Yonas Biru, PhD
This is a follow up to my article titled “Fanno in Need of Strategic Direction and Clarity of Endgame.” Let me start with four incontrovertible to set the stage for a candid conversation.
First, the Amhara tribal land has extremist cabals that I have in the past called Amhara-Shene. Every political group has people with different opinions across the political continuum, running the gamut from extremists on one side to ultra-liberal on the other. Different shades of moderates fill the middle ground. Only an extremist or a high-octane fool will question the presence of extremists in the Amhara tribal land.
Second, Amhara has been and continues to be politically suppressed, economically disenfranchised, and socially annihilated.
Third, Amhara has the right to defend itself by any means necessary. But it is neither prudent nor necessary to adopt a self-defeating or quite frankly stupid political position. The question is what is the most rational, strategic, and sustainable defense and offense.
Fourth, the current Fanno movement is the result of the betrayal and savagery of Oromo-PP led by hate-driven Oromummaa cult.
The momentum for the Fanno movement is immense. If properly managed fundamental political change is inevitable. The disruption it will cause is bound to open the political space and create a conducive environment for peace and stability. If it is mismanaged, it can lead to a civil war between Amhara and Oromo and push the nation into an irreversible civil war and disintegration.
The Never Learning Political Class
Soon after the National Movement of Amhara (NaMA) was established, in August 2018, I flagged two critical points, highlighting the need to: (1) broaden their support base and not to be beholden by extremist cabals, and (2) transform themselves from grievance-fueled to strategy-driven party.
In another article in the same month of August 2018, I stressed Amhara must organize as an Amhara party to defend itself, but its agenda must be a nationalist one, not a tribalist one. Organizing as an Amhara has robust advantages in terms of organizational efficacy, trust, cohesiveness, and sustainability. In the meantime, there is nothing that Amhara would lose by adopting a nationalist agenda. In fact, it has enormous advantage to build a broad-based coalition. There are no human or civil rights that cannot be protected by a broad-based nationalist agenda. Nothing.
I wrote in 2018: “We are bearing witness as NaMA forges ahead trying to bring itself to full speed with the principles of narrow tribalism of the TPLF brand and, in the meantime, looking back and trying to cling to its historic role as the anchor of Ethiopian nationalism. This is a political optics that some of its followers dance to. The substance is different. The vexing question to the leaders of NAMA is: Can Ethiopian nationalism and Amhara tribalism coexist under a conciliatory arrangement? The answer is a resounding no.”
I continued: “Christian Tadele Tsegaye, a NAMA hardliner, wrote why the Amhara needs to organize itself. One of the points he underlined was ‘የአማራ የሆነን ሁሉ መጠቀም (ከአማራ ያልሆኑ ነገሮችን አማራጭ ካልጠፋና የግድ ካልሆነ በስተቀር አለመጠቀም).’ This is a direct quote not a paraphrase. This is not a fringe sentiment. His Facebook blog was shared and liked by over 1000 people. If other ethnic groups also follow this blueprint, the future of Ethiopia will be scary.”
I went further in my August 2018 post: “The danger with tribal politics is that it is based on grievance, often presented as a survival question anchored in ‘us’ against ‘them’ mindset. As Tadele Tsegaye put it in the above noted blog, ‘አማራ አማራ ነኝ በማለቱ ከፈርጣጭ ብሔርተኞች እስከ ሐሳዊ የኢትዮጵያ አንድነት አቀንቃኞች አንድ ጎራ ሆነው እየዘመቱብን ነው። የሁሉም ጩኸት ምንጭ ደግሞ ለአማራ ያላቸው ለከት የለሽ ጥላቻ ነው።’ The alleged “ለአማራ ያላቸው ለከት የለሽ ጥላቻ” is marketed to frame the Amhara political narrative as a survival question. This has brought the worst tribal (indeed primal) instinct in the rank-and-file consumers of such hate and counter-hate politics.”
I was marked as Amhara enemy number one. Amhara-Shene clowns running Ethio-360 had a 40-minute clip on me labeling me as “the most dangerous man in Ethiopian politics.” Tewodros Tsegaye had a similar but shorter (15 minutes) diatribe attacking me as an Enemy of NaMA. Today both Tsegaye and Ethio-360 see NaMA as an enemy. Similarly, on a VOA program Shaleka Dawit criticized me for criticizing NaMA. At the time he considered NaMA as “the hope of Amhara and Ethiopia.”
Fast-forward to 2023, I stand firm with my position because it is based on principle and political insight. But the Shaleka, Ethi-360 and Tsegaye all have changed their tune – in tone and tenor. They all have downgraded NaMA from the hope of Amhara or Ethiopia to the curse of Amhara and Ethiopia.
Do Not Let Extremist Elements Hijack the Fanno Movement
The very extremist souls who were gung-ho about NaMA in 2018 and 2019 want to use the same model for Fanno. The Shaleka and his people are busy trying to hijack the Fanno movement. I have no problem if extremist elements are part of the Ethiopian political discourse. Indeed, they need to be. That is what broad-based means.
My problem with them is their misguided belief that they are the chosen defenders of Ethiopia and anybody who does not dance to their tune is an enemy. That is what led to the massacre of Dr. Ambachew and his team. Utterly stupid.
The organization that Shaleka Dawit and company are putting together consists of people of the same belief system echoing Shaleka Dawit and Eskinder Nega. This is dangerous and will end up squandering the organic Fanno movement that has burst spontaneously onto the Amhara and indeed onto the Ethiopian political scene.
For the Record
Some extremist people are spreading false information about me. They say my reference to Shene-Amhara was a reference to Fanno. That is false. Read my article titled “The Accidental Rise and the Foreseeable Fall of Abiy Ahmed in the Land of Two Shenes.” It is a Google search away. You will not find the term Fanno in it.
Yes, in the past I have criticized Zemene Kassie as an individual. My problem with him was he went into confrontation without first building a power base behind him. When the government went after him, it took him but a week or two to send Christian Tadele as አማላጅ to surrender peacefully. In the end, he was captured hiding in Bahir Dar not in a battlefield.
The current Fanno movement needs broad-based political support. The movement needs matured and seasoned people who seek a win-win outcome. The demands that Eskinder Nega released lack strategy, nuance, and provision for mitigating the onset of a civil war. If the goal is to overthrow Amhara-PP, use your leverage to force a recall of Amhara-PP leader and elect new people. Avoid a civil war.
Ethiopians have seen Eskinder over a span of four years. He lacks maturity, strategy, and vision. He is driven by emotion. His positions are erratic. Remember he promised to win 100 percent of the Addis Ababa council seats and delivered zero. This is fact!
Fanno in Need of Strategic Direction and Clarity of Endgame