A Gonga song from the Kafa Highlands of south­ west Ethiopia. During the mid-nineteenth century, according to tradition, the Kafa king asked his people to prepare for war against the Gimma, a powerful sultanate on their northern borders. The people refused to fight, saying:

The king, his wives and his children are not going to battle to die, but we and our children and our soldiers are! We fought the Gamira, the Sekacco, and Kullo, the Gobo and the Galla. We do not wish to fight any more. Our sons and we ourselves will die but the king’s sons and wives will not die.

As a result, the new war was avoided and the Kafa king paid tribute to the Gimma.

If we do not present the Gimma with big bulls,
Large steers, beautiful concubines, ivory and slaves,
They will come and take out our eyes!
They will come and finish us!
Let the house of Gimma be ruined.
If they come they will use their guns:
If they come who will stand up bravely to their guns?
King, let the Gimma have big bulls,
Large steers, beautiful concubines, ivory and slaves.
If this is not done,
The Gobo and other foreigners will destroy us!
They will come and take out our eyes!
They will come and finish us.
Let the house of Gimma be ruined!
Let the Gimma suffer in their bellies!
If they come they will use their guns:
If they come who will stand up bravely to their guns?

from Oral Poetry from Africa (1984)
Compiled by Jack Mapanje and Landeg White