Bale revolt

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Bale revolt
Result Revolt suppressed
 Ethiopian Empire Oromo and Somali rebels
Supported by:
Commanders and leaders
Haile Selassie I Waqo Gutu

The Bale revolt or the Bale Peasant Movement was a guerrilla war in the southeastern Ethiopian province of Bale led by the local Oromo and Somali population. The revolt targeted the settlement of the Amhara people and feudalistic system in place in the Ethiopian Empire.[1]


1960 Ethiopian military coup[edit]

On 13 December 1960, an attempt was made to overthrow Emperor Haile Selassie. The coup took place after the emperor left Ethiopia on a trip to Brazil. In the beginning of the revolt, rebels captured the Ethiopian capital of Addis Ababa and kidnapped the Ethiopian prince, 20 cabinet members, and many predominant politicians.[2] In early stages, the coup was supported by the Imperial Guard. The Imperial Guard soon turned on the coup after the return of Emperor Haile on 17 December 1960. The forces of the Imperial Guard soon recaptured the city of Addis Ababa and freed government captives. The coup from that point on was considered a failure.

Today, some sources argue[weasel words] the 1960 Ethiopian coup was the first major questioning of the Ethiopian government.[3]

Ethiopian Student Movement[edit]

The movement began in the early 1960s. University students in Ethiopia questioned the government and monarchical rule. The small rebellion turned into a full-fledged student movement by 1967.[4] Protesters were often determined to destroy and dismantle the entrenched feudal order to significantly improve the political and economic modernization of Ethiopia.[5] Many protesters partook in frequent and violence-oriented verbal attacks on African governments for their corruption and abuse of power.[6] The movement ended in 1974 and the Ethiopian Civil War began soon after.


The revolt is believed to have started as a result of many peasants in the southeastern region of Ethiopia, primarily composed of the Oromo people and Somali tribesmen, refusing to pay taxes and allow access to land to the Ethiopian government. The peasants also had strong opposition of the settlement of the Amhara people in Bale.[7]

The revolt was led by Oromo leader and rebel figure Waqo Gutu and supported by the Somali government. Waqo Gutu is believed to have started the rebellion when he received no government aid after a conflict over grazing rights. After receiving no aid, he went to Somalia to supply himself and other rebels with weapons.[8]

In one of the landmark battles at Malka Anna near Ganale River in 1963, the Oromo combatants took down two military helicopters using a non-automatic rifle called Dhombir. Hence, the period from 1963 to 1970 is locally known as the Dhombir war after the gun used by the Oromo fighters. The battle of Dhombir at Malka Anna was critical in that the rebels were able to capture and take a lot of weapons from the enemy thereby boosting their defensive capabilities.[9]

In 1969 Somalia withdrew support for the rebellion after changing government. Soon after, an agreement was reached with the Ethiopian government and many predominant Oromo leaders were pardoned marking the end of the conflict.


  1. ^ Mammo, Tirfe (1999). The Paradox of African Poverty. p. 99. ISBN 9781569020494. The bale revolt was directed against new settlements in the region and the resultant shortage of arable land and high taxation by the central government and the land-lords
  2. ^ "The Attempted Coup of 1960 and Its Aftermath". Countrystudies. US LIbrary of Congress. The coup was initially successful in the capital, as the rebels seized the crown prince and more than twenty cabinet ministers and other government leaders.
  3. ^ Mammo, Tirfe (1999). The Paradox of African Poverty. p. 99. ISBN 9781569020494. The 1960 coup for the first time questioned the power of the king to rule without the peoples consent.
  4. ^ "Ethiopian students protest against Emperor Selaisse's regime, 1967-1974". Swarthmore. NV Data Base Swarthmore. ...unrest began to boil among the university students in the early 1960s, becoming a full-fledged student movement by 1967. Students began their push for political and social change and participation subtly in the form of poetry.
  5. ^ Gemeda, Guluma. "Haile Selassie, Western Education, and Political Revolution in Ethiopia (review)". Project MUSE. MUSE. He belongs to a generation of students who believed in dismantling the entrenched feudal order to facilitate the political and economic modernization of Ethiopia.
  6. ^ Balsvik, Randi. "Student Protest – University and State in Africa 1960–1995" (PDF). ETH Zürich. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2014-12-26. A prominent aspect of student protests was the frequent and violent verbal attacks on African governments for their corruption and abuse of power to enrich themselves and their families to the detriment of the country at large.
  7. ^ Nicolas, Gildas. "Protest in Ethiopia". Escholarship. UCLA. p. 55.
  8. ^ Marina and David Ottaway, Ethiopia: Empire in Revolution (New York: Africana, 1978), pp. 92f
  9. ^ A, Mohammed. "Commemorating 50 Years of Oromo Struggle led by General Waqo Gutu". OPride – News and Views from the Horn of Africa. Retrieved 2016-02-19.