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Kebur Zabagna

Kebur Zabagna
Active 1917 - 1936
1941 - 1974
Country  Ethiopian Empire
Branch Ethiopian Imperial Guard
Type Infantry
Size 9 Battalions
Garrison/HQ Addis Ababa
Patron Emperor of Ethiopia

Second Italo-Abyssinian War

Korean War

Ceremonial chief Emperor of Ethiopia

Kebur Zabagna or Zebenya (Ethiopian regular army as it was part of the Zebagna, the Addis Ababa Guard. The Kebur Zabagna was based at Addis Ababa.


heavy machine-gun company. It was commanded by Ethiopian graduates of Saint Cyr, the French military academy, at the time of the Italian invasion of Ethiopia.[2] As a unit, the Imperial Bodyguard only participated in the Battle of Maychew (31 March 1936), but afterwards many of its members joined the various groups of the Ethiopian resistance.

Following the return of Emperor Haile Selassie to Ethiopia, the Kebur Zabagna was reconstituted, and a Swedish military mission aided in its training. Men for the Kagnew Battalion, which fought in the Korean War, were drawn from the Imperial Bodyguard.[3]

"It remained the elite force of the empire," notes historian Bahru Zewde, "until discredited in the wake of the attempted coup of 1960." That unsuccessful coup had been planned by its commander Brigadier-General Mengistu Neway, and his brother Germame Neway.[4] In 1961 it numbered nine battalions; in 1969 some 7,000 men. In 1974 the Commander was Major-General Tafessa Lemma. The Kebur Zabagna was disbanded after the Derg consolidated their hold on Ethiopia.


  1. ^ Richard Pankhurst, Economic History of Ethiopia (Addis Ababa: Haile Selassie University Press, 1968), p. 562
  2. ^ Bahru Zewde, A History of Modern Ethiopia, second edition (Oxford: James Currey, 2001), p. 148
  3. ^ Bahru Zewde, A History, p. 186, and Fantahun Ayele, "The Ethiopian Army: from Victory to Collapse 1977-91, Evanston, Northwestern University Press, 2014, 12.
  4. ^ Paul B. Henze, Layers of Time (New York: Palgrave, 2000), pp. 254f.
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