By Desalegn Birara
I am initiated to write this commentary by the shots to assert the existence of Amhara Shené.
I read an article on borkena.com & zehabesha.com yesterday. It is titled “Ethiopia in an Existential Crisis Without a Leader, But This, Too, Shall Pass” (4) by Yonas Biru (PhD). The essay is essentially devoted to affirming the writer’s previous categorical labelling of Fano as ‘Amhara Shené’ – which has been vigorously criticized. In Dr. Yonas’s earlier article that claimed Amhara Shene, I was one of those who, curiously, questioned the very existence of the popped entity, and why it was needed to make a pseudo balancing force for OLF Shene. Because the interests and roles of Fano were crystal clear that even the federal government acknowledged; until lately, Abiy took advantage of the new labelling to betray it. Meaning, fano had not been equated to Shene by any official before Dr. Yonas did. It seems now that someone is morally responsible to introduce attacks on fano; and an escape plan has been designed. Accordingly, Major Dawit – who can never be equivalent or representative of fano is brought up to scapegoat. This kind of ከአፈርኩ አይመልሰኝ አሰላለፍ is perhaps the worst addition to both the political tradition and the meager endeavors to avert the plight of innocent civilians.
It is sadly famous that the age-old intellectual tradition amongst Ethiopians is dismissive criticisms and accusations [I bet Dr. Yonas is the most tolerated writer to such a largescale mess, unlike the customary practice I noticed, that instantly and outrageously demonizes and ostracizes persons for such odds]. The dismissive criticism’s frustration yielded walled opinion circles, polarized politics, enemized identities, and ultimately apartheid and ethnic genocide. Amhara intellectuals indulge in verbal fights at the cost of the lives of their own people, not even at the logistics of the killer. This is the core of the intrinsic challenges in the Amhara existential struggle. How on earth can admitting one’s mistake and moving forward weigh below the lives of one’s own people for the self-made mistake? Now, innocent civil Amharas are being perpetrated for ‘being Amhara Shene’.
Attacking Amhara has been an act not limited to non-Amhara ethno-nationalist entities. It has also been the facet of the Amhara intellectual culture, itself. The 1960s generation measures political intelligence with the extent and creativity of manifesting hatred to Amhara. How much one can show one’s hatred has been the barometer of knowledge. This was one, among others, that cossetted people to incubate false evidence and stories to accuse Amhara.
The rise of Walelign was perhaps the first clearly observed self-attacking ‘campaign’ in the modern Ethiopian political history. His accidental rise was the most profound sprint board for the ethno-nationalist politics on the perimeters of enemizing Amhara. Since Walelign, it endured to be the standard of Ethiopian politics to posit Amhara as colonizer and oppressor of Ethiopian ethnic groups. This narration has been widely indoctrinated including/through government structures for more than six decades now. Attacking Amharas has been considered as the pinnacle of intellectual inquisition and buoyance of power. Ethnonationalists transgressed to cause visible physical attack, beyond verbal discourses of scourge, on Amhara according to the prerogatives of Walelign.
There are two historical turning points regarding anti-Amhara narratives. One is the time of Walelign, when hatred to Amhara was formalized and, now – the day that we harvest what Walelign sow. Now, Amhara youth are aware of the undergoing; and that consciousness is the second turning point. Because, hating and/or attacking Amhara is no more alluring political exercise; except for those ‘old habits die hard’ figures, on the bases of whose opinion the 1960s generation is generalized.
The latest of such self-attacking practice is the declaration of “Amhara Shené” (1) by Dr. Yonas Biru. This is designing a pseudo social stratum in the Amhara society to resemble a fair writer by fabricating a counterpart for the terrorist Oromo Shené. That is how they think balanced analyses can be presented. The government officials including the Prime Minister, just the next day ‘Amhara Shené’ came to the digital world, snatched the term, and injected to their propaganda machine. Consequently, it is more than reasonable to abduct or jail any random Amhara, by the regime, since that day.
Such writers who create names for inexistent entity, in a sharp contradiction, have profaned calling existing entities by their own original name. Here comes the question – what is these peoples’ mission? How can the young Amhara deal with them? The Amhara youth is fighting multidimensional enemies; among which divergently self-attacking Amharas appear at the forefront.
