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Fano’s Role in Amhara Movement: Beyond the Misconceptions

Yonas Biru, PhD

Peddling false information about Fano will not make it stronger. Discussing its weakness openly will not expose it to danger. To the contrary, it is the lack of open discussion on its weaknesses, challenges and opportunities that has weakened and put the Fano movement in danger.

What Fano needs is an open and candid intellectual discussion to identify its weakness and chart its way forward. This is how consensuses are formed and political programs are advanced. This does not mean we need to discuss its military strategies and operations. Nor does it mean exposing its troop locations or revealing its offensive or defensive posturing. My focus is on general issues.

The narrative “ፋኖ አንድ አይደለም፣ በከፊል በስልጣን ሽኩቻ ተጠምዷል፣ እራሱን የሚመራበት ስትራተጂክ ማኒፌስቶም የለውም፣ ዓላማና ግቡ በፍኖተ ካርታ አልተሰነቀም” is not only valid, but also a triumph or fizzle subject matter.

The triumph of Fano depends on its ability to discuss its challenges and build consensus across the broader Fano ecosystem. Denying the urgent need for a unified manifesto and a robust and flexible roadmap would only achieve one thing: It Fizzles the Fano Movement.

If Fano fails to establish a unified political strategy and roadmap with a sense of live-or-die urgency, the government will happily exploit its weakness. This is happening.

This is not to say Fano has not achieved anything. It has broken the backbone of Oromummaa.

የነ ሺመልስ ጥጋብ ፈስቷል:: የነ አዳነች ትምክህት ተንፍሷል። የእምነት ቤቶችን ማፍረስ እና አማራ ተኮር በመንግስት የተቀነባበረ መፈናቀል ቆሟል። የሸገር አይነት ህገ ወጥ ወንጀል ናዝሬት ሊካሄድ የነበረው ተሰርዟል። በኦሮምኛ ዘምሩ የኦሮሞ ባንዲራ ስቀሉ ማልት ቀርቶ ነገርየው ሁሉ ስለ ኢትዮጵያ አሸሸ ገዳየ ሆኗል። በአፄ ሚኒሊክ መማል ተጀምሯል፤ ልሙጡ ባንዲራ ኦሮሙማ መንደር ገብቷል፤ አማርኝን ከኦሮሞ ለማስወጣት የነበረው ድንቁርና ቀርቶ አማርኛን የአፍሪካ ኦፊሽያል ቁዋንቋ እንዲሆን ማመልከቻ ተከቷል። ጊዜው ያለፈበት የ16ኛ ክፍለ-ዘመን ገዳ እንደ ሺሮ ቱግቱግ አብዝቶ ያልነበረውን ያህል እንደ ሺመልስ አንደበቱ ተዘግቷል።

This is a monumental achievement not only for the Amhara tribal land but also to all others small and large tribal lands who have been victims of Oromummaa zealots. God is Almighty and the Almighty is mighty great. ተመስገን ለፋኖ በሉ. Shout me a Hallelujah!

As monumental as taming Oromummaa zealots may be, transforming the nation’s governance doctrine to a democratic system requires a lot more than what Fano has in its current standing. One of the worst problems in the Fano ecosystem is shrugging off what Fano lacks, if not denying what it lacks altogether.

One such issue is the lack of a common agenda in the Fano political hinterland. For example, there are people who do not compromise on the need to overthrow the current government. They do not want to hear about negotiation that will leave the current PM in office in any form.

There are others who see a negotiated settlement as the most viable path to a lasting peace. They see the Fanno uprising as a catalyst for a negotiated settlement not for a forceful power transfer. The nuance here is the difference between change of government and change of governance.

There are still others who believe we need to be openminded and adopt to the circumstances readying ourselves for both scenarios.

Reconciling such groups is not as easy as it seems. But there is no other alternative to reach the promised land without bridging the gap. In this regard, the first critical step is building not only a common mission but also a shared vision embedded in the layers of the broader Amhara political agenda.

Many Fano supporters are concerned that developing a manifesto and roadmap will bring difficult and undesirable discussions to the fore. This is exactly why Shaleka Dawit insisted Fano needs nether a manifesto nor a strategic roadmap. He said, “መነሻችን አማራ መድረሻችን ኢትዮጵያ” [Our starting point is Amhara, and our destination is Ethiopia] serves both as Fano’s a manifesto and roadmap.  Obviously, this is utter nonsense.

