Dances of Somali Region by Michal Przedlacki
Dhantoo dance in full swing, Somali Region, June 2010. Gode was the capital of the Somali Region from late 1992, to appease the powerful Ogaden clan but in 1994 capital was moved to Jijiga. Gode was established in 1965 by Emperor Haile Selassie, who ordered construction of military base, well, mosque and church and laid a runway in this easternmost strip of Ethiopia. Before the start of the Ogaden War (between Ethiopia and Somalia 1977-78), Gode was garrisoned by the 5th Brigade of the 4th Division, distributed around the town in five military camps. Gode was captured by Somali side in the end of July 1977. Brigadier-General Demisse Bulto, commander of the Ethiopian’s First Revolutionary Army, recovered Gode by November 1980, and used the city as one of its three bases to successfully clear the rest of eastern Ethiopia of foreign Somali troops. Gode has been at the center of several devastating famines: largest ones in 1981; the next in 1991, which required the UN High Commission for Refugees to airlift food to 80,000 people stranded outside the town; and most recently in 2000 (and to less extent in 2008), which had caused Gode to swell to a reported size of 100,000 inhabitants. This led John Graham to grimly remark in the Addis Observer, “The main claims to fame of Gode are not inspiring - they are famine and war”.