Highlights of Life and Training at the Former Haileselassie I Military Acaademy Harar, Ethiopia (1957-1977)
The purpose of this posting is to revisit the Harar Military Academy and sketch out its conception, founding, recruitment, enrollment, training and graduation of Gentlemen Cadets (GCs), and their assignment to the different arms and services of the Armed Forces of Ethiopia. It revisits, with photographic backups, the highlights of life and training at the Academy from its founding in 1957 to its abrupt closeout in 1977.
The history of officer training institutions in Ethiopia is relatively new. So, in fact, is the history of the professional Ethiopian army. Notwithstanding the rich ancient cultural and historical heritage of Ethiopia, its regular army, as such, was formally constituted just shortly before Fascist Italy’s invasion of the country in 1935. The concept of a professional standing army is, therefore, a relatively new development for Ethiopia. It was through the peoples’ militia organized under the country’s autonomous regions or Mesafints than through its trained professional army that Ethiopia withstood sustained foreign encroachments and designs on its sovereignty, political independence and territorial integrity. The much celebrated Ethiopian victories over the centuries, including the rout of Italian forces at Adwa and Dogali in 1896 and 1905 respectively attest to the valor, heroism and the natural fighting spirit and skills of Ethiopia?s traditional warriors (zematchoh). They were the bulwark and the vanguard of the Ethiopian people. They were the secret of Ethiopia’s survival as a free and independent state for over 3000 years.
The army officers military training school, as a formal institution, was formed just before the coronation of Emperor Haileselassie I in 1925 when the Belgians trained and equipped a small Palace Guard. That force was later dramatically transformed into a well equipped and staffed officer training school (Imperial Body Guard). The Swedes were the instructors. The Genet Military Training School was set up set up a few years before at Holotta, outside Addis Abeba, in 1934. The Genet Military Training and the Imperial Bodyguard Training Schools were the oldest army officer training schools of their kind in Ethiopia’s history. The Air Force Training School followed suit shortly after that. The Imperial Bodyguard ceased commissioning officers after the end of the Korean War. The Genet Officer Training School drew most of its recruits initially from non-commissioned officers (NCOs) until late in the 1950’s, when it switched to recruiting youngsters from elementary and secondary schools. The army drew and still draws most of its officers from Genet. The School has produced some of the most battletested and committed officers who have proudly participated in the wars that Ethiopia has been involved in.
In the mean time, the Ethiopian army has been going through rapid attitudinal and psychological change through its deployment on peacekeeping missions abroad. The deployment of Ethiopian troops in the Korean War as well as in other UN sponsored peace-keeping operations in Africa and the Indian sub-continent had exposed them, particularly its officer corps, to external influences that whetted the appetite for change and quickened the pace for the modernization of the army. They were eye openers for many of the officers, NCOs and soldiers deployed on peace missions. Those interactions helped to accelerate the demand for highly trained officers with professional and communication skills. Concurrently, Ethiopia?s political leadership and intelligentsia was opening its eyes to and expressing interest in the then unfolding liberation struggle on the African continent. The wind of change in Africa even swept the Emperor?s government to assume an increasingly active role in that struggle and in the Pan-African movement. In addition, the Emperor’s leadership role in the politics of the Non-Aligned movement and the Organization of African Unity had underscored the need for some form of military engagement in Africa, particularly in the struggle against Apartheid and European colonialism in southern Africa. All these developments necessitated the rapid professionlization and modernization of the Ethiopian army. That logically led the political and military leadership to promptly set up a modern military training institution that can a first rate officer corps for the Ethiopian army. That, in turn, culminated in the decision to set up a national military academy for Ethiopia
II. Founding of the Harar Military Academy
There is anecdotal evidence that the idea of establishing a military academy in Ethiopia was conceived by the late Emperor at one of the conferences of the Summits of the Heads of States and Governments of Nonaligned Countries. The Emperor reportedly broached the subject to his friend, the late Prime Minister of India, Jawaharlal Pandit Nehru at one of those encounters. It was decided to undertake a joint feasibility study of the project and report its recommendations to both governments. Consequently, a high level Indian military delegation visited Ethiopia in late 1956 and, along with its Ethiopian counterpart, visited several Ethiopian cities and towns, including Addis Abeba, Debre Zeit, Nazareth, Bahirdar, Jimma and Harar. The availability of enough physical infrastructures to start off the project almost immediately led to the selection of Harar as the venue for the Academy. Harar, it turned out, had quite a significant number of buildings once occupied by Italian and British forces in the town. That it was also the birthplace of the Emperor could have certainly tipped the balance in its favor. Harar is a small picturesque town located some three hundred miles from Addis Abeba in Southeast Ethiopia. It has a pleasant weather all year round and is known for its walled sector of Malaga built by the Turks during the hay day of the Ottoman Empire. The Academy was located in the foothills of Hakim Gara, part of a chain of mountain ranges surrounding the town. Magala was just a few miles away from the Academy. From its founding in 1957 to its premature shutdown in 1977, the Academy was so intimately bonded with Harar that it was, for all intents and purposes, indistinguishable in the conscience of so many citizens of Harar, and the large number of Gentlemen Cadets that passed through both.
