Degehabur
Encyclopedia

Degehabur is a town in the eastern part of Ethiopia
Ethiopia
Ethiopia , officially known as the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia, is a country located in the Horn of Africa. It is the second-most populous nation in Africa, with over 82 million inhabitants, and the tenth-largest by area, occupying 1,100,000 km2...

 known as the Ogaden
Ogaden
Ogaden is the name of a territory comprising the southeastern portion of the Somali Regional State in Ethiopia. The inhabitants are predominantly ethnic Somali and Muslim. The title "Somali Galbeed", which means "Western Somalia," is often preferred by Somali irredentists.The region, which is...

. Located in the Degehabur Zone
Degehabur Zone
Degehabur Zone is one of the nine Zones in the Somali Region of Ethiopia. This zone is named after its largest city, Degehabur. Degehabur Zone is bordered on the south by Korahe, on the west by Fiq, on the northwest by the Oromia Region, on the north by Jijiga and Somalia, and on the east by...

 of the Somali Region
Somali Region
Somali Region ; is the eastern-most of the nine ethnic divisions of Ethiopia. It is often called Somalia, though it is not to be confused with the independent country of the same name. The capital of Somali State is Jijiga...

 on the Jerer River
Jerer River
The Jerer is an intermittent river of eastern Ethiopia. A tributary of the Fafen River, it rises near Jijiga to flow in a south-easternly direction....

, it sits at 1044 meters above sea level. The town is the administrative center of Degehabur
Degehabur (woreda)
Degehabur is one of the 52 woredas in the Somali Region of Ethiopia. Part of the Degehabur Zone, Degehabur is bordered on the south by the Gunagado, on the southwest by the Fiq Zone, on the northwest by Degehamedo, on the north by the Jijiga Zone, on the east by Aware, and on the southeast by the...

 woreda
Woreda
Woreda is an administrative division of Ethiopia , equivalent to a district . Woredas are composed of a number of Kebele, or neighborhood associations, which are the smallest unit of local government in Ethiopia...

.

Local landmarks include the Church of St. George, and the white mosque of Degehabur, which Anthony Mockler described as "the most important in the Ogaden." The NGO Doctors without Borders operates a clinic in Degehabur. The upgrade of the 165-kilometer road between Degahabur and the Regional capital, Jijiga
Jijiga
Jijiga is a city in eastern Ethiopia and the capital of the Somali Region of that country. Located in the Jijiga Zone approximately 80 km east of Harar and 60 km west of the border with Somalia, this city has a latitude and longitude of with an elevation of 1,609 meters above sea...

, to an all-weather asphalt road was announced to be almost complete 31 October 2007, with the remaining 40 kilometers awaiting completion. Construction of an 106-kilometer asphalt road between Degehabur and the town of Shekosh was underway by March 2009. Local inhabitants constitute half of the 1,100 workers employed by the project.

History

During the nineteenth century, Degehabur was an important stopping point for caravans crossing the Haud
Haud
Haud is a region of thorn-bush and grasslands in the Horn of Africa, which includes the northeastern part of the Ogaden territory of Ethiopia, as well the adjacent parts of Somalia. The Haud is of indeterminate extent; some authorities consider it denotes the part of Ethiopia east of the city of...

 for Hargeisa
Hargeisa
Hargeisa is a city in the northwestern Woqooyi Galbeed region of Somalia. With a population of approximately 2 million residents, it is the second largest city in the country. Hargeisa is the capital of Somaliland, a self-declared republic that is internationally recognized as an autonomous region...

 and Berbera
Berbera
Berbera is a city and seat of Berbera District in Somaliland, a self-proclaimed Independent Republic with de facto control over its own territory, which is recognized by the international community and the Somali Government as a part of Somalia...

, but when Major H.G.C. Swayne travelled through the area in 1893, he found it abandoned and uses it as an example of the destruction caused by "the insecurity resulting from inter-tribal feuds." According to Swayne, at the time of his visit "there were formerly many square miles of jowdri
Sorghum
Sorghum is a genus of numerous species of grasses, one of which is raised for grain and many of which are used as fodder plants either cultivated or as part of pasture. The plants are cultivated in warmer climates worldwide. Species are native to tropical and subtropical regions of all continents...

cultivation, which have been abandoned within the last few years, and now there is only left an immense area of stubble and the ruins of the village. Dagahbur used to be a thriving settlement of one thousand five hundred inhabitants ... now not a hut is left." In the 1920s Degehabur started to recover. It was said that there were some two hundred villages within the distance of a day's travel and that these used the market at Degehabur. By 1931 there were motorable roads in five directions out from the town. Wealthy inhabitants had started erecting two-story buildings.

Due to its strategic location, Degehabur used as by Dejazmach Nasibu Emmanual
Nasibu Emmanual
Nasibu Emmanual, also Nasibu Zamanuael, was an army commander of the Ethiopian Empire. Along with his brother Wasane, historian Bahru Zewde groups Nasibu "among the most colourful of the first-generation intellectuals" of Twentieth-century Ethiopia...

 as his headquarters at the beginning of the Second Italo-Abyssinian War
Second Italo-Abyssinian War
The Second Italo‚ÄďAbyssinian War was a colonial war that started in October 1935 and ended in May 1936. The war was fought between the armed forces of the Kingdom of Italy and the armed forces of the Ethiopian Empire...

