By Belayneh Abate
The history of Fano is the history of liberty, dignity and sovereignty. Like language, religion, and culture, the spirit of Fano might have originated from certain regions, but this spirit has no ethnicity, religious affiliation or geographical demarcation.
In order to appreciate how the spirit of Fano hold the heads of the series of Ethiopian generations up, please read at least the relatively new book “*Empireland” by a British Indian author, Sathnam Sanghera. Mr. Sanghera’s book is one of the most scholarlily written, and profoundly researched, I have ever read on the ever-lasting scars of colonialism. Almost one third of the book is a list of references.
Empireland teaches details how the British empire colonized and mistreated its colonies, especially the Indian subcontinent for more than 300 years. The British Empire colonized the Indian subcontinent after it established all methods of control through a mischievous trade tool called the East Indian Company. The empire sent 250, 000 soldiers to India and it fooled the Indians that they were guards of the East Indian Company. (page 32). In addition to the arms control, the empire used India’s diverse ethnicity, religion and Cast system to divide and rule and make them fight each other while it looted their national treasure.
Once the empire controlled the Indians, the Indian men and women were treated as subjects, not as people with dignities. The empire forced Indian men to fight the Empire’s world war I and II. During world war II, 1, 440, 500 of the British troops were drawn from India. (page 198). Similarly, the empire used their women and men as slaves and soldiers during the scrabble for Africa and other colonies.
Although the Indians were serving the empire in every capacity from cleaning their dirt to becoming soldiers for their colonizer’s global expansion, their colonizers were treating them as subhumans. For example, one of the empire generals used to label them as ” a kind of dumb, almost animal, servility in his letter to his parents (page 29). Another colonizer general dismissed Indians as indolent, luxurious, ignorant and cowardly and blamed them for the famine that killed about 10 million Indians in 1770. (page 129). In 1860, it was a common encounter to call Indians as niggers (page 39).
As the Empire used a trade company to colonize the Indian subcontinent, it utilized piles of Bibles to colonize Africans. As Chinua Achebe stated in his “Things Fall Apart” novel and later Desmond Tutu used it in his speech, when the missionaries came to Africa they had the Bible and Africans had the land. The missionaries said, ‘Let us pray.’ Africans closed their eyes and prayed. When Africans opened their eyes after praying, they had the Bible in their hand and the missionaries had the land.
After the empire colonized Africans using the Holy Bible as a weapon, it started selling them like raw materials. Between 1660-1870, the empires shipped around 3 million slaves to America. As the book Empireland described the journey, “the slaves were kept shackled to each other or to the deck to prevent mutiny during the middle passage, stacked in tiers with no space to stand or turn…”. The empire generals used to say “negros are made on purpose to serve the whites as the black ants are made on purpose to serve the red ants” (Page 159).
Furthermore, when one of the colonizer generals ordered blacks to be killed, he used to say, “niggers mean nothing to me, it was like killing dogs”. (page 163). In Kenya, disobedient slaves used to be “roasted alive” (page 206). In Gambia, one colonizer whose African wife had given a birth to a black baby accused her of infidelity and crushed the infant in a mortar and fed it to a dog” (page 215).
While the empire was colonizing subcontinent India through a trade company and Africa through piles of Bibles, it appears that it had cordial relationships with Ethiopian Fanos, such as Fano Tewodros. In fact, Fano Tewodros had a pistol gift from Queen Victoria. (page 60).
However, the pistol gift gesture was to test the water of the Fano’s mender (village), which has been hostile for invaders perhaps since man was created or the progenies of Lucy evolved to humans. Assuming the cordial relationship was genuine, Fano Tewodros requested the empire craftsmen to assist in establishing a national weaponry plant. However, the empire sent him several missionaries, who actually were spies.
Understanding the intention and the plan of the expanding empire, Fano Tewodros was unable to stand this betrayal and treachery like his ancestor Fanos who had been defending the liberty, dignity and sovereignty of their country for thousands of years. As a result, he imprisoned these spies, and this bold action irritated the empire. The irritated empire assigned general Napire, who was credited for crushing the Sikh army during Sikh Indians uprising (page (page 60).
General Napier organized 13,00 thousand soldiers, and 26, 000 camp followers. (page 60). As usual, the empire used Indian and other colony soldiers to invade Ethiopia. As we know, the empire also seduced and used our own traitors to betray Fano Tewodros and fight other Fanos. Since life and death with dignity is the hallmark of Fano, Fano Tewodros took his own life after the well-equipped British army had the upper hand over unprepared traditional Fano fighters who were also fighting with indigenous traitors otherwise known as BANDAS.
After Fano Tewodros took his own life for his dignity and the honor of the nation, the invaders were still loathed and rejected by surviving Fanos. The invading Imperial soldiers left after looting the country, especially the treasures of the Ethiopian orthodox church.
According to Empireland, the British scholars have had “intense fascination” for Ethiopian orthodox Christianity, and during the invasion they sent a team of religious experts with the soldiers so that they would effectively loot the church assets (page 59).
The war against Fano, and the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahido Church dates many thousands of years back. Unlike subcontinental India, Africa and Latin America, Ethiopian Fanos and the Ethiopian religious scholars have been instrumental in anticipation and early recognition of the intention and plan of the expanding European or other Empires. These empires were unable to use the bible as a tool because Ethiopian was the land of the Old and the New Testament way long before the European Empires. They could not use trade or missionary as a tool because of the three-dimensional culture of Fanos and church scholars.
As history demonstrates, the culture of Fanos is highly tied to liberty, dignity and sovereignty. The spirit of FANO has reserved the unique physical, cultural and religious independence of Ethiopians since the ancient nation was established. Later, the spirit of FANO did shine like the rainbow at Noah’s ark to declare and spread freedom in Africa, Middle East, Asia and Latin America.
Therefore, please abstain from your ill-spirited intentional or ignorance-related reckless propaganda against Fano. Please think at least a hundred times before you speak against the former, the current and the future Fanos, who were and are willing to scarify everything for liberty, dignity and national integrity.
Standing against Fano’s bravery is selecting dishonor over honor, preferring subjugation over independence and choosing slavery over liberty.
*Empirelalnd by Sathanam Sanghera, 2021 Edition
The writer can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org