The Institute of Ethiopian Studies of the Addis Ababa University (AAU) commemorated the centenary of the heroic struggle of Belay Zeleke against the five year Italian occupation.The commemoration took place at Ras Mekonnen Hall Thursday with various activities including paper presentation on the patriot struggle, heroic songs, poems and theater, among others.
University President Dr. Admassu Tsegaye, said on the occasion that Dejazmach Belay Zeleke was one of the most prominent patriots in the five- year Italian occupation. He said Belay's remarkable and heroic struggle are unforgettable and will live forever in the hearts of Ethiopians.
“For Ethiopians, Belay means source of inspiration, unbeatable and unbendable for freedom. He also means Ethiopianism, a sign of love who is always very close to every one of us. Belay could remind two major things to this generation. One defending our nation and two was fighting to beat poverty as Belay fought the aggressor. As Belay said no to the enemy, we must say no to poverty!” he added.
Ancient Ethiopia Patriots Association President Liketguhan Astatkie Abate on his part underlined the need for recalling history. He said: “We recall history to inspire ourselves to make remarkable achievements in the future by acknowledging yesterday's deeds. As Dejazmach Belay stood up for his country's freedom, this generation should be patriot for development. In fact, patriotism is common behavior of all Ethiopians.”Belay left his home as a fugitive to revenge his father's killer. However, following the Italian invasion in 1935, he felt the need to defend his country and led an insurgency movement against the occupation in Gojam. Soon, he became known for being remorseless among Italian generals and they fought him as hard as they could. Not only did he defeat the Italian army that was sent to destroy him, he also took the army’s general to custody and executed him by hanging.
Unlike most of the different parts of Ethiopia, there are no physical signs of Italian invasion in the province of Gojjam. It is believed that Belay never let the Italian troops camp anywhere in Gojam let alone build construction to leave a legacy of any sort.Upon the Emperor’s victorious return to Ethiopia in 1941, Belay was assigned to administer a small part of Gojjam. He declined to accept the position and was jailed accused of being a threat to the monarchy. After making unsuccessful attempts to break out of jail, Belay was executed by hanging.
Dr. Admassu said Belay's patriotic deed was special as he also fought the then monarchical and feudal administration of Emperor Haile- Selassie that resulted in his execution by the emperor.Belay was born in 1896 in Bitchena to a mother from Wollo and to a father from Gojjam.
( Ethiopian Press Agency)