The issue of contention between different tribal groups is what the future Ethiopia should look like. Oromo, Amhara, Southern People, Somali, Tigray, etc. envision different Ethiopia in terms of constitutional, political, and social architecture and institutional and cultural tissues that tie them together. This requires difficult discussions to be had and unnerving compromises to be made.

Avoiding thorny issues with “መነሻችን አማራ መድረሻችን ኢትዮጵያ” bumper sticker politics is at best akin to the proverbial ostrich head-in-sand problem solving strategy. At worst, it is a futile, if not idiotic, stunt to come to power with a deceptive slogan. We cannot fight for Amhara edition of Ethiopia while fighting Oromummaa edition of Ethiopia. Ethiopia is bigger than Amhara and Oromo combined. The voice and wishes of other tribal homelands matter.

When critics raise such issue, the all too familiar pushback come from two sources. One group is the Amhara Shene colony whose duty is to throw hoots of disdain and uncircumcised ተራ ስድብ. I know this firsthand as a designated pinata for the Amhara Shene colony running the gamut from extremist professors to መተተኛ engineers.

The other group consists of run of the mill Amhara activists who insist all concerns and criticisms should be forwarded to Fano leaders discretely through their support groups rather than airing them in public. This is misguided and does not work for many reasons.

First, Fano is a very decentralized movement. Different Fano establishments have different problems. Therefore, channeling the right recommendation to the right group is a daunting and time-consuming task. Second, it limits our comments and recommendations to micro issues leaving macro matters in the backburner. Third, not all Amhara and non-Amhara intellectuals who support Fano have a backdoor access to the various Fano establishments. Fourth, even if possible, sending recommendations from every corner of the world will inundate and overwhelm Fano leaders.

Furthermore, sweeping Fano’s shortcomings under the rug while peddling exaggerated if not totally fabricated optimistic narrative is not helping the movement. It is harming it. The Abiy administration knows that there are conflicts within the various Fano leadership and that Fano has no political manifesto. It also knows Fano does not have a clear and robust roadmap or active engagement with other tribal homelands to form a national coalition, barring disjointed lip services about the need to work with others. Amhara intellectuals’ tendency to avoid open discussions does not deceive anybody else but themselves.

On the positive note, of recent, new voices are emerging going against the feigned optimistic tide. One such example is a joint comprehensive study by Atrsaw Necho (Senior Lecturer at Gonder University) and Dr. Yared Debebe (Assistant Professor at Gonder University). Their article titled “understanding the Fano Insurgency in Ethiopia’s Amhara” highlighted:


  • The conflict [between the federal and regional governments v. Fano] will continue at a low level, without serious attempts to achieve a resolution, for some time to come.


  • The current low-level insurgency, with no sign of an end, is not sustainable, and will likely require more creative political solutions to resolve.


  • If the conflict becomes protracted, significantly disrupting daily life, it could cause a decline in support for the insurgency. Also, the non-hierarchical, decentralized nature of the groups, which have generally not operated in a cohesive, coordinated manner, may undermine public confidence.


  • The Fano mobilization strategy involves the heavy use of religious discourse and symbolism. These developments have had the effect of cementing the movement’s relations with Amhara Christians and, at the same time, have triggered concerns amongst the region’s Muslim communities, particularly in southern Wollo, who feel excluded.

I raise my hat to Atrsaw and Yared for daring to voice their opinion where others fear to trade. Senior diaspora intellectuals need to pay heed to their junior compatriots back home in the Amhara tribal land.

Furthermore, Amhara intellectuals need to learn from their Tigryan brethren. Had Tigryan intellectuals openly and candidly discussed TPLF’s weakness, challenges and opportunities, Tigray would not be where it is today.

To demonstrate the Amhara intellectual failure with flesh and blood, allow me to summon Engineer Yilkal Getnet, Political Analyst Geletaw Zeleke and Professor Girma Berhanu. These are among the prominent flagbearers of Fano, straddling between feigned dynamic optimism and static fiction.


Engineer Yilikal Getet

The good engineer is engaged in incubating, curating, and pumping optimism often laced and glazed with pure fiction, if not bordering on unvarnished lies. For example, he was the first to go out of the gate claiming there is a two-years old Fano manifesto. Three months ago, in an interview with Meaza Mohammed of Roha TV, he suggested people who say that Fano does not have a clear agenda are either sick or detractors of the Fano movement.

