Jawar’s New Ploy: Hijacking Amhara Resistance -by Messay Kebede

7 mins read

by Prof. Messay Kebede recently watched a video recording in which Jawar Mohammed gives a complacent and professorial explanation about the ongoing Amhara resistance. See https://zehabesha.com/video-jawar-mohammed-on-amhara-resistance-must-listen/#comments. Actually, the term “resistance” betrays the gist of his explanation, since he is telling us that the resistance represents the rise of a new political phenomenon in Ethiopia, namely, “Amhara nationalism.” Immediately, one gets confused: all those Oromo elites who for decades denounced and are still denouncing the Ethiopian political system did so because it was, so we believed, the instrument of Amhara nationalism imposing its hegemony on the non-Amhara peoples of Ethiopia. It was news to me that a nationalist Oromo portrays Amhara nationalism as a recent phenomenon emerging from a long oblivion and still struggling against the Ethiopianized Amhara elite to affirm itself.

Be that as it may, Jawar assigns two causes for the emergence of Amhara nationalism. The one that he calls “external” is, of course, the TPLF systematic policy of marginalization of the Amhara. The policy did not only undermine the political and economic standing of the Amhara, it also translated in the appropriation of Amhara territories by Tigray and the Sudan respectively. Some such policy of outright marginalization and enmity could not but arouse a nationalist reaction.

The second reason, identified as “internal,” for the explosion of Amhara nationalism is the reaction against the Amhara elite and its long-held position denying the Amhara identity in the name of Ethiopianism. In the face of this systematic effort to stifle their national identity, the people finally revolted and reclaimed their nationhood to defend their interests and their legitimate place within the Ethiopian society. In other words, the present explosion of Amhara nationalism is an overt rejection of both Ethiopianism and the pro-Ethiopian ideology of the Amhara elite.

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As such, the movement is a grass-root reaction that is genuine and democratic. Notably, it is free of the expansionist and domineering goal of the Amhara elite. Its main purpose is to be recognized as a national community so that it can defend its sovereignty and national interests. According to Jawar, this entry into the political scene of Amhara nationalism is welcomed by Oromo nationalists: as marginalized and dominated national groups, the Oromo and the Amhara can now become allies in the fight against Tigrean hegemony.

To begin with, the whole analysis is based on an alleged opposition between Ethiopianism and Amhara nationalism, which opposition derives, in turn, from a deliberate confusion between ethnicity and ethnonationalism. Let it be clear: the Amhara movement is not in the business of inventing a new nation. Notwithstanding their hegemonic position in the past, the Amhara see themselves as part of a multiethnic state. The movement does not carry a shred of secessionist tendency; on the contrary, it is the most solid and advanced rampart against secessionist forces.

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Clearly, Jawar harbors one major intention, which is to raise dust on Amhara resistance so that we see what is not there. In speaking of Amhara nationalism, Jawar’s argument arbitrarily identifies it with his own version of Oromo nationalism. He thus reads Amhara resistance with the eyes of an ethnonationalist Oromo, who sees nothing in Ethiopia but “a prison house of nations.” Such is the danger of a mind obsessed with ethnonationalist ideology: it never sees what unites people; it see only what separates them.

As I was watching the video, I thought for a moment that Jawar’s sudden admiration for Amhara resistance could be something positive. Admiration usually leads to the resolution to model one’s action and belief on what one admires. Since the Amhara are fighting for their democratic rights without any secessionist agenda, I expected Jawar to finally say that the Oromo elite should follow the Amhara example. Unfortunately, Jawar did the opposite: he termed the resistance “nationalist” and modeled it on the ideology of Oromo nationalism even though he perfectly knew the untenability of such an amalgam.

The ultimate strategy of Jawar, like the TPLfites he claims to oppose, is to force everybody into the ethnonationalist box: you cannot be Ethiopian and Amhara, Oromo, Tigre, or Gurage at the same time. Being Ethiopian denies your ethnic identity so that the whole issue is presented in terms of either/or. Jawar supports Amhara nationalism because in becoming nationalist it ceases to be Ethiopian.


