Arbaminch

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Found in around 1960 (You may come up with the right date here) Arbaminch is one of the youngest big cities in Ethiopia. Arbaminch was built from scratch. The first thing done was clearing of the forest, bulldozing of the earth and making a way for a make shift government offices. This was done by peasants from all over the region. Every Awraja Gegj (Administrators) had to recruit and send a certain number of labourers towards the building of Arbaminch.

The government offices were built by as little as four items. Tin from Akaki for the roof, Eucalyptus poles from Chencha (the dethroned city which preceded Arbaminch as the capital city of Gamugofa) for all the frames, a woven bamboo (from Chencha), locally called kartta, rolled around the pillars as a wall of the ‘building’ and of course nails to attach these and the roof to the frame. Civil servants and other service providers in the area also used these materials to build their residences or service centres.

Along with these, there were many ground breaking activities carried out in the early days. This was not an easy task. The people who built Arbaminch built it standing against the scorching and punishing heat that reached the high of thirties along with repellent humidity at times. Not only the heat, winter or a season I do not remember, brought awlonefas, a tornado like wind that dismantled and leveled the city within minutes and left almost all houses roofless. The next day was a building day again. The fight against malaria was the main challenge of the pioneers in their process of building the city.

Thus, the pioneers and their children were the first of so many things that Arbaminch has today: Fitawrari Aemiroselassie Abebe was the first Governor of Gamo Gofa to make his provincial seat in Arbaminch. Tefaye Asfaw was the first to introduce and owe electric generator in the city. The first teachers of Arbaminch proper were teachers who taught in “Tawla Timihirtbet” (a school building built of lumber) in shecha. The first hotel, the flour mill operator, the first pharmacy, the first surveyor, and the first judge Characters such as Agago, Shonene, kumakulo Abalasha, known government officials Colonel Kalbesa Beka, Known teachers Mamo Yadete the locomotive, Memirae Wolde Gosa Italian families: Leda and Dicorsa known business men Wubetawe Belihu and Ato Gochera, from neighbourhood’s kolkole. It goes on and on and on.

Some of these pioneers may still be living somewhere in Arbaminch. Their children are of course living scattered around the country and in different part of the world. So they are the living treasures of Arbaminch history! Tadesse Wolde and Girma Tesfaye are among the known children of the pioneers.

This page is dedicated to developing a recorded history of Arbaminch and its vicinity. In so doing it attempts to bring old friends together and help them share their memories. This in turn will avail a pool of resource for the younger generation who has an interest in digging about Arbaminch.

Were you in Arbaminch at any one time? Share us your experience. Were you student, teacher of Haile Degaga or the Highschool? Did you live in Shecha or Sikela? Did you swim in Kulfo River? Did you go to cherry picking in the thorny bushes (Kontir) to look for the likes of yebereha lomi, bedena, koshim, enkoy and encountered wild dogs (tekula), chitah or even lions? What was your experience about Arbaminch Chaka? Had you been to nech sar?

Thank you

Arbaminch

 

8 thoughts on “Arbaminch

  1. Thank you for launching this page. There are many stories that need to be told. The founders of the town and those who joined immediately deserve mention and proper acknowledgement. Bone Sozo, a famous Komarit moved with the capital of Gamo Gofa from Gidolle, to Chencha and then to Siqella in Arba Minch. Her house was close to ATO Assefa Demmisse’s bar and photo shop which was further down the road from his wife Gete’s current bar and Photoshop that is located on the corner turning right to the Siqella Market from the main road coming from Shecha. Then there was Assefa Demissie the first photographer who roamed on foot to all schools in the province to have photos taken of all candidates sitting for their school exams locally labelled as ‘ministry’. Four passports size photo’s for a birr was what he charged per student. Then the first bakery in Shecha established by a German volunteer, his partner Aregash resided in their house near the post office in Shecha with her daughter Tsehay, who she gave birth while with her German partner. He had the first motorbike in Arba Minch. It was right you mention Kuma Kullo. He was a great entertainer and chief announcer of death and disaster. The town of Sikella had regular flooding as it was established on a flood plain and in one of these incidents that took place after midnight he walked around blowing a horn to wake people up and save their lives. The first church of St. Gabriel was not in its current location but on top of a small hill in the middle of the banan plantation between the new WHO medical warehouse and Sar Sefer. The first batch of priests led by Memire Asrat, Abebe’s father and Sinke’s husband deserve recognition. His daughters are all there in town to tell his story and I remember that one was working for the ministry of education, Shecha. The Woiza Colony around the Siqella market cooked food and distilled Araki for labourers in the Limat plantation, Limat. The initiators of this big scheme of feeding and entertaining hundreds of plantation workers were people such as Manani Aye, Yewbi Aye and others in the market neighborhood. Everybody else followed after them and made Arba Minch a reality. People ate, had drinks and got entertained for small amounts. Arba Minch owes a lot to these ladies. ATO Getachew, Manani Aye’s only son has inherited and lives in her house today. Getachew was one of the few locl people trained to drive tractors and worked in Limat together with Tizazu, another local tractor operator. Tizazu later died of a tractor accident while working at the YILGE Farm, in Shelle. They both deserve credit. Banja Bakalo, a young student from Dara Malo, was a kind person that supervised daily laborers in the plantation. He was known for his understanding and respect to laborers. There were also supervisors such as Demissie, Yada and others who were known for their roughness, They too need mention.
    Ato Engida Cheru and ATO Bisrat were great managers of the Limat farm from what I gather from my child hood memory. They now live in Addis and Hawassa respectively. We were told that they had higher education in the then Yugoslavia.
    The GAMO Gofa Police volley ball team was a source of pride for all young students that hailed in Gamo Goffa. They were national champions seven times and there was jubiliation each time they returned to Arba Minch with cups awarded from our Emperor. Anjullo Borsam and his younger brother, Mitiku and shambel Mulatu were some of the famou volley ball and football players. Mitiku can be reached at the Mekane Yesus technical school. I felt sad that to know that this hero serves as a guard at the mission but was also delighted to know that he was well and alive. The first native traffic police lived in Siqela and he is the a neighbour of Basha Mitiku and there is a lot that could be said about the professionalism of the police of the day then and about law and order Arba Minch. I will stop here for today. I shall later write about traders, shop owners, hoteliers as well as pea crop volunteers who shaped our thinking when we were young students.