The Emperor?s overriding ambition to establish the Academy was, in his own words, “to establish a Military Academy comparable to those similar Academies elsewhere, and thereby train officers who can revive the reputation bequeathed… by our forefathers”. The Emperor had, no doubt, the likes of Sandhurst, Saint-Cyr and the Indian National Defense Academy (NDA) in mind. It was apparently to foster that linkage and forge a strong relationship with these military institutions of excellence that some of the best performing Gentlemen Cadets in the Academy were selected and sent to the United Kingdom and France for enrollment at these institutions, where they acquitted themselves with distinction. The Emperor?s vision was to create a first rate Military Academy versed both in the arts of warfare as well as in military leadership, and be a beacon of light and inspiration to the people of Africa.
He envisaged the Academy to be the breeding ground for African freedom fighters that were then engaged in the liberation of their compatriots in Africa. He offered the Academy, as he once put it in a speech at one of the graduation ceremonies, ?as a modest contribution to African organizations. There is no doubt that the fulfillment of the much desired goals of African Unity will have additional (encouragement) with every increase in (the Academy) in the number of students from other parts of Africa”. The Emperor?s vision bore even more tangible results when the Dergue trained and equipped thousands of Africans as a contribution to the anti-colonial and anti-apartheid struggle in Southern Africa. It was clear, therefore, that the Academy was established for dual purposes, military and political. True to his words, many African youngsters from several African countries joined and graduated from the Academy. The Academy was lucky for being led and staffed, at its inception, by one of the finest military and academic officers in the Indian and Ethiopian armies. The Indian military contingent was particularly impressive. It was one of the creams of the Indian army. The first and founding Commandant of the Academy was the dashing General N.S. Rawlley, DSO, MC. He was a highly distinguished senior Indian military officer who saw active service in the last World War and in his nation?s wars with Pakistan. His Chief of Staff was Colonel R.N. Sen who was a brilliant staff officer and a first rate military commander in the Indian army. The duo was ably assisted by a competent team of Indian officers fully qualified in their respective fields of military specialization. An equally qualified civilian team of Indian professors who were recruited from the Indian National Defense Academy reinforced the military team. The Indian contingent, as a whole, was a highly qualified and disciplined professional team that made a deep impression upon the Gentlemen Cadets of the Academy, and contributed to the rapid growth and development of the Academy. The Indian team was ably assisted by a carefully selected group of Ethiopian military officers who worked along side its Indian counterparts, and made immense contributions.
III. Enrolment and Commencement of Training
Eligibility for Academy enrolment was restricted to young men only. Young girls were not allowed in. Eligibility also stipulated, among other requirements, that the young men be:
- Between the ages of 17-19.
- Deemed physically fit after going through a thorough medical examination.
- Matriculated or passed the General Certificate of Education (GCE) examination.
- They be Ethiopian citizens or citizens of friendly African countries.