Unbelievable as it may seem, in the eyes of Jawar Amhara and Oromo have the same foe, to wit, Ethiopianism. What is more, there is a reward for dropping Ethiopianism: it will save Ethiopian unity. Jawar wants us to have faith in this extreme paradox: you get to save Ethiopia when you are no longer Ethiopian, that is, when you see Ethiopia as a collection of disparate nations.

In hijacking and aligning Amhara resistance with the cause of ethnonationalism, Jawar asks all Ethiopians to identify with an exclusive, overriding identity. He thinks he can be successful where the TPLF failed because his call for a separatist identity comes from the opposition camp. His enemy is no longer the Amhara; it is Ethiopianism. How else is one to destroy Ethiopianism but by advocating exclusive identities with its inevitable outcome of divisiveness?

We must counter the politics of exclusive identity with Ethiopianism as a shared identity. Shared identity goes beyond the recognition and equal treatment of ethnic and religious diversity; it promotes “a plurality of identities, which cut across each other and work against sharp divisions around one single hardened line of vehement division,” to quote Amartya Sen. Only through this work of convergence of identities on a transcending and all-embracing center can we prevent Ethiopia from becoming a collection of disparate and hostile groups.


  1. Dr. Messay, you could go further in your analysis. Jawar has already said there is no Ethiopia. This is madness to tell the least. Then, he has been searching allies in his madness in order to get his ideology is right. I am really wondering whether this guy is working for a TPLF or not. When I hear what he says, it gives me the impression that TPLF’s politics is better then ideology. This person is evil, more evil than TPLF. He has an ISS tendency. We must not forget that this is the very person who wanted to cut the throats of Amhara with Mencha. Surprisingly, I am hearing that there are some people in the name of Amhara are descending low to his level. Fortunately, we are now getting more information about the people who are behind each Amhara factions. It appears are all of these factions which are recently created have some direct and indirect links to TPLF. I fear that TPLF is behind Jawar.

    What a loser.

  2. Is that really the best we can do to liberate our people from the TPLF murderers.Ethiopian People are counting on us to tell the world and to answer their plea.To Liberate them from heinous and barbaric TPLF killing spree of Ethiopians
    We the so called Diaspora Ethiopian elites are busy on writing Press release and to write each other’s irrelevant craps on Media out let’s like you tube News and Opinions.Is that the best we can do to help Our people and country. Shame on us specially the so called Elites and best educated one’s
    Bekele says so Tessema said that Almaz said this on you tube on face book on in Ethiopian media out let’s

  3. Dear prof Messay Kebede,

    You’re right Jawar and Ararsa are not consistent, both are known for flip-flopping to support their agenda. However, I watched the full video, the three guys made good points. I as Amhara, born and grew up rural area in the south, I found it hard aggressive Ethiopiawinet. The area I was born the local people are farmers or nomads, we didn’t know what Ethiopiawinet means, we just lived our lives no problem, until I moved to middle Ethiopia in big cities that I learned about Ehiopiawinet through media, schools and friends. The point is, put yourself in other people’s shoes, let the people embrace Ethiopiawinet from bottom up rather than aggressive push from center. Some close friends of mine that I have known for years want to fight me when I express my opinion, I remember during ethio community meeting a woman hanged the flag upside down, they shouted at her blah blah, I can not stand those right wing aggressive chauvinists.

