Sat. May 25th, 2024

Belay Zeleke Lakew Kiltu Ayano

Belay was born in 1912 in Chaketa, Wollo, Ethiopia, to Oromo parents. At a very young age under mysterious circumstances, Belay killed his uncle and fled to a life of fugitive with little or no contact with his immediate family for about 15 years during which time he developed traits that would help him achieve a name for himself in Ethiopian history as one of the greatest heroes who defended their country.
In 1935 Italy invaded Ethiopia. Zeleke felt the need to defend his country and led a heroic movement against the occupation in Gojjam. Soon, he became known for being incredibly brutal 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 into custody the army’s general and executed him by hanging.

The Ethiopian patriots liberated Addis Ababa on 6 May 1941 and this victory officially ended the Italian occupation. Emperor Haile Selassie returned to Addis Ababa on 5 May 1941 after spending the preceding five years in exile in Europe. There are no physical signs of Italian invasion in the province of Gojam largely because of Belay Zeleke’s resistance. It is evident that Belay Zeleke never let the Italian troops camp anywhere in Gojjam let alone leave a legacy of any sort.

Upon the Emperor Haile Selassie’s victorious return to Ethiopia in 1941, Belay Zeleke was put in charge of a small region in Gojam where he had assumed a higher rank to be able to play a much bigger role in reconstructing and administering the region.

Belay Zeleke Lakew Kiltu Ayano
Belay Zeleke Lakew Kiltu Ayano

He declined the position in protest and started living life as an outlaw. Soon he was caught and sent to jail accused of being a threat to the monarchy. Some members of the nobility who protested the actions taken on the patriot and Ras Hailu of Gojam who was a well known nemesis of the emperor helped Belay Zeleke to escape during which time a police officer was killed.

He was apprehended later and was executed by hanging with his brother Ejigu and 17 others who were his followers on January 12, 1945. Ras Hailu and the other nobles who helped Belay were immediately put on house arrest and their wealth confiscated by the government. His execution was bitterly received by many Ethiopians. In his honor Gojam road was named after him. Most Ethiopians admire him as a king.

Kiya Lema

By Chala Dandessa

I am Lecturer, Researcher and Freelancer. I am the founder and Editor at ETHIOPIANS TODAY website. If you have any comment use as email contact. Additionally you can contact us through the contact page of

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