Jimma was founded by Aba Jifar, who was the descendant of one of the five kings in the former Gibe Kingdom. It is believed that Aba Megal, the ancestor of Aba Jifar, was elected by the other four Gibe kings to be their spokesman when dealing with the central government. No one really knows how the Aba Megal family became the 'representative' of the Gibe kings rather than only their spokesman. This gradually diminished the importance of the other four kings.
The Aba Jifar family played a very important role in spreading Islam to that part of the country. As a result Jimma, is the center of learning for the muslims of the western Ethiopia.
Although Jimma is the center of trade, the actual palace of Aba Jifar is at a small town called 'Jiren' some 15kms north of Jimma.
While almost all the residents of Jiren are Muslim Oromos, more than 80% of the residents of Jimma are peoples from the neighboring ethnic groups such as the Dawro, Kafficho, Janjero, etc., who are predominantly Christian.
Jimma was redesigned by the Italians during the Italian Invasion. Although the city was modeled after the Italian city of Napoli, the Italians used to call it 'piccolo Roma', the little Rome.
Jimma may have somewhat lost its luster and past glories, but it is still a commercial city that passes through most of the coffee brands coming from that region.
Moreover, the region of Kaffa is universally recognized to be the origin of coffee, which is correctly termed the 'green gold'. This name is a very fitting one in the case of Ethiopia, as coffee is responsible for the largest portion of its annual revenue.