For centuries, a powerful Oromo monarchy ruled the surrounding fertile highlands from its capital at Jiren (now a suburb of present-day Jimma). The region owed its wealth to its position at the crux of several major trade routes and to its abundant crops. At its height, the kingdom stretched over 13,000 sq km. When Menelik came to power in the late 1800s, he required the region to pay high tribute.
When the Italians entered the picture in the 1930s, they had grand plans to create a modern city in the heart of Ethiopia’s breadbasket and Jimma was subsequently born from Jiren. Neither Italian rule nor the grand plans lasted long.