Article: A Town Known with Military Camps, is Transformed into Higher Education learning and Research Center (Kebri-dahar)
By: Ahmed Deeq Hussein, independent analyst. Jigjiga Somali region of Ethiopia
In general, 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- specifically, 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 soldierís camp by Italian colony during Italian occupation (encyclopedia). Similarly, the former Ethiopian governments such as emperor Haileselase and Derge regime, the dictator Mingustu HaileMaryen were also considered as 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 for other parts of region and military operations performed beyond Ethiopian border with Somalia.
In this regard, kebridahar 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, have developed a better strategic important for developmental aspects in terms of socio-economic, education, health care and livestock in line with the developmental policies of the country like MDG, PASDAP, SPM, GTP 1 and 2 for more than ever before.
As you may all know kebridahar has boundaries with most of zones and major cities of the region, and centrally located. Similarly, it seems the decision made by the senior leaders of regional state to laid-dawn the foundation stone of second university of the region in Kebridahar, might be based on two important 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. And the Secondly itís geographical and the strategic location of Kebri-dahar town; that is the epicenter of the region, with assumptions of those students would have easy accessibility to and from university during academics and vacations with possible distance, all-weather asphalted road and affordable transportation connections.
The decision endorsed to make Kebri Dahar the second university of the region may have dual broader implications as above indicated first from political point of view through changing a long history soldiers camps into university & colleges and research center could change the deep rooted political images for the people of the region. Who might have negative perceived the bad image towards military camps. And likewise, transforming the camps into education learning environments may leads to positive mentality and attitude towards Ethiopia government as meaningful and tangible results for entire nation.
In 1991 G.c., after the political change of Ethiopia country was took place and a new Ethiopia ethnic based federalism government born ruled by EPRDF, which 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), which make up the Federal Democrat Republic of Ethiopia. Have given better political, economic and developmental opportunities for people of Somali region, similarly, like people of other regions in the country.††
It was worth noting that, In 1994 G.c. when armed rebels group called ONLF (known as UBBO in local context) was declared a war against a newly born federalism government of Ethiopia. While the political opportunities for people of the region was misdirected & hijacked in to a wrong side by the ONLF. Disregarding, the people of the region affected by Somalia civil war in 1990s, tribal conflicts and severe draughts that caused severe malnutrion and death for people and livestock. The region was started a new phase of political & security challenges which affected by the innocent civilians.† However, ONLF and Al-etahad islami were the most troublesome anti-government armed rebels caused a mass grave and fresh hostile environment. This made impossible to attain the basic social services, carry out development programs and resulted lagging behind from other region of the country, due to security related threats.
With intention of finding sustainable solutions, the long standing and complicated security concerns of the region. The Ethiopian defense force together with regionís Special Forces (Liyu police) have had struggled and confronted against armed anti-security insurgent groups such as (ONLF and Al-Etihad Al-Islam), with tight heroic hands with total defeat and entire region is secured with a reliable security for regionís development and Kebri-dahar is part of it.
Nevertheless; the above mentioned political and security concerns, further the Somali regional state and federal government have determined to make for priority in developmental programs through investing education learning facilities, particularly; higher† education institutions (university and colleges), in order to produce human capital, educated forces, and young generations equipped with modern knowledge. This will better serve the fight against the darkness of the ignorance and backwardness
In addition, several military camps of Kebridahar town were evacuated and handed over to regional state which are transformed into developmental and higher education learning environment. This was as part of key strategic objective of kebridahar university stone foundation laid by the higher 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.
All in all, apart from the university, there are an additional big developmental projects that had been implemented in the kebridahar city including Health science college, Teacher training college, poly technique training college, and kebridahar high school type A which are the parts of kebridahar military camps transformed into higher education learning institutions by the regional state together with federal government of Ethiopia. This is the dramatic, fundamental and radical change of military camps into higher learning and developmental projects including international airport of 2.5 Km concrete with standard terminal. In this regard, it has turned a new historic and golden page for the people of the region, and witnessed by the people of the region, other Ethiopian nations and international community which are a too extreme changes from soldierís camps to university and colleges.
As we know, prior to current ethnic based Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia, students of Somali region had not had an opportunity to learn and attend high school, since; the regionís highest class was grade 8th in the almost all major towns and zones except jigjiga only had high school throughout the region. So that whenever students took final exam of grade 8th might not able to continue high school class, due to inaccessible to attend high school classes all over the region except jigjiga.
Meantime, most of students were used to drop out from high school classes and missed opportunity as a result of access limitations. However, there might be very few exception students, like those their families had some economical wealth with parents better understanding the values of education might be possible to send their students to Harar Medihailem high schools, in order to continue and attend his/her high school classes with long distance. The parents were used to suffer monthly accommodations costs for the students to cover the costs for food, shelter, school materials, and clothes etc. can we image how it was painful for the parents when resources of family is too much limited.
