Shebelle River
The Shebelle River begins in the highlands
Ethiopian Highlands
The Ethiopian Highlands are a rugged mass of mountains in Ethiopia, Eritrea , and northern Somalia in the Horn of Africa...

 of 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...

, and then flows southeast into Somalia
Somalia , officially the Somali Republic and formerly known as the Somali Democratic Republic under Socialist rule, is a country located in the Horn of Africa. Since the outbreak of the Somali Civil War in 1991 there has been no central government control over most of the country's territory...

 towards Mogadishu
Mogadishu , popularly known as Xamar, is the largest city in Somalia and the nation's capital. Located in the coastal Benadir region on the Indian Ocean, the city has served as an important port for centuries....

. Near Mogadishu, it turns sharply southwest, where it follows the coast. Below Mogadishu, the river becomes seasonal. During most years, the river dries up near the mouth of the Jubba River
Jubba River
The Jubba River is a river in southern Somalia. It begins at the border with Ethiopia, where the Dawa and Ganale Dorya rivers meet, and flows directly south to the Indian Ocean, where it empties at the Goobweyn juncture.-History:...

, while in seasons of heavy rainfall, the river actually reaches the Jubba and thus the Indian Ocean
Indian Ocean
The Indian Ocean is the third largest of the world's oceanic divisions, covering approximately 20% of the water on the Earth's surface. It is bounded on the north by the Indian Subcontinent and Arabian Peninsula ; on the west by eastern Africa; on the east by Indochina, the Sunda Islands, and...


The Shebelle river's name is derived from the Somali term Wabi Shabeelle, meaning "Leopard/Tiger River". According to materials published by the Ethiopian 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...

, the Shebelle is 1130 kilometers long, extending for 1000 km inside Ethiopia and 130 km inside Somalia. The Somali administrative regions consisting of Shabeellaha Dhexe
Shabeellaha Dhexe
-Overview:It is bordered by the Somali regions of Galgudud, Hiran, Lower Shebelle, and Banadir, as well as the Indian Ocean.As part of the former Benadir region, Shabeellaha Dhexe's capital was Mogadishu up until the mid-1980s, when the town of Jowhar became the capital...

 and Shabeellaha Hoose
Shabeellaha Hoose
Lower Shebelle is an administrative region in southern Somalia.-Overview:It is bordered by the Somalian regions of Banadir, Middle Shebelle, Hiran, Bay and Middle Juba, and the Indian Ocean...

 are also named after the river.


The Shebelle has a number of tributaries
A tributary or affluent is a stream or river that flows into a main stem river or a lake. A tributary does not flow directly into a sea or ocean...

, both seasonal and permanent rivers. They include:
  • Erer River
    Erer River
    The Erer is a perennial river of eastern Ethiopia. It rises near the city of Harar, and flows in a primarily southern direction to its confluence with the Shabelle at .- See also :* Rivers of Ethiopia...

  • Galetti River
    Galetti River
    Galetti River is a river in eastern Ethiopia. A tributary of the Shebelle River, it rises in the Chercher mountains....

  • Wabe River

The Fafen
Fafen River
Fafen River is a river of eastern Ethiopia. Rising to the east of Harar, this river cuts through a series of wide, flat shelves of sedimentary rocks made of sandstone, limestone, and gypsum as it descends in a south-eastern direction towards the Shebelle River. The Fafen only joins the Shebelle...

 only reaches the Shebelle in times of heavy rainfall; its stream usually ends before reaching the main river.


The source of the Shebelle River is venerated by both the Arsi Oromo
Arsi Oromo
Arsi Oromo is one of the branches of the Oromo people inhabiting the Oromia Region, mainly in the Arsi and Bale Zones, and partly in the Misraq Shewa Zone. They claim to have descended from a single individual called Arse...

 and the Sidamo
Sidama people
The Sidama people of southern Ethiopia are an ethnic group whose homeland is in the Sidama Zone of the Southern Nations, Nationalities, and Peoples Region of Ethiopia. They number 2,966,474 of whom 149,480 are urban inhabitants, the fifth most populous nation in Ethiopia...

 people. It is surrounded by a sacred enclosure wooded with juniper
Junipers are coniferous plants in the genus Juniperus of the cypress family Cupressaceae. Depending on taxonomic viewpoint, there are between 50-67 species of juniper, widely distributed throughout the northern hemisphere, from the Arctic, south to tropical Africa in the Old World, and to the...

 trees, which as of 1951 was under the protection of a Muslim
A Muslim, also spelled Moslem, is an adherent of Islam, a monotheistic, Abrahamic religion based on the Quran, which Muslims consider the verbatim word of God as revealed to prophet Muhammad. "Muslim" is the Arabic term for "submitter" .Muslims believe that God is one and incomparable...

 member of the Arsi.

In 1989, with the help of Soviet engineers, the Melka Wakena dam was built on the upper reaches of the Shebelle River in the Bale Mountains
Bale Mountains
The Bale Mountains are a range of mountains in the Oromia Region of southeast Ethiopia, south of the Awash River. They include Tullu Demtu, the second-highest mountain in Ethiopia , and Mount Batu . The Weyib River, a tributary of the Jubba River, rises in these mountains east of Goba...

. Producing 153 megawatts, this dam is Ethiopia’s largest hydroelectric generator.

The recent history of the Shabelle is marked by frequent destructive flooding. The Shabelle is said to have flooded every other year prior to the 1960s; that decade had only two devastating floods, the hidigsayley in 1965, and the soogudud in 1966. In the 1970s, the most devastating flood was the kabahay of 1978. In 1996, floods devastated three woredas in Ethiopia. On 23 October 1999, the river unexpectedly flooded in the middle of the night, destroying homes and crops in 14 out of the 117 kebeles in Kelafo
Kelafo (woreda)
Kelafo is one of the 47 woredas in the Somali Region of Ethiopia. Part of the Gode Zone, Kelafo is bordered on the south by the Shebelle River which separates it from the Afder Zone, on the west by Danan, on the north by the Korahe Zone, and on the east by Mustahil. The major town in Kelafo is...

 woreda, as well as 29 of the 46 kebeles in neighboring Mustahil
Mustahil (woreda)
Mustahil is one of the 47 woredas in the Somali Region of Ethiopia. Part of the Gode Zone, Mustahil is bordered on the south by the Shebelle River which separates it from the Afder Zone, in the west by Kelafo, on the north by the Korahe Zone, and in the east by Ferfer. The major town in this...

woreda. According to the local authorities, 34 people and an estimated 750 livestock died, with 70,000 affected by the floods and in need of assistance. Two more recent floods was the dawdle in 2003, when about 100 livestock and 119 people were washed away, and the flood of April 2005, when about 30,000 persons were surrounded by floodwaters and 2000 camels and 4000 shoats had been washed away by flood; some locals consider this the worst flood in 40 years.

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