The good Engineer’s “all is going well” with Fano strategic roadmap was authoritatively ዲስኩርed by presenting himself as (“የቅርብ አዋቂ”) of the existence of a confidential manifesto that was not in public domain.

Ultimately, he shared the document that he has been touting as a Fano Manifesto. It is a five-pages and six lines long document. It carries neither the name of the group that prepared it nor the time when it was prepared. It provides a snapshot of a political situational assessment in the middle of the Tigray war. The Ethiopian political landscape has changed a lot since the document was drafted. One such development is the Fano uprising. The term Fano does not even appear anywhere in the document that the engineer markets as a Fano manifesto.

I have seen three such documents including the one the good Engineer touts as a Fano Manifesto. They have notable differences in form and substance and none of them rise to the demands of a robust manifesto. Calling an old five-page document a Fano manifesto reflects a cross between a spectacular ignorance and pitiful arrogance.


Ato Geletaw Zeleke

Recently, I appeared with Ato Geletaw on የሃሳብ ገበታ. He kept stating Fano has manifesto. When I asked him if he could share it, his answer was he has read it, but if I wanted to get it, I need to ask Fano leaders themselves. Which Fano? According to Atrsaw and Yared’s above-noted article, there are nine major Fano forces and countless small ones. Between them there are some level of cooperation, indeterminant relationship, and tensions in some cases. Of the nine, two have publicly stated producing political manifesto is neither necessary nor a matter of priority. They are Amhara Popular Front and Amhara Fano Unity Council. None of the remaining seven have publicly shared their manifesto. I cannot imagine why they would keep it confidential if they have it. I am inclined to believe either they do not have it or if they have it and hide it should worry us not comfort us. Here we are talking about manifesto for a particular Fano not for a unified Fano.

Any claim that Fano has a unified manifesto is utterly false and irresponsible. Such deceptions do nothing to help Fano. Ato Geletaw also insisted work is underway to form a common political front. We have heard this from different sources since the Fano apprising nearly a year ago. If there is indeed an effort, it must be a misguided effort that has not delivered a common agenda. One can wonder if Ato Geletaw’s source is Engineer Yilkal and Engineer Yilkal’s source is Ato Geletaw. በሶስቱ ስላሶች ተናግራችሁ አታናግሩኝ


Professor Girma Berhanu

In a recent interview on Hiber Radio, the good professor assured himself and his audience “ፋኖ የአብይን ማንቁርቱን ሲያንቅ ጭፍጨፋው ይቆማል.” Really? This bestrides between a blurred delusion and a spectacular fiction. I Would be remiss if I failed to ask: “Why ማንቁርቱን? Why not ማጅራቱን ወይም ግራ እግሩን?” How about ኩላሊቱን? ፕሮፌሰሩ ከቀለዱ አይቀር ያጫውቱን ብየ ነው.

The worst thing Fano can do is to overestimate its military power and underestimate the need for a political organ as a matter of urgency. Fano is likely to fall prey to such thoughts if it allows extremist forces to influence its movement. By extremist forces I mean those associated with Amhara Shene. I am not naming names.

In Conclusion

If I were asked to prepare an introductory course on Fano, I would focus on two important elements: (1) Fano’s Military and Political dimensions, and (2) Art of Making Timely Decisions that are Strategically Sound where the essence of timing is as important as the substance of the strategy.

On the military front Fano’s decentralized nature and support from the people makes it impossible to defeat. But being undefeatable is not the same as being victorious. Apart from having a sound strategy, victory demands minimizing time and cost.

Seven months ago, when I wrote a Proposal for Fano Manifesto timing was on Fano’s side to establish a political coalition. Fano was gaining momentum and winning on many fronts. Today, its momentum has stalled, and its war victories are fewer and far in between. Forming a political coalition is more challenging. Seven months from today, it will even be more challenging.

Another point I would cover in my introductory class is on the mismatch in the forces behind the government and Fano. They have different comparative advantages. The one that capitalizes on its comparative advantage will win ultimately. The cost to the Amhara community and Fano depends how long the war is dragged. The longer it lasts the better the government will be to sustain it.

We need to remember that not only Oromo PP has advantage in a sustained war, but it also has enormous firepower, including such weapons as drones, missiles, and tanks. Oromo-PPs’ culture of savagery and the Prime Minister’s sociopathic traits are elements of the government’s comparative advantage, though diabolical and evil spirited they may be.

