Kingdom of Janjero

Kingdom of Janjero (Yem)
c.15th century–1894
Capital Fofa
Religion Christianity
Government Monarchy
   Established c.15th century
   Annexed by Ethiopian Empire 1894
Succeeded by
Ethiopian Empire

The Kingdom of Janjero (also known as Yamma) was a tiny kingdom located in what is now Ethiopia. It lay in the angle formed by the Omo and the Jimma Gibe Rivers; to the west lay the Kingdom of Jimma and to the south the Kingdom of Garo. Three mountains — Mount Bor Ama, Mount Azulu and Mount Toba — all distinguish the location of the former kingdom.


Although one of the Sidamo kingdoms, until its conquest in 1894 Janjero was "isolated, and had little to do with its neighbors, its rivers being very difficult to cross. Although first visited by Europeans in 1614, until the late 1950s this region remained poorly known to outsiders. As a result, its people were said to have preserved a number of "customs so barbarious and strange that there cannot be any more so."[1]

Some of these alleged customs are as follows:[2]


Janjero is first mentioned in a victory song of Yeshaq I, as one of several states south of the Abay River that paid tribute in horses to the Emperor.[4] The first kings of Janjero belonged to the Halmam Gama dynasty, which was ejected by the Mwa clan, who claimed to have come from the north.

In 1614, Father António Fernandes visited the kingdom while looking for a southern route to Malindi on the Indian Ocean. Father Fernandes met the king of Janjero, and found him

according to Custom in a fort of rail'd Tower, about six Yards high, liittle more or less, 7 Yards and a half over, as we shall see anon, and the Stairs up to it in the back Part. All the courtiers stood below, and he on the top of the Elevation, which was not unlike a Cart Wheel, sitting on a Carpet, and there it is he gives Audience, decides Controversies, and dispatches all Business. He was clad in a white Silk Indian Garment, and was himself as black as Cole, but had not the Features of a Cafre.[5]

In 1844, warriors of the Kingdom of Jimma defeated the army of Janjero, and the king of Janjero was taken prisoner. He regained his freedom in 1847, and resumed his struggle against his more powerful neighbor.[6]

Jimma conquered part of Janjero in the 1880s. The rest of the kingdom was annexed in the reign of Menelik II in 1894, and its last king, Abba Bagibo, fled to the Gurage country, but eventually made his submission to Emperor Menelik. His son Abba Chabsa became a Christian, and adopted the name Gabra Madhen, and served the Ethiopian who held the fief.

During the reorganization of the provinces in 1942, the former kingdom was absorbed to become part of the Kaffa Province. However, with the new constitution of 1995, the area Janjero once occupied became the Yem Special Woreda, which was added to the Southern Nations, Nationalities, and Peoples Region to form the enclave of the Region west of the Omo River.


  1. G.W.B. Huntingford, The Galla of Ethiopia; the Kingdoms of Kafa and Janjero (London: International African Institute, 1955), p. 137
  2. Based on Huntingford, Galla of Ethiopia, pp. 137-144.
  3. According to Balthazar Tellez, this was the same custom "practis'd among Monkeys, who being once wounded either destroy themselves, or are kill'd by the rest, for they never give over licking, scratching, and clawing the Hurt, till theytear out their Bowels, or otherwise occasion their own Death." (The Travels of the Jesuits in Ethiopia, 1710 [LaVergue: Kessinger, 2010], p. 197)
  4. G.W.B. Huntingford, The historical geography of Ethiopia from the first century AD to 1704, (Oxford University Press: 1989), p. 94
  5. Téllez, Travels, p. 194 [sic; the page number should properly be 195]
  6. Mordechai Abir, The era of the princes: the challenge of Islam and the re-unification of the Christian empire, 1769-1855 (London: Longmans, 1968), pp. 91f

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