Alem Hailu G/Kristos
Bekele Weya was born to his father Weya Absena and his mother Bereke Jilo Godana in 1910 at a small village called Gogete Sibesto found in Sodo, Southern Shewa, Ethiopia.
Bekele’s maternal lineage belongs to the Oromo ethnic group, while his father’s was to the Gurage.
Bekele grew up well disciplined by his mother. When he turned 16, his mother gave him to his uncle Dejazemache G/Mariam Gari. It did not take Bekele long to wind his way into his uncle’s heart. His decorum, honesty, patience and dexterity made him usher of his uncle’s salon.
Dej. G/Mariam became representative of the Harerege province in 1931. He stayed there up to 1934. Bekele, who accompanied Dej G/Mariam, was serving as a solider and assistant administrator, accorded the rank of Shaka.
When Dej. G/Mariam was promoted to a rank of a minister, Shaka Bekle came to Addis Ababa with him. Then Shaka Bekele took training on anti-tank launcher.
In 1936, when fascist Italy invaded Ethiopia, leading the army, he rallied around Dej G/Mariam to head to the north. There, he was displaying astounding military prowess.
The enemy troops that advanced hinterland via Sidamo were taking the upper hand. As per the Emperor Haile Selassie’s’ order, Dej G/Mariam was ordered to return back and march to the Sidamo front. With alacrity, Dej. G/Mariam headed to the south. Bekele accompanied him. There too, Bekele displayed a superb military feat. Describing about Bekele’s heroic deed in the book entitled “He took by surprise those who remained behind!” The author Tadesse Zewlde had mentioned the sadness Dej G/Mariam was entertaining upon observing enemy troops inflicting heavy damages on people. One day five tanks, which were heading in columns, were wreaking havoc.
“Bekle, when are you going to use your skill? Why do not you blow them up? What a tragedy!” said Dej G/Mariam. Bekele was watching things quietly. Soon, the tanks drew neigh and got into target. He burnt down one of them with an anti-tank launcher. Soon, he did the same to the second one. Within five minutes he annihilated five of the tanks. Tongues of smoke and fire were dragged up to the sky.
Turning his head to Dej. G/Mariam, “Now you could enjoy the hearth!” Bekele said.
In 1936, leading Dej. G/Mariam’s artillery unit, as a front liner, he had managed to demolish arsenals of enemy troops, advancing to open fire on Dej G/Mariams army. The confrontation was held on Bedenu Bereha. Owing to this prowess, Bekele had won extraordinary appreciation from the Dej. G/Mariam and the army.
Heavy artilleries powered by water and 14 light Albens launchers of enemy were held captives. Thirty enemy army chiefs and innumerable soldiers were killed.
Also from June to September, 1936 heavy engagements were held. Especially the Daba Sere war was the severest one. In this battle though Dej.G/Mariam was injured, the hero Shak Bekele put 12 tanks of enemy out of use. In so doing, he registered one of the astounding victories on battle fields. Also in 1937, the valorous deed he performed in Aleta Wendo, Arebegona, Dela Chere,Hibeno ,Arsi,Belaki Denbele would go down the annals of history written in golden inks.
After crowned with numerous success stories, Dej G/Mariam passed away in a heavy engagement held around Gogete. The grief that smote Bekele’s could not dampen his indomitable spirit of fighting for freedom.
Closing ranks with his nephew Dej. Bedane Gudeta and also others, Bekele strengthened his military engagement around his hometown Sodo.
In 1938, reorganizing his soldiers and confronting two battalion soldiers, he had confirmed his indomitability. Moreover, same time, nonstop flights were held. The war that raged for ten hours starting from daybreak and that was fortified with sorties is not forgettable. Though many Sodo solders fell on the front, at the end of the day, Bekele took the upper hand.
Heartened by the success story day by day consummating Bekele’s military engagements, Sodo’s heroic sons that were thirsty of freedom began swelling up Bekele’s army. They were committed to pay whatever the cost may be.
As his army emerged victories in Sodo, Tole and Repe, enemy troops were forced to stay aloof for six months. Though in the engagements held in Sodo, Acheber, Qushate, Atini for 8 hours Bekele encountered a heavy death toll, victory favored Bekele.
Even if so many people fell on both sides, he emerged victorious in the confrontations held in Sodo Acheber Qushet,Atini, Chaka Dera. Also in the fierce battle held in Sodo Welene border Yesi, Omo, Gedeb, he emerged with flying colors. In the 1940 after a battle that raged for 7 hour in Sodo Bantu victory capped Bekele
Accordingly, the respect people of Sodo had for Bekele kept on mounting.
Bekele did a great job after Dej G/Mariam died reside in joining hands with his relative patriot Geresu Duki. Exchanging letters with a go-between and meting in person they were spelling death on enemy troops. The engagement held in Beda Agerena in Sodo was the challenging showdown the two jointly fought.
Following the capital punishment Dej.Geresu dealt the Italian spy Musi Kestegna, the infuriated Italian army chiefs, organizing their troops from Jimma, Sidamo, Harar, Arsi,Shewa and supported by war planes inflicted heavy damages on Bekele’s and Dj Gersu Duki’s army. Major Bekele sustained injuries on the right arm. As such, he could not handle launchers as he was a past master on it. Till their disarrayed soldiers reorganize and the wounded recuperate, the two valorous leaders were forced to take rest.
In 1940, Bekele headed to Bulga where Ras Abebe Aregay was found. Bekele had sought some advice from Ras Abebe. The same year while with Dej Beyene Gudeta, he received a letter from enemy quarters to yield their hand. They were asked to ponder about it. Vexed by the impudence of enemy, they responded via artillery fire that their struggle for freedom was a matter of life and death.
The fiercest battle Bekele handled with bravery was the one held in a place called Abu with Colonel Kazabasa. About 26 military officers and 60 soldiers were killed. Testifying this fact Tadesse Zewlde in his book noted that Shaka Bekele wiped out enemy troops that came with 18 vehicles. Getting their bodies back to the vehicle his soldiers set the vehicles ablaze.
Shaka Bekele and Dej.Grsue Duke were also chasing enemy troops on the run and holding them captives after the emperor returned home.
After victory, Shaka Bekele had served his country in different administrative capacities. He died of natural causes in 1954 while on his way to Switzerland to seek medical assistance. His body was laid to rest in Trinity cathedral cemetery.
Reminiscent of Bekele’s military exploits, singers on various events were lauding him with the following song verse:
To ward off the roadblock
Posed by enemy troops
The heroic, the heroic
To stun us
With your superb
Alem Hailu G/Kristos
A published poet, novelist, editor, translator of masterpieces, literary critic, playwright and journalist from Ethiopia. M.A holder in literature, Addis Ababa University.
Looking for a traditional publisher of a collection of poems. My novel: ‘Hope from the debris of hopelessness’.
Thank you for the information