Ebisa Adunya

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Musical artist

Ebisa Adunya (circa 1970 – August 30, 1996) was an Oromo musician, poet, singer-songwriter, Oromo nationalist, political activist and member of the Oromo Liberation Front. A distinguished Oromo singer, he devoted himself to the development of the Oromo identy during a time when many of the Oromo people were undergoing an identity-crisis. He is credited for promoting Oromo culture and music. He was a fierce Oromo nationalist and he fought in the Ethiopian Civil War alongside the Oromo Liberation Army, the armed wing of the Oromo Liberation Front which was fighting for the self-determination of the Oromo people. Many of his songs were about the organization and the hope it presented for the Oromo people. In 1991, the Oromo Liberation Front, allied with the Ethiopian People's Revolutionary Democratic Front, defeated the communist Derg regime but soon after, the two organizations fell out of each other's favours. By 1994, the Oromo Liberation Front had fallen back into the country-sides to wage a guerrilla war against the EPRDF. Ebisa Adunya, however, did not join the OLF and instead chose to stay in Addis Abeba, the capital city of Ethiopia. Nevertheless, he continued to wage a nonviolent resistance through his songs. In 1996, while he was at his home, a group of government soldiers knocked on his door asking him to come, saying it was for reasons regarding his job. Shortly after he let them in, he and his friend, Tana Wayessa, were shot and dragged on to government cars to be taken to the morgue. His death forever turned him into a martyr and a symbol of the struggle for independence of Oromia (the Oromo homeland).


Early life

Ebisa Adunya was born in Dembidolo, southwest of the Western Wallaga region of Oromia. With two younger brothers and three sisters, Ebisa was the eldest son in his family. He was a very respected young person because of his talents in soccer and music. He attended Oliiqaa Dingil Primary School, Qellem High School, and then passed the national examination for Higher Education to attend a university.

Joining the OLF

In 1991, while Ebisa was waiting for admission to a university, the military regime of Ethiopia was overthrown by OLF, EPRDF, and EPLF forces. In Ebbisa’s hometown of Dembidollo, OLF forces had set up a strong military base. At that time, Ebbisa was very aware of the deteriorating Oromo condition and the need for self-determination for the Oromo people; hence, to support the Oromo struggle for national determination, he joined the OLF. He was trained to be a cadre (Dabballee), and being exceptional at that, he became a Dabballee/cadre trainer in the Dembi Dollo OLF military camp.

But beyond his abilities within the military, Ebbisa was also musically talented; he played many instruments and was a gifted vocalist. Because of this, he joined the OLF music band and played a significant role in pushing forth Oromo culture, music, and identity. Throughout 1991 and 1992, Ebissa travelled through various regions within Oromia (the south, southwest, center, and western) to perform and sing; his songs were not only cultural, but they were revolutionary. They were songs that strongly emphasized the sufferings of the Oromo people and ways through which the Oromo people should demand justice.

Portrait of Ebisa Adunya


After the OLF went underground and its leaders where banished from the country, he continued to sing about the criminal activities that the Ethiopian government was heavily engaging in. He was publicly vocal about the Ethiopian regime’s terrorist tactics against the Oromo people and continued to also support the Oromo Liberation Army (OLA). Due to his actions he became a target of the government and was eventually assassinated by government agents. The assassination took place in Ebisa's house in the north of the American Embassy in Addis Ababa. Gunmen burst into his house and him and his friend, Tana Wayessa, were both shot. Eyewitnesses claimed the bodies were dragged from the house and put in a Land Rover with a government license plate. The security men, who carried out the murders, first cleared the street. Residents who looked out of their houses after the gunfire were told to get back indoors. The bodies were recovered by their families the next day from the morgue at the Menelik II hospital. The government later released a statement saying that the killing had been a mistake and that the target was Tana Wayessa.


To many Oromos, Ebisa is a martyr, a legend and the symbol of Oromo nationalism.