Recruitment was done at schools. Recruiting officers from the Academy were sent out to the nation’s secondary schools across the country. A brief description of life in the Academy as well of career prospects as an army officer in the Ethiopian Ground Forces was usually given to students at the schools. Those who showed varying forms of interest were selected and interviewed there and then. Among the interviewees, those who showed definite interest were chosen and sent for a thorough medical examination for physical fitness. Those who passed the rigorous medical examinations were finally selected and sent, usually, as a group to the Academy in Harar for formal enrolment. That pretty much set the standard for recruitment and enrolment at the Academy. All Courses, more or less, followed a similar procedure. Recruits included young men from friendly African countries as a further demonstration of Ethiopia?s continued commitment to Africa?s liberation struggle and African solidarity. The Academy became informally functional in April 1958 with the enrollment of the First Course, the pioneering batch. In August of the same year, the second batch of sixty Gentlemen Cadets (2nd course) was enrolled, then the third, fourth, fifth, etc. up to 22 Courses passed through the Academy?s parade grounds until 1977. The Academy has since ceased training officer cadets for the Ethiopian Army.
IV. Organization and Conduct of GCs? Life at the Academy
The Academy was composed of roughly three departments, i.e.
- The department for Training, which itself was divided into a military wing and an academic wing.
- The department for administration and logistics.
- The Gentlemen Cadets Battalion.
The GCs Battalion compromised three companies, namely Adwa, Keren and Gonder, all named after the battle fields where Ethiopian forces scored stunning victories over invading colonial and fascist forces in the late 19th and mid twentieth centuries. The Indian army fought alongside Ethiopian forces in Keren, Eritrea. All incoming Gentlemen Cadets were issued ID cards and assigned to each of the companies upon arrival. A company was subdivided into platoons and sections. The GCs living area was known as GCs Quarters. GCs were provided with all sorts of clothing, uniforms and equipment and other types of wear for all types of training, i.e. drill, physical training and sports, horse riding, tactics, ceremonial parade, etc, etc. A $30.00, $45.00 and $60.00 pocket money was paid to each GC in the first, second and third year respectively. There was so much money around that more than took care of the private needs of each GC. That, of course, was in addition to the free food and lodging provided for everybody. Each company had an appointed GC Company Under Officer (CUO) who was responsible for the GCs routine administrative and disciplinary matters. The GCs Battalion had a GCs’ Senior Under Officer (SUO) who was appointed to tend to similar matters for the entire GCs Battalion. There was a fairly large GCs Mess, which catered to the culinary needs of the GCs, and it was the hub of their social and cultural life as well.
GCs life at the Academy was tightly controlled and programmed. The work schedule was as follows: reveille sounded at 5:45 a.m. and morning classes commenced early at 6:30 a.m. Morning classes were mostly devoted to physical training exercises, running, physical training, and equitation and drill instruction. GCs were energized but felt exhausted after the hectic morning schedule. Hungry, as well. That was why they were often seen running on the double as they furiously made their way to the GCs Mess for breakfast every morning. After a quick breakfast on porridge, eggs, bread and coffee, it was off again on the double to the class rooms or training grounds for another heavy dose of instruction. Methods of instruction took the form of lectures, demonstrations, seminars, sand-model discussions, laboratory experimentation, etc. The mornings were very hectic compared to the afternoons. By 1: 30 p.m., formal training sessions end and the GCs rushed to the Mess for a quick lunch. After lunch, it was back again to the GCs Quarters for the afternoon private studies. By then, they were so hopelessly tired that few were in a studying mood at all. After the private studies, they quickly changed their outfits for the physical training and sports program that started at 4:00 p.m. That was over by 6:00 p.m. and it was yet another private studies. These are daily study periods (two hours daily) at which GCs were expected to complete the day?s home works and prepare for the next day?s program. Some unfortunates performed their puttee parades at this time as well. It was anybody?s guess how seriously engaged the GCs were during their private studies considering the highly demanding and exhausting nature of daily schedule.
