ሻሸመኔ (Amharic), Shashemane (Oromo)

Main Street Shashamane

Location within Ethiopia

Coordinates: ET 7°12′N 38°36′E / 7.200°N 38.600°E / 7.200; 38.600
Country Ethiopia
Region Oromia
Zone Mirab Arsi
Population (2012)
  Total 122,046
Time zone EAT (UTC+3)

Shashamane (or Shashemene, Oromo) is a town and a separate woreda in West Arsi Zone, Oromia Region, Ethiopia. The town lies on the Trans-African Highway 4 Cairo-Cape Town, about 150 miles (240 km) from the capital of Addis Ababa. It has a latitude of 7° 12' north and a longitude of 38° 36' east.

The 2007 national census reported a total population for this town of 100,454, of whom 50,654 were men and 49,800 were women. A plurality of the inhabitants practiced Ethiopian Orthodox Christianity, with 43.44% of the population reporting they observed this belief, while 31.15% of the population said they were Muslim, 23.53% of the population were Protestant, and 1.3% were Catholic[1]

The 1994 national census reported this town had a total population of 52,080 of whom 25,426 were males and 26,654 were females.

The resort of Wondo Genet lies near Shashamane, as does the Senkele Wildlife Sanctuary.



In April 1941 the Italian troops retreating from Harar, Somalia and Shoa, concentrated in Shashamane after suffering several attacks by the British Army, R.A.F. and Ethiopian arbegnochs. The British troops arrived at the beginning of May and the line of the Italian defense was held by Infantry and Artillery battalions on Little Dadaba river. On May 10 started an intensive shelling between South African and Indian artilleries on one side (supported by Hurricane planes) and the Italian artillery, on the other. After two days of reciprocal bombardment, on May 13 the British attacked with Natal Mounted Rifles, King's African Rifles, anti-tank rifles, mortars, tanks and armoured cars. Since Lieut. Col. Noel Douglas McMillan became ill, the attack was led by Major Leonard Montague Harris. The Italian 12th Colonial Somali Battalion (commanded by Major Gioacchino Nadalini), reinforced by Black Shirts, and the Artillery Battalion (commanded by Lieut. Col. Nicolò Bonessa), reinforced by tankettes, an A.A. battery, machine gunners and infantrymen, were overwhelmed. Most of the Italian officers died on the battlefield, as well as both cited commanders.

Rastafari and Shashamane

Twelve Tribes of Israel headquarters in Shashamane

In 1948 Emperor Haile Selassie I donated 500 acres (2.0 km2) of his private land to allow members of the Rastafari movement, Ethiopian World Federation (EWF) officers and members and other settlers from Jamaica and other parts of the Caribbean to go to Africa. The return would be under the auspices of the EWF, founded in 1937 by the emperor's special emissary to Black America, Melaku E. Bayen.[2] The official letter confirming the "land grant" of 1948 was submitted to the members and executives of the Ethiopian World Federation in 1955.[3] Following up on this, the first West Indian family and Federation members from Montserrat were Mr. James Piper and his wife Helen who arrived that same year as the first land grant administrators, returning to make a permanent settlement in 1955 on behalf of the federation.[4]

In 1961, the Jamaican government sent a delegation composed of both Rastafari and non-Rastafari leaders to Ethiopia to discuss the matter of repatriation, among other issues, with the emperor. He reportedly told the Rastafari delegation, "Tell the Brethren to be not dismayed, I personally will give my assistance in the matter of repatriation".[5] The first actual Rastafari brother and fellow settler, Gladstone Robinson, who was also an official delegate of the EWF, was sent to Shashemene on behalf of the organization in June 1964, followed by Papa Noel Dyer, who hitchhiked and found his way to Ethiopia from England, eventually arriving in September 1965. Mr. Robinson, however, would later be duly appointed as the land grant administrator by the federation executive council in 1967 thus replacing Mr. Piper and his wife in Ethiopia.[6]

On his 1966 visit to Jamaica, Haile Selassie reportedly encouraged Rastafari leaders to repatriate to Shashemene, but stressed that there was still important work to do in liberating Jamaica. It was within a couple of years that a moderate trickle of Rastafari immigrants began, with the population swelling past 2000 at one point. In fact, it was reported in 2004 that their numbers had dwindled from more than 2,000 to fewer than 300 according to a recent CNN Interview with Dr. Robinson and other Rastafari settlers.[7]

It is said that Haile Selassie stopped his imperial motorcade when passing the Shashemene settlement once around 1968, got out, and asked "Where are my people?" Local Rastafari stepped forth and replied "Here we are Your Majesty, here we are" and "Hail to the Lord’s Anointed Great David’s Greater Son here in this time appointed his reign on earth begun", bowing profusely. He asked them if there was anything they wanted, and they replied, "We want to stay here your Majesty". The emperor then responded, "Really, well why not, why not? Let them stay."[8] One Rastafari resident on the land for nearly forty years says "he's not going anywhere."[7]

On 23 August 1969, Rastafari settlers petitioned Emperor Haile Selassie I for Ethiopian citizenship and other benefits. A few weeks later, the Jamaican Daily Gleaner reported that EWF members in Jamaica left for Ethiopia on September 5 to develop the settlement.

