First Weyane rebellion

Woyane or Weyane (or ‘First Woyane’) was a rebellion in the Tigray province of Ethiopia in 1943. In an Imperial determination to weaken the power of the regional nobles and elites of Ethiopia, the Haile Selassie government in 1941 introduces a new regional administration. The law or edict provides for fourteen provinces (Teklay gizat), around 100 counties (Awrajas), and 600 districts (Woredas). [1] Therefore, curbing the power of the hundreds of nobles and their provinces throughout the Empire. This then enabled Haile Sellasie to centralize his authority and in effect rendered these nobles with their administrations dependent to the central government. Historians agree that “the basic policy of Haile Sellasie was a centralizing one continuing the tradition of the great centralizing Emperors from 1855 onwards.”[2] The provision reduced the many provinces of Tigray into eight counties: Raya Azebo, Enderta, Tembien, Kilete Awla’lo, Agame, Adowa, Axum and Shiere along with many districts under each of the counties’ jurisdictions. After the liberation of Ethiopia from Italian occupation in 1941, Ethiopia saw many rebellions spread out in different parts of the empire. Among these rebellions however, the “Woyane Rebellion” in southern and eastern Tigray in 1943 had become a powerful and highly popular uprising that, with in few months it had shaken the government of Haile Sellasie to its core and as a consequence, the Imperial government resorted in using aerial bombardment by collaborating with the British Royal Air Force so as to quell the rebellion.

The woyane uprising in Tigray seems to have arisen when administrative corruption and greed ignited a situation of existing instability and insecurity, one awash with weaponry in the wake of the Italian defeat.[3] The rebellion In 1943, open resistance broke out all over southern and eastern Tigray under the slogan, “there is no government; let’s organize and govern ourselves.” [4] Throughout Enderta awraja including, Mekelle, Didibadergiajen, Hintalo, Samre and Wajirat, Raya awraja, Kilete-Awlaelo awraja and Tembien awraja, local assemblies, called gerreb, were immediately formed. The gerreb sent representatives to a central congress, called the shengo, which elected leadership and established military command system. The rebels established their headquarters at Wokro. During the rainy season of 1943 the rebels under the leadership of Fitawrari Yeebio Woldai and Dejazmach Neguise Bezabih, hailing from Enderta,[5] which was the heart of the woyane rebellion,[6] were busy organizing their forces; and after celebrating the Ethiopian New Year on September 12, they went on the besieged government garrison at Quiha. The highly equipped government forces were to meet with the poorly equipped but determined rebels’ for the first time in the rebel’s stronghold district of Didiba Dergiajen, Enderta in the village of Sergien; the rebels under Fitawrari Yeebio Woldai (Wedi Weldai) and Dej. Neguisie Bezabih defeated the government forces decisively; they captured countless modern weapons that helped them attract many peasants to join the rebellion; and many government soldiers deserted and joined the rebellion. In the month of September 1943, on the government’s second offensive in the village of Ara, also in Enderta, the woyane reblels under Wedi Woldai scored yet a second victory over the heavily armed government forces; this time however, the rebels captured high level feudal chiefs including and killed many prominent Tigray and Amhara war lords that sided with the Emperor Haile selassie’s government. The rebels under Bashay Gugsa Mengesha also captured General Essyas and many of his commanders and emperial soldiers at Quiha. The rebel forces estimated at 20,000, moved eastward from Quiha to Enda Yesus, a fort overlooking the provincial capital, Mekelle. They captured the fort and then took Mekelle. The representatives of Haileselassie’s government fled. The woyanti issued a proclamation to the inhabitants of Mekelle which stated, inter alia: Our governor is Jesus Christ… And our flag that of Ethiopia. Our religion is that of Yohannes IV. People of Tigray, follow the motto of Weyane. READ MORE…..


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