With the evening private studies over, it was to the GCs Mess again for dinner. At the Mess, there was a short period of relaxation just before dinner like listening to music, solo dancing, table tennis, chess, etc. Soft drinks were also served upon payment in the anteroom. Then, it was to the dining hall once again for dinner. After dinner, GCs marched back to their residential quarters at last. It was a long day. There was very little left to do after that because the batsmen have by then polished their boots, cleaned their rooms, starched their uniforms and had taken care of all the chores for the next day?s schedule. At 10:00 p.m., the lone bugle at the armory sounded the last post, lights were put out and the GCs mounted their double-decked beds. In no time, they were in deep slumber with silence reigning supreme over the entire GCs quarters. The proceeding is, in a nut shell, a typical daily training routine of the GCs life and training routine at the Academy with the exception of outdoor exercises that, of course, had a distinctly different rhythm altogether.
V. Aim of Instruction at the Academy
The aim of instruction at the Academy was:
- To prepare Gentlemen Cadets for command of an infantry platoon in war and peace upon being commissioned as a 2nd Lieutenant in the Ethiopian army.
- To impart to GCs a broad range of academic subjects that, upon graduation, qualifies them for an academic diploma equivalent to a third year level of education at the nation?s university.
The ultimate goal of military and academic instruction at the Academy was to instill in the Gentlemen Cadets leadership qualities and moral values that will stand them in good stead in their military and civilian lives. The Academy’s task was to produce officers whose integrity, dedication to duty, and loyalty to the men they were about to command in battle, high moral values, physical fitness and esprit de corps was of the highest order. The training was calculated to instill these officer-like qualities in the soon-to-be staff or commanding officers in the Ethiopian Ground Forces.
- Military Training
Gentlemen Cadets were trained or prepared for staff and troop leadership positions for lower levels of command in the army: section, platoon and company. General introduction is also made to higher levels of command. Tactics lessons on operations of war (advance to contact, attack, defense, withdrawal) were given a great deal of weight in terms of resources and time allocation. Patrolling, scouting, skirmishes, ambushes, map reading and point-to-point marches, as well as specialized operations -desert, mountain and urban- were also taught. In addition, field engineering, mine laying, road building, demolition, bridge building, communication and related lessons were given. Knowledge and mastery of the characteristics and capabilities of such heavy weapons and arms such as machineguns, mortar, field artillery, armor, etc. was a must. Training on planning and execution of operations were done on sand modes and outdoor ground setting. Tactical exercises without troops (TEWT) were also a common feature of the training process. Weapons training, including firing on the ranges of such weapons as machine guns, mortars, artillery, armor, light and heavy machine guns, anti-aircraft batteries, to mention just a few, took place in Hakim Gara, Dire Dawa, Fafan and other firing ranges. Also taught were staff duties, military history, man management, first aid, sanitation and hygiene (FASH), logistics and driving and maintenance of vehicles (DMV).The most adventurous aspect of military training at the Academy involved exercises that took place almost round the clock, and were conducted under all weather conditions and terrain. Among the most arduous and challenging were the Bisidimo, Fafan and the stretched-out tactical exercises without troops across the Garamullatta mountain range that simulated operations of war. Also in play were sub-unit tactical missions like patrolling, ambushes, mine laying and clearing, road building and clearing, and point to point map-reading marches. Those exercises tested individual and group physical fitness, endurance, mental alertness, initiative, resourcefulness, and tactical sense. GCs were required to prepare their fox holes and dugouts as well as weapons emplacements. They slept in open trenches often exposed to inclement weather and, occasionally, the unexpected ?guest company? of lions, hyenas, snakes, elephants and other animals that prowl the wilderness. GCs emerged out of these camp-outs and exercises completely exhausted, sleepless, hungry and thirsty but proud of their accomplishments and confident in themselves and in their newly acquired skills.
- Academic Training
The aim of academic instruction at the Academy was to further develop the mental faculties of Gentlemen Cadets and prepare them for leadership positions in the Ethiopian army. Responsibility for academic instruction was that of the Academic Wing which was responsible for setting the curriculum and syllabus and conducting the instruction itself. The Wing was divided into two streams, i.e. the Arts and Science streams. GCs opted for, depending on their interest and preference, either one or the other. English, economics, mathematics, current affairs, book-keeping were some of the required courses for all. At the completion of their third year at the Academy, GCs were awarded an academic diploma, which was equivalent to a third year level of education at the Addis Abeba University to which the Academy was accredited.