After leaders of both Jamaican political parties, Hugh Shearer and Michael Manley, each paid visits to the community in September 1969, Selassie himself again visited and, according to EWF #37 leader Mortimer Planno, cautioned them against bringing Jamaican politics to Ethiopia. The following year, the Imperial Court ordered ten hectares apiece to be parceled out to twelve "pioneer" Rastafari settlers, as reported in The Gleaner on September 5, 1970.[9]

According to the EWF, Selassie again paid a visit on 1 October 1970, asking to speak to the then land grant administrator, James Piper, who was not a Rastafari. Piper declined to appear, claiming it was his Sabbath. This resulted in a change in administration at the settlement. It is reported that due to this and other incidents, Mr. Robinson replaced the Pipers as administrators the land prior to the Derg revolution. In his own words, the former international president[10] of the Ethiopian World Federation is reported in Paul Theroux's book Dark Star Safari: Overland from Cairo to Cape Town to have said, "After I had joined the Ethiopian World Federation, I was put in charge of repatriation".[11]

However, because of the "anti-organization" sentiments of many Rastas of that day, the federation's official authority was compromised. Many created other organizations, entities and groups in attempts to further deal with their own ways and means of repatriation. For example, one of the Rasta settlers, Clifton Baugh, was a main representative for the Rasta community in palace discussions on the land grant with minister Ato Tesfi, and Baugh also continually delivered the first fruits of their produce to the palace in Addis right up until 1974 when stopped by the Derg Revolution.[12]

When Haile Selassie I was deposed in 1974 the new government of Mengistu Haile Mariam confiscated all but eleven hectares.

In January 2005 there were reports in the media that Bob Marley's remains were to be exhumed and reburied at Shashamane. His wife Rita Marley described Ethiopia as his spiritual home, provoking controversy in Jamaica, where his remains still lie. The following month, thousands of fans gathered in Shashamane for a month of celebrations for what would have been Marley's 60th birthday. Until 2005 his birthday celebrations were always held in Jamaica. These recent events brought Shashamane to wider prominence throughout the world.

The Rastafari settlement in Shashamane was recently reported to exceed two hundred individuals.[13] In January 2007 the settlers organized an exhibition and a bazaar in the city. It was also reported recently prior to the Ethiopian millennium that various pro-Ethiopian World Federation groups, consisting of indigenous Ethiopians and Rastafari, have given support to one of many five-year plans proposed for sustainable development of Shashamene, Ethiopia.[14]

Mayors of Shashemene.

Dhaba Benti. Shimelis Hailu. Demissie Shito. Feyissa Regassa.


  1. 2007 Population and Housing Census of Ethiopia: Results for Oromia Region, Vol. 1, Tables 2.1, 2.5, 3.4 (accessed 13 January 2012)
  2. by Ayele Bekerie, Tadias Magazine
  3. by Ras Nathaniel
  4. "Dr. Melaku E. Bayen: Ethiopian Emissary to Black America". Ethiopian World Federation. Archived from the original on 2008-12-07. Retrieved 2011-09-13.
  5. The Rastafarians by Leonard E. Barrett
  6. - "EWF Presents Its Charter & Early Rastafari Leaders"
  7. 1 2 - INSIDE AFRICA, voiceover narrated by SEEMA MATHUR, CNN CORRESPONDENT
  8. Welcome to Sheshemane at Habte Wold's Ethiopian Insight
  9. Repatriation in the context of NEPAD, citing Carole Yawney, Exodus: Rastafari, Repatriation, and the African Renaissance (2001).
  10. - From Babylon to Rastafari: Origin and History of the Rastafarian Movement - Page 123
  11. - pg 136 of Dark Star Safari: Overland from Cairo to Cape Town By Paul Theroux
  12. Welcome to Sheshemane
  13. Jamaican Rastafarian Development Community website
  14. - Ethiopian World Federation Ethiopian Millennium website

1. The Case of Melaku E. Bayen & John Robinson - Tadias Magazine

Template:Woredas of the West Arsi Zone Coordinates: 7°12′N 38°36′E / 7.200°N 38.600°E / 7.200; 38.600

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