura as a nationality group have steadily proclaimed their identity including those with whom they are legitimately affiliated as a coherent social group. The historical role played by traditional Gurgura communities in bringing the cultural interactions between their neighboring af-Somali speaking cousins to the north and afaan-Oromo speaking cousins to the south, together placed them, with respect to the peripheries, in a natural position to blend into the subsequent adjacent communities.
The Gurgura people share in language, icligion. custom, and traditional rural tribal systems, but these traits might not have prevented their total absorption into another ethnic group, if they had not solidly occupied a territory, which is their own genuine homeland. The traditional territorial claims and historical locations with which they are identified include the area of the region surrounding Dire Dawa, the inner city, and much of its outskirts.