Werder, Ethiopia

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Warder is located in Ethiopia
Location within Ethiopia
Coordinates: 6°58′N 45°20′E / 6.967°N 45.333°E / 6.967; 45.333
Country Ethiopia
Region Somali
Zone Warder
Elevation 541 m (1,775 ft)
Population (2005)
 • Total 18,357
Time zone EAT (UTC+3)

Werder (Somali: Wardheer; Italian: Uardere) is a town in eastern Ethiopia. Located in the Werder Zone of the Somali Region, Werder has a latitude and longitude of 6°58′N 45°21′E / 6.967°N 45.350°E / 6.967; 45.350Coordinates: 6°58′N 45°21′E / 6.967°N 45.350°E / 6.967; 45.350 with an elevation of 541 meters above sea level. It is the administrative center of Werder woreda.

The Walwal wells, site of the notorious clash between Italian and Ethiopian troops which triggered the Second Italian-Abyssinian War, are at about 12 kilometers to the north-east of the town.[1]


One of the forts Mohammed Abdullah Hassan constructed in 1910 was built here, following the relocation of his capital to Taleex the year before, allowing him to consolidate his control over the Ogaden.[2]

During 1933-34 the Italians built a road to carry motor traffic from Italian Somaliland to Werder in the Ogaden by way of Geladi and, also the fort of Walwal was a crucial component for the Italians to win the war. The subjects of the Sultans Jasin and Refle were forced to accept Italian rule, otherwise they would not be permitted to draw water at Werder.[1]

The eastern part of Ogaden was administered by Ethiopian officials for the first time on 23 September 1948 when Ethiopian administrators were sent to Kebri Dahar, Kelafo and Werder.[1]

Although Werder remained in Somali hands at the end of the Ogaden War, Ethiopian units under Brigadier-General Demisse Bulto, commander of the First Revolutionary Army, recovered Werder as part of Operation Lash by November 1980, and used the town as one of its three bases to successfully clear the rest of eastern Ethiopia of foreign Somali troops by 3 December.[3]

Government security forces and members of the Ogaden National Liberation Front (ONLF) clashed in Werder on 23 February 1994. More than 50 people were reported killed during the initial incident and in the three days of skirmishes that followed. The fighting forced the town's population to flee and seek shelter in the surrounding countryside.[4] According to the local population, there were 94 civilian deaths, most as a result of revenge killings by Ethiopian army forces on the central square, that started after the rebels had fled.[citation needed]

On 26 January 2008, the Ethiopian military placed staff members of the Dutch chapter of the NGO Doctors without Borders (MSF) under house arrest in Werder, accusing them of providing medical support to the ONLF.[5] The MSF reported in September 2008 that refugees from fighting in the local conflict between Somali insurgents and the Ethiopian government had flocked to Werder in search of food and water. "An estimated 8,000 to 10,000 people are currently living in squalid conditions," the MSF stated, "under makeshift shelters, with limited access to water, no sanitation, and the carcasses of dead animals around them."[6]


Based on figures from the Central Statistical Agency in 2005, this town has an estimated total population of 18,357, of whom 9,737 are men and 8,620 are women.[7] The 1997 census reported this town had a total population of 12,309 of whom 6,433 were men and 5,876 women. The largest ethnic group reported in this town was the Somali (98.2%). This is a slightly lower share than in the woreda as a whole (99.9%), because over 88% of the non-Somali inhabitants of the woreda live in the town.[8]


  1. ^ a b c "Local History in Ethiopia" The Nordic Africa Institute website (accessed 3 December 2007)
  2. ^ Said S. Samatar, Oral Poetry and Somali Nationalism (Cambridge: University Press, 1982), pp. 133
  3. ^ Gebru Tareke, "From Lash to Red Star: The Pitfalls of Counter-Insurgency in Ethiopia, 1980-82", Journal of Modern African Studies, 40 (2002), p. 471
  4. ^ February 1994 Monthly Situation Report United Nations Emergencies Unit for Ethiopia (accessed 29 May 2008)
  5. ^ "2008 Human Rights Reports: Ethiopia", Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor, US State Department (accessed 8 July 2009)
  6. ^ "Field News: Somali Region, Ethiopia: Thousands of IDPs in Search of Food and Water", MSF website (accessed 24 February 2009)
  7. ^ CSA 2005 National Statistics, Table B.3
  8. ^ 1994 Population and Housing Census of Ethiopia: Results for Somali Region, Vol. 1 Tables 2.4, 2.13, 2.14 (accessed 10 January 2009). The results of the 1994 census in the Somali Region were not satisfactory, so the census was repeated in 1997.