Fano’s power are the people both in the Amhara tribal land and other tribal lands that have become victims of a runaway Oromummaa savagery. Listen to helpless women in Hara crying: “Who will stand up for Harar. They have chased us. It is Over. At this rate, we won’t find means to even be buried.” Click Here for a video clip.

You can also listen to the Amaro representative pleading to the Prime Minister at the 11th Ordinary session of the national Parliament: “The people of Amaro are surrounded by Oromo on three directions. We are denied access to other regions. It is hard to explain our suffering in words. We are invaded and butchered, and our existence as an ethnic group is in peril.”You may also look at the video clip showing Islamic leaders explaining the injustice they faced. They were not even allowed to collect their Holy Book, the Quran, before their mosque was demolished. Their mosque was legally built but that did not save it from demolition.

It took the TPLF 27 years to be rejected in all parts of the country. It took Oromummaa five years to leave the people of Ethiopia with no alternative but to start armed insurgency. This means the political environment is ripe for Fano to win support outside of its tribal homeland.

It makes absolutely no sense to focus on military strategy while ignoring Fano’s comparative advantage in the political landscape. It comes from the lack of understanding that Fano’s transformative victory cannot be achieved without harnessing the political terrain in which it has enormous leverage.


አያታችን መሃይምነት ፀጋ ነው ድንቁርናን ባያክላትም ቅሉ ይሉ ነበር

በኔም በአያቴም ስም ካጠፋን ይቅርታ

5 thoughts on “Fano’s Role in Amhara Movement: Beyond the Misconceptions”

  1. Dr. Yonas
    You raise excellent points, and I am very glad and grateful that you keep writing about this pressing Fanno issue.
    Instead of repeating “kaTefahu yiqirta” ad nauseum, why don’t you make a correction of your greatest mistake so far: referring to your critics as Amhara Shene. You are trivializing the cruelties, atrocities and animal savagery of the Shene. In the absence of an Amahara movement that could be honestly described as even a radical movement, you make frivolous reference to people as Amhara Shene. The Amhara have been in an armed struggle against the government, and even as they are attacked by drones and a mechanized army, they have not displayed the least bit of an unnecessary use of force. let alone extremism and terror. Your undue allusion to Shene appears to be a sinister attempt to dilute the genocidal mission and practice of the Shene. Alternatively, you appear to be tainting the Amhara movement to stop the genocidal ethno-fascist regime.
    Again, you do raise excellent points that could serve the Fanno movement as much needed and valuable constructive criticism. Just avoid the sugar-coated poison of the Shene reference.