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  2. Assefa Demissie was the first person to introduce a night club in his bar and restaurant. With his wife, late Gete, they sometimes danced togetherness lure young people to the club. He hired young girls from Shashamane and Hawassa. Hawassa was formed at the same time as Arba Minch around a farm managed by the Imperial Ethiopian Government’s ministry of Community Development***. The other places that offered bar and restaurant and room services then included Wubete Belihu Hotel, Tesfaye Asfaw, in Siqela. Assefa did not have rooms for rent. Wubete sometimes brought roving dancers and singers groups from Nazareth and Shashamne and people paid for tickets. I am not sure if they are based in the above towns but may be they used Shashamne as a hub. As tudents were not allowed to get any where near these places let alone watch the dancers. These bars were just beginning to get electric light from the then ELPA’s line and not every body could afford to pay for the lines. (Civil servants with good pay and traders only could afford. Tesfaye Asfaw and Wubete Belihu had bigger hotels in Shecha, the seat of the Gamo Gofa government. These hotels served officials and visitors and were a bit porche by Arba Minch standard. ATO Tesfaye Bogale and his Gondarian Wife had I think the best hotel on the opposite side of ATO Tesfaye Asfaw’s Hotel across the road. ATO Tesfaye Bogale came as a truck driver to the then Governor (Dejazmach Aemro Sellasie Abebe), and had a private truck. His links to the governor and ownership of the truck enabled him to have a prime location for his hotel.
    My parents who lived in Siqella then, did not have electricity until it reached our street a year after it was introduced in Arba Minch and they could afford to install only one bulb for two rooms. We got our water from the Kulufo River which was about 150 meters from our house. We had a two room house and a small thatch kitchen located outside and a pit toilet. When electricity to Arba Minch. One would be Interested to know that students in living Siqella studied and worked on their homeworkers at night under the electric posts along the stree that had sets set light. They spread palm mats on the ground and the warm Arba Minch weather in the open was enjoyable. This stopped with electricity reaching many homes.)
    Regarding the Ethiopian Church Abune Sawiros moved to Arba Mich with his office from Chencha when the capital moved and was the first Liqe P’ap’as of Gamo Gofa who taught in Arba Minch. He was a tall, graceful old man. I was anointed a deacon by him in Chencha when I was seven. His biography needs to be written as the religious father of the province then. Memmire Gebreegziabiher who served as the main priest in Arba Minch with Memmire Asrat and my own father, (Memhir Wolde Gossa who was a school teacher and one of the Founders of the Haile Degaga School) who attended mass regularly even though he was in pay roll of the Ministry of Eduation, need a chapter or so in the history of this town of beautiful people. It is fair to pay tribute to these elders who thought us to love and to provide selfless service to community and beyond. I will continue writing on a different day.

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  3. Shiecha Sikela

    18 Apr (1 day ago)

    to WordPress

    Thank you Taddese. I knew that you would be the first to come to this page.

    I consider this as a house warming conversation.

    Talking about 1st bakery, was the Germans name Mr Hans? If he is the one, I vividly remember him riding his dirt bike along Schiecha Sikela road with his dog following behind him. There was also the first plumber of the city. His name was Ato Tadesse and we the then kids called him Tadesse buwambaw. He also rode around the city using his scooter motor bike. I think this was before Mr Hans.

    Then Comes Kuma Kullo – the big time entertainer of the time. His most known entertaining service was delivered at leqso biet. In that kuma kollo played a great therapeutic role in helping mourners come out of their grief through singing various songs with funny lyrics and creatively making different sounds that made mourners laugh. Some of the lyrics I remember:

    “Enie Kumakulo albelam beshiro

    Sirit argesh amchi kulich yalch doro.”

