Kebri-dehar: From a Military Base to a hub for institutions of higher education (Ahmed Deeq Hussein)
This note is sought to look back to the historical background of Kebri-dahar, which is known to be one of the oldest towns in Somali Region of Ethiopia. Kebri Dahar is well known with military camps, since European colonial era in Ethiopia. The Kebri-dahar first military camp was established in 1931, and described as soldier’s camp by Italian colony during Italian occupation (encyclopedia).
Similarly, former Ethiopian rulers such as emperor Hailesellasie and his successor the dergue military junta led by Mingistu HaileMariam were also considered as a strategic military base. In view of its military strategic and geographical location of being the epicenter of the region, made it a pertinent location to monitor military activities in the region and military operations performed beyond Ethiopian border.
In this regard, Kebri-dahar was recognized as military garrison, which commended for all military operations in the region and beyond. it is only the current federal government and Somali regional state of Ethiopia—that give better strategic important for developmental aspects in terms of socio-economic, education, health care and livestock in accordance to developmental policies of the country like MDG, PASDAP, GTP 1 and 2 for more than ever before.
Kebri-dahar is centrally located and has boundaries with most of zones and major cities of the region. therefore, it seems the decision made by the higher officials of regional state to laid-dawn foundation stone of second university of the region in Kebri-dahar, might be based on two important strategic priorities: first and foremost in connection with its historical background of military camps—that would change the broader political image of local, national, regional and international community.
Second it’s geographical and epicenter location of Kebri-dahar town; with assumption students would have easy access to university during academics and possible distance, all-weather asphalted road and affordable transportation connections during vacation to return back their homes.
The decision endorsed to make Kebri-Dahar second university of the region may have dual broader implications as above indicated first from political point of view through changing a long historic soldiers camps into university & colleges. This could change the deep rooted political images for the people of the region. Who might have negatively perceived bad image towards military camps likewise, transforming the camps into education learning environments may leads the people of the region to develop a positive perception, and attitude towards Ethiopia government. This is a very meaningful and tangible ideological results for entire nation.
In 1991 G.c. after the political change of Ethiopia country took place and reborn a new Ethiopia which is ethnic based federalism government led by EPRDF, and ensured the basic rights, equity and equality for all Ethiopian people, nation & nationalities—that governed by 1995 national constitution of Ethiopia which clearly stated the political powers of national government, regional states and two council administrations (Addis Ababa & Dire Dawa), that make up the Federal Democrat Republic of Ethiopia.
This political change gave a better political, economic and developmental opportunities for all Ethiopian, particularly, those nations subjugated by Derge regime like people of Somali region.
It was worth noting that, In 1994 G.c. when armed rebel groups such as ONLF (known as UBBO in local context) & Al-etahad Islamist declared a war against a newly born federalism government of Ethiopia. Thus the political opportunities for people of the region was misdirected & hijacked into wrong side by the ONLF. Disregarding, the people of the region affected by Somalia civil war in 1990s, tribal conflicts and severe draughts which caused severe malnutrition and death for people and livestock.
The region started a new phase of political & security challenges which negatively affected by the innocent civilians. However, ONLF and Al-etahad Islamist were the most troublesome anti-government armed rebels caused a mass grave and fresh hostile environment. This made impossible the region to attain basic social services, carry out development programs and resulted lagging behind from other region of the country, due to security related threats.
With an intention to find sustainable solutions for the long standing and complicated security concerns of the region. Regional state established its own special force known as Liyu police with aim of stabilizing the region and protecting the people of the region in 2008 G.c. therefore, Liyu police and Ethiopian defense force southeast division struggled against armed anti-security insurgent groups such as (ONLF and Al-Etihad Al-Islam), and held a tight heroic hands with total defeat and entire region is secured with a reliable security for region’s development and Kebri-dahar is part of it.
Nevertheless; the political instabilities and security overwhelming in the region impeded all developmental infrastructures across the region. Hence, the Liyu Police ensured reliable people throughout region the Somali regional state and federal government determined to emphasize in development as top of priority agenda such as infrastructures, telecommunication, roads, basic social services, good governance, political stability and peace etc.
The government is striving to build up human capital, produce young generation and educated work forces who are equipped with modern knowledge through investing education learning facilities including higher education institutions (university and colleges). This will better serve the fight against the darkness of the ignorance and backwardness
So that, several historic military camps in Kebri-dahar town were evacuated and handed over to regional state and changed into developmental and higher education learning environment. Therefore, high level officials of federal government and regional state led by deputy prime minister of Ethiopia his excellence Mr. Damake Makonen and Somali regional state president, his excellence Mr. Abdi Mohamoud Omar laid down Kebri-dahar University stone foundation on April, 9, 2015 G.c.