- Physical Training and Sports
A career as an army officer demands a high standard of physical fitness and perseverance. That was why physical training and sports (PTS) had an exceptionally important and high priority in the training curriculum of the Academy. The aim of PTS training at the academy was to transform, in just three years of intensive and sustained physical exercises and sports, the generally physically challenged teenager recruit, into a robust young officer fit to endure hardships and effortlessly lead his men into battle under harsh battle field conditions. To realize that objective, the Academy had a large well-equipped gymnasium, perhaps the best in the country. GCs undertook all types of activities in the gym, i.e. weight lifting, rope climbing, gymnastics and balancing acts on high beams, wooden horses and mattresses as well as boxing. Other events included massed gymnastics, cross-country endurance run, swimming, squash and field tennis. Another major landmark in the campus was the concrete-built obstacle course, which was a must for every GC to complete. GCs were often seen with their field service marching order (FSMO) on their backs and rifles slung across their shoulders crawling underneath rectangular beds of wired confetti, climbing the two meters high concrete walls, nee-walking tunnels, jumping over four-meters long ditches, climbing rope-ladders with a final sprint to the finish line where they assumed the prone position, took aim and fired at the miniature firing range with live ammunition. Events also included football (soccer), volleyball and basketball. There were inter-company competitions at which trophies were awarded to the winners and runners-up. These activities took much of the late afternoon after the afternoon private studies. The schedule was fast paced and hectic quite a fun; that explained why most of them came out, after three years at the Academy, physically fully developed, vigorous and muscular.
The aim of drill training at the Harar Academy was to inculcate in Gentlemen Cadets discipline, smart physical bearing, elegance, meticulous turnout and pride. The types of drill taught included individual and group foot drill, rifle drill, cane drill, sword drill, ceremonial drill, funeral drill, trooping the color, and mounting the guard. Through these activities, precision, implicit obedience to orders, steadiness, alertness and discipline were drilled and drummed into the GCs. The most poignant manifestation of this was the passing out ceremonial parade for each graduating batch of GCs at the end of its three year stint.
- Equitation Training
Gentlemen Cadets were expected to be proficient in horsemanship and have a modicum level of knowledge of animal management. Horsemanship and archery are the type of sports often associated with chivalry, honor, integrity and gentlemanly conduct- the very qualities demanded of an officer cadet. It was no accident that the cadets at the Academy were referred to as Gentlemen Cadets. Equitation class along with drill was intended to inculcate in the GCs the virtues of courage, honor, and loyalty. At the arar Academy, GCs were required to learn some of the basic skills of horsemanship such as walking, trotting, cantering, galloping of horses as well as cross-country riding, show jumping, obstacle course jumping, polo riding and ceremonial riding. Horse riding competitions were frequently held at the Academy. The most noteworthy equestrian events, though, were the ones conducted in Harar and Djibouti between the Academy and the French Army/Navy equestrian teams. The Academy teams frequently won the rophies. The staples for the Academy horses were located off campus at Kalad Amba in the Harar suburbs, which boasted some of the healthiest and elegant horses in the country.
- Extra-Curricular Activities
To mitigate the effects of the pressure and the rigors of training at the Academy, several extra-curricular activities were available to the hard-pressed GCs. Those included public debate and oratorical contests, drama, photography and hunting. Regular inter-company debating competitions and drama shows were arranged for the benefit of GCs, officers and their families. GCs, with some assistance from officers, also rganized dancing and indoor activities at the GCs Mess. Frequent outdoor excursions were also organized. For the weekends, GCs trooped to the cinema halls of the walled Magala enclave of Harar or made a dash to the beautiful city of Dire Dawa or to the adjoining Botte neighborhood.
