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The Boy King’s Ploy: Buying Tigryan Fighters with Fake School Test Results and Wolkait

November 6, 2023

Yonas Biru, PhD

Tigrayan students who have been out of school for several years are said to have passed 69.9% of the students who took the test. The national average is 3.2%. Do the new results reflect the national and Tigrayan passing rates before the war? The answer is a resounding no. There is some claim that Tigrayan students were given a three-month long remedial class to prepare them for the test. Even if it is true, the results stand out as fake considering the national average.

The Story Behind the 69.9% Test Results

The fact that two supremely good news were delivered to Tigray within a week (the School Test the Wolkait referendum) is not a coincidence. The PM is in desperate need of fighters in his futile effort to win the war against Fanno. Tigray supposedly has 200,000 war-hardened melisia forces if we believe the TPLF. It appears at least the boy king believes the story.

Two factors stand in his way. First is the mothers and fathers of Tigray who have sacrificed hundreds of thousands of their children for a meaningless war that the TPLF ignited. Tigray got nothing out of the war other than unimaginable human and resource destruction. The question is: Would the mothers and fathers of Tigray deliver their sons and daughters to fight for the same PM whom they have been accusing of committing genocide against them?

The second obstacle is the question of Abiy’s trustworthiness. The transaction requires TPLF to deliver hundred thousand Tigrayan sons and daughters in exchange for a promissory note that it will receive Wolkait in two years. Abiy understands Wolkait will give TPLF access to smuggle weapons from Sudan and Egypt. It is utter madness for TPLF to believe the PM whose betrayal track record is longer than his lying track record will honor the promissory note.

And The Wolkait Issue

The following represents a slightly revised version of a draft I prepared for AEPAC that was published under the title “The Amhara-Oromo-Tigray Conflict Nexus in Ethiopia: Challenges, Opportunities and a Way Forward.”

There is nothing the PM will not do to stay in power. In this venture, his friends become his enemies and his enemies turn into his friends at the snap of the fingers. The only thing constant is that he has neither loyalty to a cause nor integrity in his person. Some say his loyalty is to Greater Oromia. Others say he is riding the Greater Oromia wave only if it serves a higher agenda of keeping him in office. If not, they say, he will drop it at the snap of the fingers.

Nothing is off limit in his conflict brewing venture in pursuit of perfecting a zero-sum personal political gain. During the war between the Ethiopian National Defense Forces (ENDF) and Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF), he was unequivocal that Wolkait belongs to Amhara. On national TV he stated:

“The people of Armacho, Wolkait and Tegenie have maintained in the past and continue to maintain to date their Begemder [Amhara] identity despite 30 years of violence perpetrated against them. They never stopped to uphold their Begemder identity while they were being killed and exiled.”

This was not a onetime statement. In another televised speech he stated:

“You all know the Wolkait freedom committee has been fighting for years [during the TPLF era]. Who amongst you does not know leaders of the Wolkait Freedom Committee were arrested in Sululta (outside of Addis Ababa) when they were traveling to file an appeal to the Parliament? Wasn’t the reason why we established the boarder commission to address this and other similar problems? The Junta [TPLF] is against the boarder commission because it knows what it has done.”

The Fanno uprising led him to change his stance in a New York second. His minister of defense suggested Wolkait and Raya (W&R) were illegally annexed by the Amhara. He declared the federal government will take over the administration of the two areas, return Tigrayans who have been forcefully displaced after the war, and conduct a referendum to give the people opportunity to determine where they belong. The Minister suggested this is what was agreed during the Pretoria agreement between the Ethiopian government and TPLF.

This is disturbing on many levels. First, the involvement of the minister of defense militarizes the conflict when in fact the conflict is rooted in a legal dispute of land ownership rights. Second, the PM is using the Minister, who is Tigrayan, to send a signal of support to the TPLF position. Third, the Minister’s statements were politically driven and stand in stark conflict with the PM’S earlier public statements.

“The Pretoria summit has no authority over the issue of Wolkait. I do not understand why the issue of Wolkait is dragged into the Pretoria summit. We need to realize there is border conflict in Northern Shew between Oromia and Amhara. Are we going to take this to South Africa for resolution? Don’t we have the means and experience to address our problem by ourselves? Haven’t we established a border commission to sort out such conflicts.”

