Shashamene (pronounced Sha-sha-mene) is a town in the Southern Region of the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia in Oromia State roughly 150 miles from the Capital City of Addis Ababa. Located in the Rift Valley at an altitude of 2000 feet, the area is famous for its fertile land and lies on both sides of the Kings’ Highway, leading to Moyale, Kenya. Originally established as a garrison town, Shashamane dates back to the beginning of the nineteenth century. The name was derived from a famous Oromo lady named “Shashe”, who operated a famous Rest Stop/Shop named ‘Mene’ in the area.
This small village near the District Town of Malkoda gained international attention in the African Diaspora in 1948, when 500 Acres of its fertile land was granted as a gift to the black people of the West, by His Imperial Majesty Emperor Haile Selassie I, the reigning Ethiopian Monarch, for their massive support to Ethiopia during the Italian occupation of 1935-1941.
Ethiopia had been the only African Country that was never colonized and a symbol of African dignity, freedom and independence. The Italian invasion of 1935 ignited Pan-African fervor and sparked massive demonstrations among African descendants throughout the Diaspora and massive support was solicited on Ethiopia’s behalf, to secure the independence of this torchbearer of African freedom and dignity.
In appreciation of the efforts of the African Diaspora to preserve Ethiopia’s freedom and sovereignty, Emperor Haile Selassie I, through the Ethiopian World Federation, Inc., promulgated this gift of land in 1948, known as the Shashamene-Malkoda Land Grant, given exactly seven years after the liberation of Ethiopia and His return from exile in 1941.
Between 1952 and 1974, approximately 22 families from Jamaica repatriated to Shashamene to take up the offer of the land grant. Subsequently, descendants of Africans, mainly from the Caribbean and the U.S., and U.K. have been arriving. In 1975, the Dergue Communist Government nationalized all lands in Ethiopia, including the land grant. With the intercession of the Jamaican Government, a much reduced parcel of the Land-Grant was later returned to the early Settlers, whose ranks have since grown to become the largest African-Caribbean Community in Africa today.
THE JAMAICA RASTAFARIAN DEVELOPMENT COMMUNITY (JRDC)
In 1991, following seventeen Years of War and Strife during which, the Rastafarians and Settlers in Shashamene were faced with day-to-day survival, a change of Government occurred, ushering in a new era of hope and optimism.
In order to represent the collective interest of the Community to the Ethiopian Authorities, the Jamaica Rastafarian Development Community (JRDC) was inaugurated on December 15, 1992, as a democratically-elected representative body. This has since evolved into a non-profit Community organization registered with the Ethiopian Government, as a local non-governmental organization. They have proposed with the assistance of their overseas partners, to contribute to the development of the Community and to participate in the improvement and welfare of the population of the Region as a whole.
In Ethiopia, it is on the basis of a specific Project Proposal of development that the NGO status is granted to an organization. The approved Proposal of JRDC’s is for the establishment of the Shashamene Education, Skills Training and Recreation Center, the first phase of which is the JRDC Kindergarten and Elementary School.
JRDC Executives with Mayor of Shashamane 2006
JRDC and EWF with President of the Oromia State (in center) 2006
Shashamane Foundation Fundraising Committee