Walelign and the progenitor of Amhara Shene are important for this discussion. Because the first marked the emergence of ethno-nationalism in Ethiopian political history that is founded on hating Amhara; and the second, lies at the time when Amharas become aware of the set back and started to fight for their survival. Nonetheless, there have been thousands of officials in the entire half century, between those two. For instance, who forgets “ሽርጣም አማራ… (1990s) … ለሀጫም አማራ…(2010s)”? Amhara has been targeted for ethnic attacks mainly following such imprudent self-attacks. ባለቤቱ ያላከበረውን አሞሌ: ባለእዳ አይቀበለውም ይባላል። Amhara politics has been hostile on itself and too friendly to host politic rodents. This gave lessons for the Oromo ultranationalists, and they tailored the reversed design called “the intra-ethnic democracy & inter-ethnic dictatorship” (2) approach. Shamefully, the Amhara elites write in the ‘intra-ethnic cursing and inter-ethnic rationalizing’.
A transitional character bangs between being a supporter of regimes and victim of strategies that lead to self-attacking. Subjects first become crazy fans- fascinated with appealing tokenism. They are the hastiest victims of the ‘convince and confuse’ strategy. Alerted analysts and writers try to aware the situation; and it can’t be easy to turn a convinced victim to become a ‘confused’, at moderate attempt. Those at the confused state are easier to deal with compared to those which already are labeled by the public as traitors (ባንዳ). No matter what named, they directly and consistently contributed for their own plights. They have been the most ardent supporters of the regime that is committed to cleanse them. This is the salient curse of the Amhara politics today. Having noticed this, Henock Abebe on his article published on the 17th of April 2023, calls “Bite the hand that feeds Abiy’ (3).
Individualism & Rationality
Struggles for the Amhara cause have been scattered, disintegrated and anonymous to each other. The March 25, 2023 ‘Grand Amhara Convention’ proves that. How many organizations were there for the Amhara cause by the Amhara name? What tangible impact did they make since their establishment? No matter what their individual track records, the idea of coming as one entity to struggle for the same cause gives strength, – is common sense. It is appreciable. Yet, their previous statuses manifest characters no one told. Many elites’ approach to the Amhara cause tends to achieve personal interests with the minimum of self-promoting and fame seeking inclinations. This evaluation may not reflect the general Amhara intelligentsia, but the trend of observed cases cannot be ridiculed.
It is crucial to admit the assessment. Amhara Intelligentsia is individualistic in both attitude and practice. Because it helps grasp two points vividly. The first is ego as aforesaid; and the second is related to the perception of mob rationality’. Here is the thing.
Amhara Intellectuals have been observed to condemn & blame mob actions as means of requesting or compelling the government (if not overthrowing) for itemized agendas. ‘Herd mentality’ is a very common phrase the Amhara elite uses to ridicule and irrationalize the crowd actions; on who’s contrary, appreciating individual actions which they seem to consider more rational than the mob.
I argue here that the cause must be the frame of evaluation to test the rationality of the action. The mob action for the mob’s cause is a rightful measure. Nothing can be more rational than collective action for the cause that affects collectively. Actions cannot be rational for the only reason that they are undertaken individually, or otherwise. There exists no such formula as ‘mob action=irrational’. It’s understandable that the physical damages and destructions that mobs make to manifest aggression and deliver messages can give some sort of impression. Albeit that has to be seen independent of ‘mob rationality’. This seems the juncture which divided Amhara elites from their base community’s reality; and the confluence is to put all efforts together to mobilize their community for mob action where it needs. Mob action cleansed Amharas from Oromia; mob action could have saved lives, by the victimized bloc. In this view, inaction of the victim community is irrational vis-á-vis the perpetrating mob action. Another profound writer, Girma Berhanu argues this perpetrating mob action “… is irrational and rational people do not know how to deal with it” (4). Hence, he advises parallel ‘irrational action’ to protect the innocent civilians. Irrational for who? Oromos killing non-Oromo is rational – i.e., executing their cultural duties; for Amharas to die just like that, is not. Rationality is subjective. So, that advise uttered ‘irrational, but necessary’ is rationality from Amhara side, at its utmost. It is the only rational action that the targeted people can do to survive.
At this point in apartheid if the Amhara people can not take mob actions to reverse the entire calamity, they are irrational; and the Amhara elite who blames mob actions cannot be rational either. Amhara ምሁራን need to take this …shying to side with the perpetrated Amharas is not sticking to objectivity. It rather looks sticking to “ብያለሁ ብያለሁ አይነት ግትርነት”.
If there ever existed Amhara Shené in the so-called Amhara region, we would never see a single Oromo in Wello. Oromos live in Amhara region more peacefully than Amharas themselves in their own region. This is the empirical reality in Amhara region where Dr. Yonas strives to assert existence of extremist Amhara group. Conclusively, that ultranationalist extremist group called ‘Amhara Shené’ is absolutely, hypothetical. I honestly confess, if that sort of armed group had ever existed, I would be happy than sorry. Because many innocent lives could have been saved if that was the case.
Ethiopia in an Existential Crisis Without a Leader, But This, Too, Shall Pass