Today let us remember our unsung hero Dejach Hailu Kebede (posthumously made general) – a hero of both Adwa and the second Italian invasion
Dejach Haylu Kebede is a descendant of the ancient Zagwe dynasty, who gave us the churches of Lalibela and perfected and fine tuned Amarigna for us. As a youngster he led an army from Seqota, Wag during the battle of Adwa in 1896, and fought bravely and captured a battalion of enemy troops and became one of the most celebrated leaders of the battlefield.
After the battle of Adwa, he retired from public service to devote his life to religious contemplation. But when this lion knew about the second Italian invasion of his country in 1936, he responded to the cry of his holy country. He rallied his people of Wag around him and defeated the Italian army in the battle of Tembien and liberated Abiy Adi. This was a shocking defeat for the Italians. This was the defeat that led to their starting to use carpet bobbing of villages and use of mustard gas dropped from the air.With huge mustard gas bomb, 500 tones of mustard gas was used against civilians and the Ethiopian army. Each bomb spread of deadly bomb drops on an ellipse about 500/800 meters by 100/200 meters. The effects lasted for days: for this reason, mustard gas was used only far from the front, so it does not hit the Italian soldiers. Unfortunately, Dejach Haylu was killed in one of these bombings. When the Italians discovered the dead body of their enemy, these cruel barbarians cut his head to parade it as their trophy and discourage our people. Afterwards, the head was put in ice and flown to Rome for Mussolini’s and his bunch of inhuman beasts to enjoy.
This brave man twice our hero was made a General posthumously by the Emperor upon liberation. Other than this there is nothing done to commemorate this brave son of our country! Nothing! Unfortunately we are eager to celebrate foreigners who have made some minor contributions or nothing at all with statues, roads and squares named after them when we have totally abandoned the names and memories of those who gave up their lives so that we can live in freedom. What has Winston Churchill done for our country to have the longest road in Addis Named after him? And what had DeGaul done to have a square named after him….and the surprise of all travesties…why did we ever at one time boast of erecting the biggest statue of the monstrous beast Lenin in our capital city…….why are we trying to bury our heroes and our history and celebrate the heroes of others? Why have we developed this slave mentality of vanquished and totally subjugated people, when we in fact enjoyed freedom from domination because of heroes like Dejach Hailu Kebede. I can only say, shame on this generation of vipers and spittle lickers.
Lieutenant General Hailu Kebede – The First Ethiopian General
Born in a locality called “Gereb Qhola” in Ofla Wereda, Dejazmach Hailu Kebede was the governer of Wag Awraja with its capital at Korem, Ofla-Raya. During the battle of Adwa, he led the forces of Wag with bravery and heroism. It is said that he was able to apprehend more than 400 Italian soldiers.
During the second Italian Invasion, he mobilized and led his Ofla-Wag army, to heroically defeat Italians at the Battle of Temben and liberated Abi Adi town from the invaders. This disastrous defeat led Mussolini to use an internationally banned and sanctioned Mustard gas against the Ethiopian patriots.
When Hailesellasie fled to England, Dejach Hailu continued to wage a resistance army from his base in Ofla-Wag area. Eventually, with a German made fighter jet, the Italians managed to kill him. After his death, in a place named “Weleh” near Sekota city, the Italians decapitated his head and took it to Rome, while they threw away the rest of the body in a cliff named “Gudguda” located near Sekota. However, farmers in the surrounding area found and recognized the body of Dejach Hailu and buried it. After the defeat of the Italians, he was given honorary proper burial and a final resting place at ” Debre Genet Medhanialem” in Sekota. In recognizing his heroism, the Ethiopian government gave him the title Lieutenant General which makes him the first to get this title in the country’s history. The publishers of the Ethiopian Times USA, Joseph and Faris Gessese, are the great grandsons of General Hailu Kebede.