- Ceremonial Dinner Nights
Gentlemen Cadets regularly hosted ceremonial dinners at their dining hall. These were orderly and solemn occasions where the Academy’s entire corps of GCs was required to be in attendance in formal military attire. After a brief respite in the anteroom of the Mess, the GCs quietly filed into the dining hall in a disciplined and orderly manner and stood at attention behind their chairs at their allotted table. After attendance report to the night’s guest of honor, usually a senior officer, the Senior Under Officer escorts him to the dining hall. The guest officer marches in, stands by his chair and takes his seat at the head of the table reserved for honored the guest. The GCs followed suit led by their Company Under Officers according to Course seniority. GCs were served special dishes on such occasions. Cooks and waiters put on their best outfits. Alcoholic drinks were not served. After dinner, the SUO escorts the guest of honor out of the hall into the anteroom, and saw him off at the entrance to the Mess. Then, GCs file out as orderly as they filed in. What distinguished the ceremonial dinner from routine dinners were the solemnity, discipline, formality and ceremony attending the dinner.
- Graduation and Ceremonial Parade
Graduation or commissioning from the Academy was the most eagerly awaited event in the GCs’ calendar. That?s what GCs were preparing and longing for since their arrival at the Academy. That, in effect, was the light that every GC was expecting to see at the end of the proverbial tunnel. GCs received their commission and diploma from the Emperor or the Head of state of the day after a glittering passing-out parade at the Drill Square. Each GC was formally commissioned as a 2nd Lieutenant in the Ethiopian army. With the raining season coming to an end and the fragrance of Meskerem?s adeiabeba flowers filling the air over Harar, an impressive military parade unfolded on the Drill Square with the Academy Colors and the Ethiopian tri-color spearheading the parade. The graduating seniors, escorted by their junior courses in their resplendent uniform, marched into the square to the military tune of the Academy Band. As the passing out seniors marched off the Drill Square past the reviewing stand to the Academy Band’s tune of Auld Lang Syne, the junior Gentlemen Cadets saluted them with a “presents arm”. Concurrently, the families of the graduating class and the invited guests all burst into spontaneous cheers. This was followed by a ceremony at the Academy’s main Instructional Building where they were given their diplomas and their commission as they were formally inducted into the Ethiopian Army. With the formal ceremony over, the three-year long journey came to a joyful end and the junior most officers of the Army adjourn for a much-deserved month-long vacation and a final graduation gala at the Ghion Hotel in Addis Ababa.
VI. Placement and Contributions of Academy Graduates
- Contributions in Active Military Service
After commissioning, the officers reported for duty to the units, arms, services and formations they were assigned to. That meant the infantry, armor, artillery, airborne, air borne, army aviation, air defense as well support, administrative and logistical services. The line officers initially served as platoon or company commanders but swiftly moved up to become field grade officers in charge of battalions, brigades as well as staff officers. And many rose rapidly to assume senior command positions in formations such as division, army corps and army commanders or staff officers or chiefs of staff. Large numbers of them rose to the rank of brigadier and major general. It is interesting to note that the vast majority of Academy officers in the junior courses category (unlike the senior courses) were sent directly to the front lines after their graduation where they fought gallantly and stemmed the tide of the invading Somali army on the eastern front. Hundreds of Academy officers of all ranks and courses paid the ultimate sacrifice on that front as well as in the all consuming flames of the civil wars in the north, particularly Eritrea and Tigrai.Many others were wounded in action and a few were captured and tortured to death by the Somali army. Such was their bravery, determination and professionalism on the front lines that many were awarded medals for gallantry, including the citation Hero of Ethiopia.It should be stressed that among those who laid down their lives along those officers hailing from the Harar Academy were fellow officers from the Genet Officer Military Training School who fought just as heroically and professionally as their Academy counterparts in defense of the unity and territorial integrity of Ethiopia. It all goes to show that despite the fact that we hail from different military schools or ethnic groups or religions, we are, at the end of the day, all officers of one army, one country and one people. Mention should be also made of the exceptionally qualified GCs who transferred from the Academy to the Air Force in their senior year, quickly learned the skills of their new trade and went on to become outstanding pilots and commanders. They too rose to senior ranks in the Air Force and served their country with exceptional bravery, brilliance and utmost dedication. Some were seconded to the former Ethiopian Navy where they joined the Marines for service both on land and at sea. Still many more served with the Army Aviation where they engaged on combat flying dangerous missions and exhibiting professional competence, skill, and exceptional daring under enemy ground fire. Some have also served as international peacekeepers under the auspices of the United Nations, the OAU and other bilateral arrangements.A large number of Academy graduates were enrolled in colleges and universities in Ethiopia and abroad to pursue higher education in such varied fields as engineering, medicine, pharmacy, law, economics, geography, history, architecture, political science, public administration, business administration and other disciplines. It was and is a sense of pride to see Army hospitals in Addis Abeba and elsewhere in the Administrative Regions staffed and led by medical doctors who hailed from the Academy. The pride is no less to discover that many of the engineers, architects, economists, lawyers, managers, etc that ran most of the undertakings in the Armed Forces were trained in the Academy.
