You do not have to be a historian to understand that Wolkait, Tegede,Telemt and Raya have never been part of Tigray. Foreign and Ethiopian historians provide indisputable documentary evidence that the regional state of Tigray, Ethiopia shares a border with Begemdir/Gondar at the Tekeze River.
From at least the time of Emperor Zara Yacob (1434-1468) up to the forcible annexation of these lands by the Tigray People’s Liberation Front in the 1970s and 1980s, with the culmination of TPLF taking power in 1991 and declaring occupied lands as “Western Tigray,” this strategic land mass has never ever been part of Tigray.
This fact is confirmed in “Ethiopia: the lands,its people, history, culture” by Yohannes K. Mekonen, editor; “The World through maps: a history of cartography” by John Short, “Tructatus tres historia-geographic,” by Emmanuel Bereda, 1634, “Travels to discover the sources of the Nile,” by James Bruce and so on. A compelling and evidence based history of the land mass by Achamyeleh Tamiru and my own research findings more than a decade ago that took 6 months to compile and and present in Amharic provide testimonials.
At the time of Emperor Tewodros, Wolkait, Tegede, Telemt and Raya were under Begemdir/Gondar. This geopolitical and border designation was affirmed later by Emperor Haile Selassie, Christopher Clapam affirms this designation in his book, “Transformation and Continuity in the New Ethiopia.”
As important, Tigrean-Ethiopians like Leul Ras Mengesha Seyoum, TPLF founder Dr. Aregawi Berhe, Engineer Gidey Zeratsion and numerous others affirmed that TPLF fought and annexed the territory with the intent of opening a security corridor with SUDAN. The ultimate goal on the part of TPLF is to re-annex and incorporate the fertile and resource rich land mass into Greater Tigray and, perhaps, declare independence.
My suggestion in terms of the way out is for TPLF and the federal government of Ethiopia to acknowledge and accept Wolkait, Tegede, Telemt and Raya as part and parcel of the Amhara region and reinstate budget support quickly.
The Amhara region must, on its part, entertain the idea that Tigrean Ethiopians who have been displaced from the region can return, resettle and work as peaceful members of the community.
The viable way out is no longer war but constructive dialogue and conversation among Amhara and Tigreans, especially civilians who have to live together as they have done for thousands of years.
In the long-term this principle of any Ethiopian living and working in any part of Ethiopia without fear must be the political, cultural and legal norm in Ethiopia.
In this connection, I would like to bring to your attention a lively conversation on the pro-TPLF and anti-Amhara report on the so-called “Western Tigray” by Human Rights Watch, a conversation sponsored by and managed by Journalist Reeyot Alemu of Mingiziem Media. She posed challenging questions to economist and activist Tsigereda Mulugeta and to me that we tried to address with passions and intellectual integrity.
I thank both for the opportunity and urge you to listen to, assess, share and critique this timely conversation (below).
Dr. Aklog Birara
June 12, 2023