  2. ዶ/ር ዮናስ አነጋጋሪ ጽሑፍ ስላቀረበ፣ ሁሉም ኢትጵያውያን እንዲሳተፉ በማለት በአማርኛ እስተያየት አቀርባለሁ።
    መጀመሪያ “መነሻችን አማራ፣ መድረሻችን ኢትዮኦጵያ” መባሉ ሳይደራጅ በሁኔታዎች ተገፋፍቶ ለተነሳ ኃይል የሚነቀፍ አይደለም። ምን ይዞ ይነሳ ነው የምትለው፣ ዶክተር ? እንዳልኸው ጥሩ ቢሮ ውስጥ ተቀምጠህ ኮርስ አዘጋጅ ብትባል፣ ጊዜና ድጋፍ ስላለህ፣ የምትጀምረው የኮርሱን ዓላማ፣ ይዘትና ስፋት በመወሰን ነው። ፋኖ እንዳንተ የተዝናና ጊዜ እንዳልነበረው ግልጽ ነው። አያስነቅፍም የምለውም ለዚህ ነው። ወረድ ብለህ፣ “We cannot fight for Amhara edition of Ethiopia while fighting Oromummaa edition of Ethiopia.” ብለሀል። ይኸማ ራስህን እየተጻረርህ ነው ወይም ባዶ ቃላት ብቻ እያሳመርህ ነው። ራስህ “This is not to say Fano has not achieved anything.” ትልና የ Amhara edition of Ethiopia ትግል ብዙ አንጸባራቂ የፋኖ ስኬቶችን በአማርኛ ዘርዝረሀል። የፋኖ የወቅቱ ትግል የኦሮሙማን ወንጀል ለመግታትም መሆኑ ግንዛቤ የለም ማለትህ ነው ? በአንድ ራስ ሁለት ምላስ ሊሆን አይደለም ? አማራ ሽኔ የምትለውም ያላግባብ ነው። አማራ ሸኔ የምትላቸው የፋኖ ደጋፊዎች ሴት ይደፍራልሉ? ት/ቤት ያቃጥላሉ ? ዘር እየለዩ ይገድላሉ ? የአርሶ አደር ቤት ዘግተው እስከ ቤተሰቡ ያቃጥላሉ ? መንገደኛ እያገቱ እንድንለቃችሁ በሚሊዮን የሚቆጠር ብር አምጡ ይላሉ ? ዶክተር፣ ሸኔን አታውቀውም ማለት ነው። የአትርሳውና የያሬድ ድርሰት ትችት ብቻ ነው ወይስ አንተ ላነሳሀቸው የሕግ መንግሥትና ሌላ ጉዳዮች ጥናት አቅርበዋል? የኢትዮጵያም ሆነ ካንተ ጋርና ሌላም አገር ያሉ ብዙ ምሁራን ነን ባዮች ችግራቸው አንድም ኢትዮጵያን አያውቋትም፣ አለዚያም ጎደለ ያሉትን ለመሙላት የራሳቸውን ጥናት አያቀርቡም። ለምሣሌ ሁላችን ስለምንመኛት ኢትዮጵያ አንተም ስለ ” … constitutional, political, and social architecture and institutional and cultural issues” ፋኖ ሰነድ አላቀረበም በማለት በውጥረት ላይ ያለውን ፋኖ ከመንቀፍ አንተ አቅርበህ ለምን አንወያይበትም ? ፋኖ ደጋግሞ የሕልውና ትግል እንደሚያካሂድና ዓላማው ማንም ዘር የበላይ የማይሆንባት የጋራ ኢትዮጵያ ከሌሎች ወገኖቻችን ጋር እንመሠርታለን በማለቱ፣ በጥናት ባይደገፍም፣ በወቅቱ የኢትዮጵያውያን ድጋፍ ያለው ይመስላል። የፖለቲካ ፕሮግራም የለውም ማለትም አይቻልም። ፋኖ እጅግ የተበታተነ ነው የምትለውም ከሀቅ የራቀ ነው። ስለ ውትድርናው ተውና፣ እስቲ በጎደለው አገራዊ ጥናት አቅርብልንና ፋኖም ከራሱ ዝግጅት ጋር አጣጥሞ ሊጠቀምበት ይችላል። እንዲያም ሆኖ ለጥረትህ ትመሰገናለህ !

  3. Dr. Biru,

    By your own admission in one of the interviews you had with Mesay M., you said “you consider yourself an analyst and not a political activist who take side …” You added ” when you become analyst in the true sense (like me), even if you take a side, you’ll write the truth whether it hurts your side or not”. This means you simply “analyse” and never gets engagged to bring practical results. In that position, you’re called an armchair activist who writes or speaks without ever really doing anything about said issues.

    Having heard what you said in the interview, I suspected you call yoursself “analyst” to win trust of NGOs and Western governments who are not sure what to do with Fanno and Amara movement. You wants them to call you and help sort out stuff – for big money. Good luck ! ካጠፋን ይቅርታ!

    As far as your name calling of those engaged is concerned, you get no ears. Why? Because you’re nothing but analyst who is disinterested to participate in the movement. An armchair activist, nonetheless. Here is a quote from over hundred years that fit your “analyst” dilemma vis a vis those engagged.. It’s the famous Theodore Roosevelt’s April 23, 1910 quote about striving valiantly and daring greatly. Lean back and enjoy it.

    “It is not the critic who counts: not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles or where the doer of deeds could have done better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood, who strives valiantly, who errs and comes up short again and again, because there is no effort without error or shortcoming, but who knows the great enthusiasms, the great devotions, who spends himself in a worthy cause; who, at the best, knows, in the end, the triumph of high achievement, and who, at the worst, if he fails, at least he fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who knew neither victory nor defeat.”

    Dr. Birru, get engaged and we’ll listen to you. Leave the armchair and walk the walk.


    Explain yourself. Are you calling Dr. Biru ” …. cold and timid soul who knew neither victory nor defeat”. Armchair activist? WOW! What a correct portrayal!


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