    And also he used to sing

    “Afaf lay Yalechiw tinishwa muday

    Afwuan tikeftalech bawundien sitay”

    This was said after a sound made behind his closed lips miiiiiiiiiiii mea mea. Bowund is taken from English pound and it meant 10.00 Eth Birr then. This ten birr (1 bowund) was all you needed to entertain yourself in the most expensive bars. Talking about it in the public may be offensive. But Kumakulo is not ruled by “whatever done in Vegas remains in Vegas”. He uses it to bring strength to the grieving community members. Thus, Kumakullo was a gifted entertainer who did a great deal of service to the community. If Kuma was not in the leqso biet, people were sent out to look for him. He did this to the last.

    Kuma Kullo then died in around early 1970s. His body was found by the bank of Kulofo River.

    In the Kuma Kullos category was Shonene. Shonene was the first known female ebd and the first full blown homeless woman with a mental case in Arbaminch. She was known for emitting out words that women are not supposed to say in the public. I remember what Shonene frequently said while walking around: Santay fetelara Dampoy wontafara

    The other one was Agago Ketema. He was from Wolayita. He came along with American Mapping Mission guys and remained behind. He was the first public cloth cleaner or he was the first to give a public laundromat service in Sikela from Aba Haji Berenda. Agago did his job with passion. He sang and danced to his native songs while warming his charcoal burner iron. “ agago Ketema Yimetal bileshi Awulala meda lay jib endaybelashi’ was the lyrics he was known for.

    In the restaurant and social service area were the Komarits Bone, Ayelech mamech, Woizero Zergi, were the most known. Tesfaye Asfaw and QWubete Belihu were the most competitive busness men of the city. Tefaye Asafaw Had a restaurant with beds in both city parts. In the earliest days, there was no bus terminal as such but busses arriving from out of the city departing happened from infront of Tesfaye Asfaw hotel in Sikela thus giving the top place in Arbaminch. The history of Tesfaye Asfaw and Wubete Belihu will contribute a lot to the history of Arbaminch and the vicinity. When Arbaminch was founded the big shots in Chencha were against it. Everything of government office and everything at a provincial level was removed from Chencha and was transported to Arbaminch. This included the closing of Dejazmach Woldemariam High school and bringing it to Arbaminch. The elders of Chencha – like Ato Gaga – were furious at what was happening. It is said that Aemiro Selassie Abebe entered into verbal fights with Ato Gaga in Chench and it is said that as a response to the anger of Ato Gaga, Aemore is quoted as saying “Chench wust Gaganina Gaganon new masqerew’ Thus almost everything of Arbaminch was brought from Chencha.

    One known person from Chencha is Memire Wolde Gosa. Memire Wolde was the first ‘moral Teacher’ of Arbaminch elementary school. He was the father of Tadesse, Belaynesh, Zewdu, Sofia and Mars. He was the son of another famous elder in Chencha whoes history and bio would be of an immense interest to many and a of great importance to the history of both Chencha and Arbaminch- Aba Gosaye. Somebody will write about him someday.

    Tadese thank you again for your response and I think we have to go forward and ask individuals in person to contribute to this end through this page in any possible way they can. Hope we will have something attractive.

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  4. I had the great pleasure of being involved in the Festival of 1000 Stars several years ago. I enjoyed myself so much that I have been back several times and tried to help and offer my services to Abaya School. The last time was when the laptops were placed in six local schools funded by TCF.
    I am now really looking forward to another visit next month. I hope to be meeting up with old friends and perhaps Tadesse. Are you likely to be there in early November.
    Best wishes to all at Arbaminch.

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  5. Very interesting page. Dej. Aemroselasie Abebe was my uncle. He was very passionate about building Arbaminch and making it great. Apparently my generation (marxist/lenniinist) had different idea for the progress of Ethiopia. The left went too far and end up destroying the legacy of the past.

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    • We are really sorry for the delayed response. Thank you Tsehay. This is very interesting . We are more than happy to get as much information related to this. Arbaminch’s history can not be complete without incorporating the legacies of your uncle. Please forward us anything you think is worth for Arbaminch. So, do you know the where about of Asrat? we are very glad to know. Asrat was one class ahead of this writer in Ft. Haile Degaga elementary school.

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  6. Sorry for the late response. Asrat lives in Chicago, USA. I have communicated with him only few days ago.
    He is as gracious as his father. His brother Abebe Aemro has a high post in IMF. All the children are doing
    fine. I have visited Arbaminch during the first Ediget Behibret Zemecha. Gamo Gofa is indeed one of the best places to be. During the first Edget Behibret Zemecha, I was fortunate to visit Arbaminch while assigned in Felege Neway (Bulqi). I know Beto and GelTa. The people are kind and peaceful acquiring great culture.

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