The Minister’s statement also clashes with a public statement Getachew Reda above referred statement, suggesting the Abiy Administration is working on returning Tigray Raya and Tselemt to Tigray. Regarding Wolkait, he said the presence of Eritrea is complicating the matter and Tigray is ready to help the government if requested. This shows the so-called referendum is a farce. This is clear in Getachew’s speech where he made no reference to any referendum.

A Bird’s Eye View of the Amhara Grievances

The Amhara contention that the TPLF annexed Wolkait by force has been corroborated by many Tigrayan politicians. Ras Mengesha Seyoum, a Tigrayan and former governor of Tigray (1960-1974), told the Voice of America: “When I was the governor of Tigray, [what is now known as Western Tigray] was under present-day Amhara region. The same was true when I was a child growing up.”

The Governor’s statement was affirmed by Dr. Aregawi Berhe, the founding chairperson of TPLF, who publicly stated: “Wolkait was annexed from current day Amhara during the TPLF gorilla days. The land was critical to get an outlet into Sudan to smuggle weapons and transport food for TPLF fighters. It was unjust for the Amhara.”

There are many TPLF founding members reaffirming this, including Abraham Yayeh who in 1982 confirmed W&R were taken from Gonder – aka Begemder – and Wello (parts of present-day Amhara). He further stated the people in both lands were Amharic speaking.

Historical documents during Tigrayan Emperror Yohannes’ reign (July 1871 – March 1889), also indicate the boundaries between Gonder and Tigray is the Tekezé River, lending credence to the Amhara position.

The fact that the TPLF annexed the two regions long before the 1995 constitution was enacted is incontrovertible. Similarly, the fact that the Constitution has no bearing in the demarcation of borders between Tigray and Amhara is undeniable. Amhara forces further allege the TPLF:

•Engineered and forced demographic changes in the contested lands to have a Tigrayan majority. Though both people of Amhara and Tigray lived in W&R, since 1991, schools stopped teaching in Amharic.
•Settled its former fighters in tens of thousands and forcefully displace people of Amhara heritage out of the annexed regions.

•Perpetrated mass killings of Amhara forces. These allegation are covered by the international media and international human rights agencies Amhara’s demand is for government administrative and legal recognition as the legitimate owner of W&R.

A Bird’s Eye View of the Tigray Stance on Wolkait and Raya

Tigryan forces allege W&R are historical parts of Tigray before Emperor Haile Selassie transferred them to Begemder (aka Gonder) by a royal decree. This argument is refuted with maps showing Wolkait in Gonder during Emperor Menelik, decades before Emperor Haile Selassie was born. In response, the Tigrayan forces use old maps from the 18th and 19th centuries as evidence where Wolkait is shown in Tigray.

This is refuted with older maps going as far back as 15th century listing the names of regions within Tigray without mentioning Wolkait-Tsegede or Raya (Source: Catalogue Raisonné de Manuscrits Éthiopiens Appartenant à Antoine d’Abbadie). There are also multiple maps between 15th, and 17th centuries showing the Tekezé River separating Tigray and Gonder, giving credence to the Amhara narrative (Source: Crawford O.G.S. (1958), Ethiopian Itineraries, Circa 1400-1524, Cambridge; and Paez, P. (2011). Pedro Páez’s History of Ethiopia, 1622 (Vol. 23). Ashgate Publishing, Ltd)

There are many more maps produced at different times. For example, during the Italian occupation both contested lands were incorporated within Eritrea. If old maps are accepted as evidence, Eritrea can become a party to the conflict with some degree of legitimacy. Its legitimacy draws from internationally recognized national boundaries that separate and define African nations based largely on lines drawn by colonialist powers.

Another evidence Tigryans use is a meta-analysis of historical map of the last 300 years to show Wolkait was part of Tigray. The meta-analysis was conducted by Professor Jan Nyssen – a known quantity in the circle of pro-TPLF experts at par with Alex de Waal and Martin Plaut. The good professor analyzed some 52 maps in which Wolkait’s geographic location is shown with clearly delineated boundaries.