. Despite the construction of a series of fortifications south of the town, the Italians under General Rodolfo Graziani
Rodolfo Graziani
Rodolfo Graziani, 1st Marquis of Neghelli , was an officer in the Italian Regio Esercito who led military expeditions in Africa before and during World War II.-Rise to prominence:...

 defeated the Ethiopian defenders in the Battle of the Ogaden
Battle of the Ogaden
The Battle of the Ogaden was battle fought in 1936 in the southern front of the Second Italo-Abyssinian War. The battle consisted of attacks by the Italian forces of General Rodolfo Graziani, the Commander-in-Chief of the forces on the "southern front," against Ethiopian defensive positions...

, and occupied Degehabur 30 April 1936. The Nigerian Brigade drove the Italians from the town in March, 1941.

Degahabur was fiercely defended by the 11th Brigade of the Ethiopian Army at the beginning of the Ogaden War
Ogaden War
The Ogaden War was a conventional conflict between Somalia and Ethiopia in 1977 and 1978 over the Ogaden region of Ethiopia. In a notable illustration of the nature of Cold War alliances, the Soviet Union switched from supplying aid to Somalia to supporting Ethiopia, which had previously been...

, until the unit was ordered at the end of July 1977 to withdraw to Jijiga. It was recaptured by the 69th Brigade and the Third Cuban Tank Brigade 6 March 1978. Haji Abdinur Sheikh Mumin, imam
Imam
An imam is an Islamic leadership position, often the worship leader of a mosque and the Muslim community. Similar to spiritual leaders, the imam is the one who leads Islamic worship services. More often, the community turns to the mosque imam if they have a religious question...

 of the Degehabur mosque, was one of those arrested in 1994 for supporting the Ogaden National Liberation Front
Ogaden National Liberation Front
The Ogaden National Liberation Front , is a separatist rebel group fighting to make the region of Ogaden in eastern Ethiopia an independent state...

 (ONLF). Amnesty international
Amnesty International
Amnesty International is an international non-governmental organisation whose stated mission is "to conduct research and generate action to prevent and end grave abuses of human rights, and to demand justice for those whose rights have been violated."Following a publication of Peter Benenson's...

 reported in 1996 that he was still in prison waiting for court trial.

On 28 May 2007, during the celebration of Ginbot 20
Ethiopian calendar
The Ethiopian calendar , also called the Ge'ez calendar, is the principal calendar used in Ethiopia and also serves as the liturgical calendar for Christians in Eritrea belonging to the Eritrean Orthodox Church, Eastern Catholic Church and Lutheran Evangelical Church of Eritrea...

 (celebrating the downfall of the Derg
Derg
The Derg or Dergue was a Communist military junta that came to power in Ethiopia following the ousting of Haile Selassie I. Derg, which means "committee" or "council" in Ge'ez, is the short name of the Coordinating Committee of the Armed Forces, Police, and Territorial Army, a committee of...

), Degehabur and Jijiga
Jijiga
Jijiga is a city in eastern Ethiopia and the capital of the Somali Region of that country. Located in the Jijiga Zone approximately 80 km east of Harar and 60 km west of the border with Somalia, this city has a latitude and longitude of with an elevation of 1,609 meters above sea...

 were the scenes of attacks on civilians and government officials. At least 16 people were killed and 67 injured; one of the injured was Abdulahi Hassan Mohammed, president of the Somali Region, who was speaking at the ceremony. The Ethiopian government blamed the attack on the ONLF, who afterwards denied responsibility for the attack.

Partly in response to this attack, the Ethiopian Army began confiscating commercial vehicles that moved goods into the conflict-affected zones of Somali Region. In May 2007 the last major trade convoy left Hargeysa, consisting of 18 trucks stocked with food items and clothing. This convoy stopped near Degehabur and all 18 trucks were confiscated by the army and taken to the military base in that town. At the end of September 2007, four months later, according to their owners all 18 trucks were still impounded at the military base.

Demographics

Based on figures from the Central Statistical Agency
Central Statistical Agency (Ethiopia)
The Central Statistical Agency is an agency of the government of Ethiopia designated to provide all surveys and censuses for that country used to monitor economic and social growth, as well as to act as an official training center in that field. It is part of the Ethiopian Ministry of Finance and...

 in 2007, Degehabur has an estimated total population of 30,027 of whom 16,474 are men and 13,553 are women. The 1997 census reported this town had a total population of 28,708 of whom 14,976 were men and 13,732 women. The largest two ethnic groups reported in this town were the Somali
Somali people
Somalis are an ethnic group located in the Horn of Africa, also known as the Somali Peninsula. The overwhelming majority of Somalis speak the Somali language, which is part of the Cushitic branch of the Afro-Asiatic language family...

 (95.92%), and the Amhara
Amhara people
Amhara are a highland people inhabiting the Northwestern highlands of Ethiopia. Numbering about 19.8 million people, they comprise 26% of the country's population, according to the 2007 national census...

(2.53%); all other ethnic groups made up the remaining 1.55% of the residents.
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