Degyat Bahta Hagos

Another legendary hero is Degayt Bahta Hagos of Segeneyti. The opposition movement lead by Degayt Bahta was the largest and well-organized movement at the time in the Eritrean colony. He was born in 1839 and lived in Segeneyti until 1875, Fitewrari Embaye
of Tigray began forcing the people of Segenayti to pay unfair amount of taxes. After a while the people of Segenayti were unable to accept or tolerate the amount of taxes imposed by the Tigrayan Fitewrari and began to demonstrate their unhappiness with the way things were going. During one such protest, Degyat Bahta killed the Fitewrari. After the death of Fitewrari Embaye, Degyat Bahta left his hometown to avoid retaliation from the rulers of Tigray and moved to Sahel. The governors of Sahel accepted him and gave him the title of “ Kentiba” where he assumed the command of troops and he fought many battles against Raas Alula. After the occupation of Massawa by the Italians, Degyat Bahta took refuge with the Italians and began receiving weapons from them. After the Italians took hold of the Akelguzay district, they made Bahta the administrator of the region and gave him the title 'Degyat'. For five years Degyat Bahta served as administrator of the region and won the trust of the Italians, but he was never happy with they were doing.

In the year 1893 almost all the farming land in kebesa was taken by the colonizers and was given to Italian farmers brought to Eritrea as a solution for the shortage of arable land in Italy. The Italians sought to take fertile the majority of the arable land in the Kebese and give it to Italian settlers. Natives who had migrated to other areas as a result of drought returned home to find the land of their forefathers at the hand of foreign white men. As a
result, in December 1894 Bahta Hagos officially declared opposition against the Italians, and imprisoned the Italian commander Lt. Giovani Sangoneti with his brother and son by his side. Following this, Bahta sought to unite the entire Eritrean kebese against the Italians. After this, he confronted an Italian front at Halai on 18 December 1894 and was about to defeat them but the Italians were rescued by heavily armed reinforcements of 3,000 troops. Soon the legendary Eritrean warrior Degyat Bahta Hagos was martyred and his troops were forced to retreat. After Bahta’s death his brother and followers moved to Tigray. However, Degyat Bahta's death was not in vain; for the Italians realized that they cannot easily take land from the natives.

Source Italian Colonization
Written by Winta Weldeyesus