Yonas Biru, PhD
Let me start with the rise of an indomitable Amhara spirit. As I have stated many times in the past, the total absence of the Amhara political play was the source of the political entropy that is fueling the self-destructive state of chaos. The Fanno has arrived, and the Amhara silent majority has spoken! There is no power on earth that can stop the people’s voice.
The lifting of the dark cloud demands self-preservation by any means necessary. Fanno’s stand not to disarm is a justifiable position to defend itself from the twin barbarism of Oromo-PP and the Oromummaa political cult that is thirsty of Amhara blood and tears.
Fanno is in an unassailable position if it is managed with strategic oversight and viable end goal. Its strength has already perturbed the political calculus of the Prosperity Party (PP). Equally importantly it has the potential to force the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) and the Oromo Liberation Army (OLA) to rethink their strategy. Ethiopia’s political landscape has already changed. The government knows this already.
But this does not mean Amhara can be the sole player to change the status quo. The best it can do is to be a catalyst for change, not the sole producer of change. This requires understanding and paying heed to two important points.
First is humbling the Fano galaxy and knowing that its power is limited. Second is having a robust political leadership, which, in turn, requires disassociating Fanno from the clowns of the ዘብሄረ ድሪቶ. I have in mind the likes of Shaleka ወልደsomething, Eskinder ገብረclown, Ethio-360 ወለተ-ቱልቱላ, and the diaspora Amhara coalition of 21 organizations whose political narrative is a low grade አቱቶ ቡቱቶ.
The Fanno movement needs to understand there are three important elements to establish a winning political power base: Opinion leaders, activists and mass following. Opinion leaders are critical to develop a visionary agenda along with a viable strategic roadmap and adoptable actions to keep the political agenda aligned toward the end goal. Activists are critical players when they are guided and managed. Mass following is a product of a visionary opinion leader class and an effective activists’ network.
Anyone who thinks either the government’s or Fanno’s military victory will bring about peace and stability is an intellectually challenged fool and a peddler of destruction. If both or either the government or Fanno insist on military showdown the result is predictable with certainty: An irreversible civil war. I invite readers to take a look at my article titled: “Averting Civil War In Ethiopia An Emergency Manifesto” (April 2023) and “Negotiated Settlement is the Only Way to Avert a Civil War.”
Below is what I have shared more recently under the title “Fanno’s Lack of Strategic Flexibility Can Lead to TPLF-OLA-Oromo-PP Coalition.” I believe some of the military setbacks in major cities that Fanno experienced in recent days give credence to the strategy I shared before. Let me repost a section of it.
A Path for a Transformative Change
There is a tension between two conflicting end-goals facing Fanno. First, Fanno’s interest for a clean victory to topple the Oromo-led government should not come at the risk of a civil war. Second, a fear of a potential civil war should not mean allowing the current status quo to continue without a transformative change.
The question that is imposing itself on us is: How do we delicately balance this tension? The need to avoid a civil war requires it, and the nation’s political transformation depends on it.
What Ethiopia needs at this juncture is cooler minds to prevail. Political junkies on both sides of the warring parties need to be crowded out. The Fanno movement that has organically and spontaneously erupted must not be hijacked by intellectual dwarfs with transcontinental ego.
A broad-based political support group with a brilliant, seasoned, and adoptive nucleus must be formed. Sorry, say what you may, rant if you must, but your Shaleka, your Esku the Great or your cacophonous part deacon and part diabolical Ethio-360 looneys will not cut it.
A First Critical Step
The first critical task before us is not babysitting, swaddling, and soothing grownup fools to understand basic politics. They are playing with the lives of millions. They need a candid talk.
The first critical step is forming a broad-based Amhara coalition that consists of all political persuasions and views, of course including all Amhara forces without preconditions. This is critical to bring the silent majority out in mass to support the Fanno Movement. Unity is power and power is the energy and guarantee for success. Fanno’s primary strength must come neither from the barrel of its gun nor the cacophonous extremist activists, but from the thunderous voices of the silent majority.
Fanno leaders must understand the people of Amhara seek peace and stability as much as they long for freedom from Oromo-PP and protection from Oromummaa savagery. Unity among various political voices in the Amhara tribal home will take Fanno a long way to win the confidence and support of the silent majority. Success on this front will send a loud and clear message both to the government and the international community.
Winning International Support
Winning the confidence and support of geopolitical forces is critical. In the best-case scenario, the Fanno movement can leverage their support to pressure the government. In the worst-case scenario, it can push back against the government’s and TPLF’s efforts to leverage the international community’s support.
The Fanno movement must present itself as a transformative and stabilizing force, not as a disruptive and destabilizing movement. In this regard, having a political agenda with a concomitant strategy and robust international PR narrative is critical. Every government press release needs to be responded to. The government’s propaganda narrative needs to be refuted and rejected. The international public needs to be regularly briefed.