    The word ‘Amhara’ existed before the word ‘Oromo’, not to be confused with Amharic language which has been existed for centuries. When Atse Tedrose united Abyssinia(Gondar, Tigray, Godjam, Shewa, Wollo), Atse Tedrose used to be called ye Amharaw Nugus. When Atse Yohaness succeeded used to communicate with Amharic language even though he was Tigre. When Menelik took over again Amharic and norther culture is dominant but Menelik recruited more from Oromos and the south, actually the core of Menelik base was Oromos from the second man Gobena Dache to ordinary soldiers. Hailesilasie was the product of Menelik. When Italian came in 1930’s divided the country according to their way, the word ‘Amhara’ region appeared, Galla/Sidama region, Hararge region, Shewa region, Eri/Tigray region. So, the word ‘Amhara’ existed before the word ‘Oromo’ which was invented during Derg. Jawar did not create the word Amhara. But during Hailesilasie and Derg era the word ‘Amhara’ disappeared, the Gallas fought back reclaimed some of their ethnic during Derg. When Woyane took over created artificial ethnic based federalism. So, this issue has not popped up like mushroom, it has been rolling for decades.

    Once we agreed on that, we can talk about the rest. The people who were born and grew up around Addis and big cities don’t understand the suffering of the poor people of Amhara, even if they don’t agree being Amharas but still discriminated as Amharas collectively, you have no idea how many poor Amhara people were targeted during ethio-somalia war? how many were displaced? the past 25 years humiliated labeled as former regimes beneficiaries even though most of them walk barefooted, I did not wear shoes until I moved to big town, my first shoes were sandal made from old rubber Tyre. The people in Amhara region have been systematically marginalized, squeezed out of their villages and towns to expand greater Tigray economy, you want to limit the issue of Welkait as local issue to avoid Amharaness so that does not affect Ethiopiawinet. Ethiopiawinet has been tried, it did not stop famine, extreme poverty even to African standard, has not solved backwardness. I like the idea of Ethiopiawinet from bottom up, let the Mursi tribes embrace Ethiopiawinet rather than forced upon them.

    For any large ethnic very difficult to unite under ethnic nationalism, for a small ethnic much easier but for a large ethnics like Oromos and Amharas very hard to unite all the issues under ethnic based politics, which is why the Oromos have been struggling to hold together complex issues under oromo umbrella for the last 50 years. It is easy to blame the political elites but they have been trying every trick in the book. My point is, the Oromos being the largest ethnic with internal complex issues and geographically at the heart of Ethiopia, extremely difficult to have a separate country. For Oromo political elites, instead of going back 400 years to adapt Gadaa constitution, why don’t they claim the entire Ethiopia itself, how can a giant man running away from a little man like a coward? try to correct the past history if wrong has been done, lead the country toward progressive future, let us see what they are made of, enough crying about the past, create new Ethiopia based on justice and freedom to all.

  4. Dr Messay,
    Jawar underestimate totally the intellegenre of his audience. The only ones who taken awash by his preaching are the emotionals. I remember, what he has said when someone asking him about his religious agenda. He said like this …my wife is evangelical…I came from orthodox and Muslim parents etc. I was laughing. This person considers himself intellectual. He knows that his answer satisfies only the emotionals. Many after listening his deceptive answer started repeating what he has said. What a tragedy. The Russian dictator Stalin’s father was a priest. Why that deceiving formula Jawar was using is not working for Stalin ?

  5. what a degeneration ? There was a time when Jawar’s argument and analysis was research based.As the result,his admirers of to day used to give him all kinds of names.But now days it look like Jawar is on a mission which he himself has no clue where it leads him.The witnes to this is his inconsistence on every thing.He has new stand on every corner he gets into.He is already discredited by the majority of the people specially after the London and Atlanta Oromo conference in which qou data was practiced on the revolution on the people where all Ethiopians are united agaist the demagogue enemy TPLF/OPDO.
    Now Jawar to advance his detraction of the unity of Ethiopians,and to crown and justify the hate politics of his own,he argues as the Amharas are also justified to have ethnic organization similar to his which is another way of detraction of a Country.By the way both are equally negating Ethiopian nationalism and are reactionary what ever their argument is.So Dr.there is more to come about Jawar’s inconcistancy.The good thing is London and Atlanta conferences have already exposed him.

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