- Contributions in Civil Society
Over and above their outstanding military service, Academy graduates have made enormous contributions to civil society in different capacities. Whether it was in government service or the private sector, particularly in medical, engineering, economic, administrative and managerial capacity, Academy officers have made invaluable contributions. Several of them served as heads of corporations, charitable organizations, governors, and readers of business and industry, ambassadors, government officials, professors and in other prominent positions. There are still a considerable number of them serving abroad in professional capacities, including in academia, computer science, management, and medicine and in many other disciplines. The largest contingent of former Academy graduates is in Europe, and North America with a large concentration in the United States of America deployed in professional, technical and service sectors. The contribution of Academy graduates from friendly African Countries (Nigeria, Uganda, Kenya, Tanzania, South Africa and others) is difficult to measure due to the paucity of records. But it is reported that many of them have risen to some of the highest ranks in their respective countries? armies and governments.
Ethiopia’s former military leader Lt. Colonel Mengistu and Lt. Colonel Atnafu Abate at a graduation ceremony for cadets from the Harar Military Academy in Addis Ababa.
VII. Closeout of the Academy
Notwithstanding its legacy, the Harar Military Academy has long ceased to exist. Its gates were abruptly closed to incoming freshmen recruits in 1977 just as it was abruptly founded in 1957. It had very few cheer leaders at its inception and very few shed their tears for it at its demise. No official statement was issued to explain it’s shut down by the Army HQs. All explanations for its closeout are therefore speculative. The most plausible explanation had to with the emergency national security situation that arose in 1977. The Ethiopian army, after the Ethiopian revolution of 1974, was in shambles because, among others, the regime summarily dismissed or forcibly retired or cashiered a large number of experienced officers it was suspicious of. There was a huge leadership vacuum. The morale of the army was rock bottom. Its numbers were low and weaponry and equipment were antiquated. It was under this inauspicious situation that the Somali army struck in 1977. The situation was exacerbated by increased military activity in Eritrea and Tigrai to some extent. The army was hard pressed on all fronts. To contain the coordinated onslaught, the government resorted to mass mobilization and recruitment. All of a sudden, the army expanded by leaps and bounds. Officers were in short reply on every front. Hence began a mass officer training program and a mass production of officers. The Academy, with a maximum output of just 60 officers a year, was deemed not productive enough to satisfy the urgent and massive demand of emergency officer requirement. It, therefore, became one of the first casualties of the war and the state of national emergency. It had to give way to officer training centers that sprung up all around the country and began producing thousands of officers in just six to nine months. The Academy closed down in 1977 with the 22nd Course still under training. Thus ended prematurely the Emperor?s vision and experiment to modernize and reform the army through the impact of a modern officer training institution. It was a great vision and experiment while it lasted. But not all visions and experiments last very long. The Harar Military Academy was one of them. Despite its premature demise, there is no doubt that through the high caliber of the officers it produced and their stellar performance wherever they were posted, it made immense contributions to the growth and development of the Ethiopian army and served the interests of the Ethiopian people as a whole.
Source: Harar Military Academy