It is important to understand the government is under enormous international pressure to make concessions and reconcile with opposition forces. The IMF and Paris Club are withholding international aid (concessional loans and debt relief) to pressure the government for a peaceful political process. There is no reason why Fanno should not leverage the international community.
A robust and powerful PR will paint a reckless and incompetent Prime Minister in technicolor, highlighting the following:
- He promised victory against the TPLF in two. He ended up mismanaging the war for two years, leading to a humanitarian crisis and economic disaster.
- He established a command center to administer the Tigray tribal land only to abandon it and retreat in haste and humiliation.
- He established a command center in parts of the Oromo tribal land with nothing to show for it other than millions of people forcefully displaced and thousands murdered. One of the booming economic activities in the Oromo tribal land is kidnapping truck-drivers and business owners for ransom and abducting young girls as sex slaves for OLA officers.
- The Prime Minister’s solution for every and all political crises of his own making is sending troops, establishing command centers, and ultimately abandoning them in a haste. The cycle continues as Ethiopia slips into a political and economic abyss.
Fanno Must Present Itself as a Reasonable & Flexible Driver of Change
I must repeat that Fanno must present itself as a stabilizing force not as a disruptive and destabilizing movement. It must make it clear that a civil war must be avoided, and the demand for a transformative change must be achieved.
The risk of a potential civil war must be associated with the government’s intransigence and refusal for a transformative change, not with Fanno’s uncompromising drive for a government change. Success on this front can push the Fanno movement to the next level, without any discernible loss or weakening of its momentum.
Fanno must not repeat the Prime Minister’s mistake in November 2020. The PM is in a very weak position. Fanno enjoys a position of power. Know when to collect your marbles and gear up for the next summit. The six demands proposed below can result in a transformative change for several reasons.
First, they provide a minimum common denominator to build a broad-based Amhara coalition.
Second, Fanno’s flexibility and prudence to avoid civil war will help it to consolidate and expand its support base in the Amhara tribal land.
Third, Fanno’s flexible and open agenda will buy it the confidence and support of opposition forces in other tribal lands.
Fourth, Fanno will become the energy and the center of gravity for a national movement against the Oromo-PP led government and Oromummaa’s hegemonic agenda and political savagery.
Fifth, the transformative changes in demand are within the constitutional order. This disarms the government from painting Fanno as a meta constitutional force.
The proposed demands below may not result in the removal of the Prime Minister from office, but they will weaken him and avoid a potential civil war. It will also avoid a destructive coalition of Oromo-PP, OLA, and TPLF from forming. Fanno can build on the gains it achieved as long as it remains armed and peaceful.
- Immediate withdrawal of all National Defense Forces from the Amhara tribal land and suspension of the disarmament program until confidence building measures are taken and the existential threat against Amhara is removed.
- Maintain the Welkait and Raya current status quo and suspend any plan to transfer the contested lands from Amhara to Federal government administration. This issue must be the last item on the tribal homeland’s political agenda. First must come security, peace, and stability.
- Immediate action to organize national and international humanitarian support for forcefully displaced Amhara people.
- An international investigation of mass killings and mass evictions of the people of Amhara. The investigation must be unfettered and time bound – no more than six months followed by full accountability based on the findings of investigation. The government has agreed to engage the international community to resolve its conflict with Tigray and Oromo forces. From the Fanno perspective international investigation must be a matter of urgency without relinquishing the opportunity for a formal mediation outside of Ethiopia.
- A vote of confidence for the Amhara Prosperity Party-led government in the Amhara tribal land within three months. The aim is either to establish confidence in the Amhara-PP leadership or recall them followed by new elections if the recall through constitutional means leads to removal from office of Amhara-PP leaders. This may be done in other tribal lands as well if there is demand for it by the people of respective regions. The recall process must be monitored by international organizations.
- Vote of confidence for the Oromo-PP led government in the Ethiopian Parliament. This must be held after a vote of confidence in the Amhara tribal land and other tribal lands (if the people in the other tribal lands so choose). This opens the door to replace the Prime Minister if the majority Parliamentarians so choose.
If the demands are not met, it will gain the PR upper hand and its continued struggle will win more support from the Amhara and other tribal homelands. At some point the Oromo silent majority will rise to join its counterparts in other tribal lands. Reasonable Oromo-PP forces will switch side rather than sink with Abiy. There are many ways to skin a cat. Fanno need to be fixated on government change.
Time is of the essence. Ethiopians at home and in the diaspora must take part to achieve a transitional political change without the risk of a civil war. They should not be afraid to tell the organic fools in their ranks to: “Sit down and shut the fucking hell up.” It is not hard.