Introduction / History The Argobba are one of the Semitic-speaking peoples, and their language is part of the south Semitic group of languages.
The data provided by knowledgeable elders in all the areas inhabited by the Argobba indicate that there are three different versions on the origin of this people. The first version holds that when the Arab clan known as Benew Imeya lost its ruling power to another clan 800 years ago and dispersed throughout the world, it came also to Ethiopia. The second version holds that when a dispute arose between the Prophet Muhammad and the followers of other religions, eighty-two followers of the Prophet came to Ethiopia to Ahmed Nejash carrying a letter asking him to accept Islam. After having delivered the letter, they came to Yifat and settled there. The third version on the origin of the Argobba differs from the previous two. According to this version, the Argobba are not immigrants, but an ancient and indigenous people who accepted Islam very early from religious leaders who came from Arabia.
The elders give various reasons for the migration of the Argobba from the center of the country to different regions. Among the chief reasons they cite, are the forcible conversion to Christianity that the Emperor Yohannes tried to impose, and the problems caused to them during the era of Lij Iyassu, the fascist Occupation, and by the troops of ras Abebe. They maintain that migrations took place during these periods. When we observe the movements made and the settlements chosen, we see that the Argobba selected well-watered and hilly areas which they cleared for cultivation. Once settled, they engaged in agriculture and weaving. The elders explained the matter thus, and it has been possible to confirm their account of village settlements from field observation.
Argobba is a name used for both the ethnic groups and the language. The name is related to the historical origin and settlement of the ethnic group. There is one point on which all the elders knowledgeable about the people's history and culture, agree. In all the areas studied and according to all the elders, the name Argobba is derived from the Amharic phrase Arab gebba ("Arabs came"). On the other hand, the term Argobba has a variety of significations when we examine written documents. In this regard, if we look under thethe entry Argobba in Kesate Birhan's Amharic Dictionary, we find that it gives as its meaning a woreda in Yifat which is inhabited by Muslims. From this definition, we understand two basic points: one, that argobba is the name of a place or territory, and, two, that it is an area inhabited by followers of Islam who are called Argobba. Of scholars who have made a study of the history, culture, and language of the Argobba people, one is Volker Stitz. In his study entitled "The Argobba of Western Yifat, Central Ethiopia", he writes that the term Argobba refers to the people who speak Argobbigna, follow Islam, and engage in agriculture, weaving, or commerce and that it excludes Muslim Oromo and Afar herders, or the Christian Amhara who are cultivators.
Where are they located? On the basis of the new administrative division, the people are found spread in the Amhara, Afar, Oromiya, and Harari Regions.
Amhara National Region
The Argobba live in the following villages of the sub-district of Argobba, Aallu woreda, Debub Wollo zone: Feteqoma, Areranechro, Chomiye, Medina and Afeso. In the Oromiya zone of the same region, they live in the villages of Shonke, Toleha, Jile & Timuga, Artuma, Farsi, Isye Gola, Chefa Gola and Dewe. In the Semen Shoa zone, they live in the villages of the environs of Shoa Robit, Goze Berasageze, Mafad and Aliyu Amba.
Afar National Region
The Argobba live in zone 3 in the special district of Gachene in the villages of Suf Ager, Abale, Belai Meteqleia, Betach Meteqleia, Bilo, Chesa, Debreko, Koka Begweze, Work Amba, Maqo Amba, and Cheno. In Fentale they live in the towns of Awash and Metahara, while in Amibara woreda , they live in Melka Werer.
Oromiya National Region
They live in four woreda in two zones. In the Eastern Hararge Zone, they live in Fedis woreda in the villages of Gureqere, Afeyzero, Issaqoi, Ishiye, Genda Adem, Atero, Urde, Adasha, Qaleya, Adadi, Shanqo, Umere, Hajigoda, Berofife, Areda, Gendagara, Gutush, Nure Kliche, Arer Hamero, Fekati, Sadiqo Berbère, Roriso, Qelad, Qululut, Towiko, Ademrare, Umerkelle, Bereda, Adamhakola, and Qumash. In Mieso woreda of Western Hararge zone, they live in the environs of the towns of Bordede, Asebot, and Mieso, in Lega Arba kebele of Chiro woreda, and in the villages of Cheleqleqa, Fera, Besse, Adaele, Gedamba, Boradiya, Chorora and Bedey of Anchar & Gurba Qorcha woreda.
Harari National Region
The Argobba live in Hundane woreda in the villages of Koreme, Umerdin, Halilo, Eledi, Werarawa, Alela, Afer Deba, and Qaqi.
On account of their geographical spread in the various regions, the Argobba are thus found to be living as neighbours of the Amhara, Afar, Oromo, and Harari peoples. The climate and vegetation is that of qolla, woina dega, and dega. According to the 1984 census, the population of Argobba was 60,412.
References Hailu Tesfaye. History and culture of the Argobba: recent investigations. In: Annales d'Ethiopie. Volume 16, année 2000. pp. 195-206.