On other hands, people of the region was pure pastoralist, sources of income were only livestock which had no animal marketing, not other source of income, no governmental employees during Derge regime, no remittance money transfer from relative in abroad, nor any other business and trades, and other means that the government used to support the people except unstable dry rashin distribution by RRC. So to have a mental picture and look back the exact trends of Somali region students before EPRDF government
Therefore, Kebri-dahar University foundation stone was laid down, on April, 9, 2015 G.c. by a 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, and similarly; were participated a members of executive and central committee of ruling part of somali region ESPDP, regional state cabinet, zonal and woredas administrations, federal government ministers like minster of education, traditional & community leaders, religious leaders, diasporas, public figures, educated people, Women and youth organization, and generally the people of the region; particularly, the people of kebridahar city had a chance to be present during this historic day which became a new page for the people of the region and the like Ethiopia country.
On other hands; as a part of GTP2 (growth Transformation Plan 2), there are other developmental national projects for Somali region during period of GTP2 including Gode sugar factory and the asphalt road from Gode to Ferfer the border of Somalia as well as Hamaro hydroelectric power water dam, that would supply the electric power almost the entire regionís zones and woredas.
Furthermore, Kebridahar university foundation stone laid down has local, national, surrounding horn of Africa and international political implications and landmark. Because it disproves the long histories of European colonial ideologies, that classified Somali region as ďreserve areaĒ which is not still clear or questionable why the region was said to be reserve? It is unknown; whether it does means, itís naturally resourcefulness to be reserved for international big powers or other people.
Another European colonies ideology was a ďdispute area/regionĒ which means the region disputed by the Ethiopia and Somalia. However, this has no basic rationale claims, but simply based on emotional ideology of great Somalia. Since the people in the region were Somali speaking community, which the so called great Somalia misunderstood, that this region and all of its inhabitants were exclusively a part of Ethiopia. Highly respected elders from this region have voted for being a part of Ethiopia by choice in1954 G.c. at KALI which they determined to be a part of Ethiopia ruled mainland from British colony. Nevertheless, when the so called Somalia took independence in 1960 G.C. from European colonies by taking independent in the south and north Somali from Italy and British respectively then north & south Somalia united together and born the Republic of Somalia within 4 days in 1960 G.c.
The arguments of the people of the Somali region is how came a community chosen a country 4 years ahead of independence of the so called great Somali, can claim a region that its people determined?
ONLF (UBBO) short sighted ideology used to claim, the region is underserved, back-warded 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 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. Secondly, the construction of asphalt road instantly improve the public transportations and easy mobilization of military in case of reinforcement from Harar, Dire Dawa, Addis Ababa and other parts of Ethiopia in to the region for less than a day.†
Again, they are the ones claiming, comparing other regions, the people of Somali region are marginalized and deprived for every aspects of social services in order to get the financial, logistics and moral supports of Somali speaking people all over the world, but these claims were not based the facts of ONLF (UBBO) agenda, however, Kebridahar university stone foundation laid down disproved their propaganda tool and continuous advocacy for mobilizing resources for the interest of few individual among them. The facts, the people of the region are a member of Somali speaking community in the horn of Africa. However, the representatives of the international 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† article published one of ONLF (UBBO) supporting website ďjeexdinnews.comĒ, after 4 days of Kebridahar university stone foundation laid down, which cited that people of the region should know that kebridahar university disastrous for the people of the region, since Ethiopia failed to overcame ONLF fighter in battle field, then now Ethiopia changed strategies to eradicate our people by assigning Kebri-Dahar university 12000 students infected with HIV/AIDS to spread HIV infection to the people but in the past they used to claim our people have no education accessibility in our region. This is controversial propaganda tools but I think they donít think of the contradictions and short comings of their claims. As matter of facts, this is the way people confused by the ONLF (UBBO).
In the recent past, it was very difficult to construct one primary school like Kebridahar and similar environments due to security related threats, let alone university that students from all parts of the country will learn and this is indications the level of reliable security and have a confidence to build University in Kebri-Dahar. This achievement is the result of national defense forces and regional Special Forces (Liyu police) in stabilizing the regionís security concerns. Which known to be a great victory for the people of the region in terms of security and developments advancement and the opening of new page of history and hope.
It seems, Kebri-Dahar University foundation stone laid down was very historic success for the people of region, regional state, and federal government of Ethiopia and can be historic victory with a new bright future and hopes for the people of the region that could be clear message for any person against the security and development of the region.†††††††††
It is very substantial & memorial event to change the soldierís camps into higher education learning environment for regional state and federal government leaders, who made with great efforts for the protecting and safeguarding the young generations from darkness related ignorance that inherited from former governments of Ethiopia including Derge Regime and emperor Haileselase. I can underline during remark speech made by senior officials of federal government delegates and regional state was highly appreciated and the message from the prime minister of federal democratic republic of Ethiopia was indication the level of commitments of regional state & federal government of Ethiopia in terms of regionís security and development concerns.††
I can summarize that, this is truly shifting fronts/direction of Somali Regional State and federal government of Ethiopia of transforming a city known with military camps, into a city of higher education, teaching and learning environment, unlike former governmentís strategic importance of military camps.
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 with young generations of the region, who are equipped with modern knowledge and technology transfer for education; which will prevail an economically productive society and reliable means of defeating the first enemy of the nation and its people, which is poverty.
N.B. If any concerns or questions regarding to this article, you are welcome and donít hesitate to contact me through email address of Ahmeddek2015@gmail.com††††