Further, there are other big developmental projects in the Kebri-dahar city such as Health science college, Teacher training college, poly technique training college, and Kebri Dahar high school type A which are the parts of Kebri-dahar military camps transformed into higher education learning institutions and international airport of 2.5 Km runway concrete asphalt with standard terminal. All these projects are invested regional state its own budget and internal revenue.
What makes unique and historic achievements—that deserves to acknowledge is that of from military camps into higher learning and developmental projects; is very dramatic, fundamental and radical changes. Which turned into a new historic and golden page for the people of the region—that witnessed by the people of the region, other Ethiopian nations and international community.
Trends:-As I remember before the current ethnic based Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia, students of Somali region had not had an opportunity to learn and attend high school class because our highest class was grade 8th in the almost all major towns and zones except Jig-jiga had one high school throughout the region. This attributed students of Somali region to drop out after grade 8th exam due to in access to attend high school classes’ almost all except few students around Jig-jiga.
Our student in Somali region missed opportunity to proceed their education, as a result of access limitations. Though there were a very few exceptional students, like those their families affordable their cost of expenses to continue attending high school classes somewhere else like Harar Medihailem high school. Can we imagine? How much they suffer with distance, economic burden for the families to cover a monthly accommodation costs of students for food, shelter, school materials, and clothes etc. it was really painful for parents & students when resource of family might be too much limited. There were also extreme discrimination and morally traumatized by the preceding oppressor’s regime of Derge.
Misfortune, the people of region were purely pastoralism their sources of income were based on livestock, where there was no animal marketing, not any other source of income, no government employees, no remittance money transfer from relative in abroad, nor business and trading. The only means—that the government were used to support people was unstable dry rashin distribution through RRC. Thus we may have some mental picture how it look like exact trends of Somali students before EPRDF government.
Therefore, Kebri-Dahar University foundation stone was laid down on April, 9, 2015 G.C. by high level officials from both the Federal and Regional Government. These higher officials were led by Deputy Prime Minister of Ethiopia, His Excellency, Mr. Damake Makonen and the Ethiopian Somali Regional State President, His Excellency, Mr. Abdi Mohamoud Omar.
This extraordinary and meaningful event was attended by members of the executive and central committee of the ruling party of the Somali Region (ESPDP), regional state cabinet members, zonal and woredas administration heads, federal government ministers, such as Minster of Education, traditional & community leaders, religious leaders, diaspora, public figures, academics, women and youth organizations, and regional community members. The people of Kebri-Dahar had a chance to be present during this historic day which became a new page for the people of the region and the country Ethiopia.
Furthermore, several projects are expected to be constructed as part of the second phase of Growth and Transformation Plan (GTPII). Some of them are Gode Sugar Factory, an asphalt road from Gode to Ferfer, border of Somalia, Hamaro Hydroelectric Power project (which is expected to generate electricity to fulfill the full demand of the entire region)
The laying of a foundation stone for Kebri-Dahar University has an economic, social and political implications both locally and internationally. As it disproves the long history of European colonial ideologies, that classified the Somali Region as a “reserve area” (even though it remains unclear why and for whom was the region reserved).
Those European colonialists used to characterize the region as a “disputed area/region” based of the assumptions of “Greater Somalia” which has no basic rationale. This wrong conclusion was deliberately originated because of the identical life style and language of the people in the region. That why we say the so called assumption of Greater Somalia movement was misunderstood and manipulated. We, the inhabitants of this region were exclusively part of Ethiopia not Somalia.
Highly respected elders from this region have voted for being a part of Ethiopia by choice in 1954 G.c. at KALI, which they determined to be a part of Ethiopia ruled mainland from British Colony. Moreover, Somalia took independence in 1960 G.c. from European Colonies — taking independence in the South from Italy and North from British, respectively then North and South Somalia united together and established the Republic of Somalia within four days in 1960 G.c.
One of the pressing argument (s) of the people of the Somali Region was, “how can a determined community or nation who has chosen a country (Ethiopia) six years ahead of the Somali Independence be claimed by the derisory Greater Somalia movement?” ONLF (UBBO) short-sighted ideology used to claim that the region is undeserved, backwards, etc. in terms of education, health service, and other basic social services like water, agriculture & livestock, infrastructure, telecommunications, electric power, and generally developmental projects in the Somali region.
When I was a student, I can rightly recall that the ONLF advocators used to mobilize people by saying that asphalt road is demarcation of our region which is limited to Harar custom and cannot pass one inch in to our region.
In reality, the construction of asphalt road would instantly improve public transportation and easy mobilization of military, in case of reinforcement from Harar, Dire Dawa, Addis Ababa and other parts of Ethiopia in to the region in less than a day.
Mind you, ONLF (UBBO) are the ones claiming, comparing other regions, and how “the people of Somali Region are marginalized and deprived for every aspects of social services.” Does that make any sense? They claim or mention disparities but are against the administrations that would create better public services and eliminate any marginalization. ONLF (UBBO) claims are often myths, self-serving propaganda, etc. In order to get the financial, logistics and moral support of Somali speaking people all over the world, these claims were later did not based on facts of ONLF (UBBO) agenda.
Laying foundation stone to Kebri-Dahar University debunked ONLF (UBBO) propaganda and minimized their continuous advocacy for mobilizing resources for the interest of few individuals at the cost of innocents. The fact is the people of the region are a member of Somali speaking community in the Horn of Africa. Additionally, the representatives of the international, national and donor community have acknowledged the tangible and promising progress towards the developmental aspects and reliable security in the Somali Region of Ethiopia.
I wonder when I read an article published by one of ONLF (UBBO) supporting websites “jeexdinnews.com”, four days after laying of foundation stone of Kebri Dahar University, which argued that ‘…people of the region should know that Kebri Dahar University is disastrous for the people of the region, since Ethiopia failed to overcame ONLF fighters in battle field, and now Ethiopia changed strategies to eradicate our people by assigning Kebri-Dahar University 12,000 students infected with HIV/AIDS to spread HIV infection to the people.’ Quite ridiculous, if you ask me.
However, in the past, ONLF (UBBO) used to claim our people have no access to education, but when schools are being constructed, they construe and come up with wild explanations to demonize and downplay regional and national progresses. This is controversial propaganda tools, but given their short-sightedness, ONLF (UBBO) do not think of the contradictions and short comings of their bogus claims. As matter of fact, ONLF (UBBO) contradictions or lies is the way people become confused and deceived by this group.
In the recent past years, it was very difficult to construct one primary school in Kebri Dahar City and its surroundings, due to security related threats, let alone a University that students from all parts of the country will learn and benefit from. The Kebri Dahar University is indeed an indication and undeniable example of the level of reliable security and safety that now exists in the Somali Region.
Thus the Kebri Dahar University is the direct achievement and result of the dedicated national defense forces and the region’s very own Special Forces (Liyu Police), who collectively stabilized the region’s security concerns. Kebri Dahar University is known to be a massive victory for the people of the region, in terms of security, education, developmental advancement and the turning to a new memorable page of history and hope.
Conclusions: – It seems, Kebri Dahar University was and is very historic success for the people of the region, regional state, and Federal Government of Ethiopia. This regional and national accomplishment can be viewed as historic victory with a new bright future and hopes for the people of the region; as well, this could be and truly is a clear message for any person against the security and development of the region and country.
The Kebri Dahar University is very substantial and monumental event, which highlights the transition or visible change that a city once with plenty military camps have now transformed into a city with higher education centers and a learning environment. The regional state and federal government have made strong and sustainable efforts for the protecting and safeguarding the young generations, especially from the terrible history and violent ignorance that was inherited from former governments of Ethiopia (Derge Regime and Emperor Haileselase).
During remarkable speeches made by senior officials of the federal government delegates and regional state officials, the audience and history witnesses were emotional and elated. The words and promises of the Prime Minister of Ethiopia is coherent indication that the level of commitment to developing and keeping secure the Somali Region and country is a collective effort.
Overall, Kebri Dahar University is just one example of the accurately shifting fronts/direction of Somali Regional State and federal government of Ethiopia — transforming a city known primarily for military camps into a city of higher education, teaching and learning environment. In the long run, as an independent analyst, I have no doubt that Kebri Dahar university will positively contribute and play crucial roles in building the level of knowledge and cognition of pastoralist community of the region, and would produce young generations of the region equipped with modern knowledge and technology transfer for education, which will prevail and manifest into economically productive society and reliable means of defeating the first enemy of the nation and its people, which is poverty.