Of the 52 maps produced between 1683-1990, in 19 of them Wolkait is mapped neither in Amhara nor Tigray. In 19 cases, Wolkait is mapped in Tigray region (1707-1941) and in 13 cases it is mapped in Amhara (1891-1990).

The problem in this study is that the Meta-Analysis of Historical map ignored maps from 15 to 17th century showing Wolkait in Amhara. Most importantly, maps from 300 years ago have little value in determining geographic proper in 1980 (when Tigray annexed Wolkait from Amhara by force) or 2020 (when Amhara reclaimed the land by force). Centuries ago, California and Texas were part of Mexico. Portugal and Spain did not exist.

When the map argument fails to sway the public, Tigrayans shift the argument to language and claim W&R were incorporated into Tigray because the people are Tigragna speaking. This has been refuted by many including founding members of TPLF. As noted above with a link to a video clip, Abraham Yayeh is on the record, stating the people of Wolkait and Raya were Amharic speaking when the two regions were annexed by TPLF.

The attempt to justify demarcation of regions by language is futile in many ways. If language was the determining factor, more than a third of Benishangul would have been incorporated into the Amhara region. Addis Ababa where Oromos account for only 19 and Amhara represents 47% could not have been incorporated into the Oromo region.

Tigrayan forces allege, since the recent war, Amhara forces have forcefully displaced hundreds of thousands of Tigrayans and brought in Amharas to change the demography of the two regions. The allegation is widely covered by the international media and international human rights organizations. The problem here is Tigrayans are conveniently playing oblivious to the fact that the forceful displacement of people was started and sustained by them until 2018.

Tigray’s demand vacillates between three positions. At times they demand the government reinstate the two lands into Tigray, recognizing the prewar status quo as part of the constitutional order. At other times they demand a referendum after the people of Tigray who were forcefully displaced are returned. Some in the Tigray camp put the number of displaced over a million. Yet at other times they express to use force to reclaim the two regions.

Getachew Reda’s recent speeches in Colorado came with a mixed message, partly nuanced (walking a tight line between war and peace) and partly vacillating between peace seeking and war mongering. For example, at some point, he talked about the unimaginable sacrifice young Tigrayans have paid and the fact that “the people of Tigray do not have a shoulder to tolerate another war.” On the other hand, he talked about “the capability or heroism of [Tigray’s] over 200,000 soldiers” and offers to help that his federal government to fight Amhara and Eritrea.

His speech seems to be crafted to throw enough red meat to Tigrayan warmongers and in the meantime wave olive leaves to calm the peace seeking public in Tigray and the diaspora.

Problem With the Government’s Current Position

Though both Amhara and Tigray forces are displaying intransigent positions, there is hope for reasoned dialogue and peaceful resolution. Under the right political circumstances, extremist positions on both sides can be counter-balanced by peace seeking forces.

The most dangerous problem is the Oromo-PP led by PM Abiy that has vested interest in escalating the problem to use Tigray forces in his effort to weaken the Amhara as he has used the Amhara to weaken Tigray. The government’s recent policy reflects this on many levels.

First, a key question that Ethiopians and the IC ought to pose to the PM is: If the border commission that he created was mandated to resolve border conflicts, why is the Amhara-Tigray conflict handled with exception?

Further, there are many places in the Oromo region that the Amhara are the largest group and Oromos are minority. When the Prime Minister acknowledges prevailing problems between Amhara and Oromo, he always refers to conflict areas where Oromo lay claim. He does not mention or recognize areas where Amharas lay claim such as Sheger City or Adama. Will the PM address the issues of Sheger City, Adama other similar areas through referendum?

Second, the PM, who is radio silent about the forced displacement of nearly a million Amhara from the Oromo tribal land, lacks legitimacy to demand the reinstatement of forcefully displaced Tigrayans into the contested areas. Similarly, he has taken a deliberate position to ignore the Amhara demand to govern themselves where they are the largest group outside of the Amhara region. Therefore, he lacks legitimacy to demand the Amhara honor and respect Tigrayans right to decide if W&R belong to Amhara or Tigray.

It warrants emphasis that my argument is in no way to oppose the return of forcefully displaced Tigrayans to their homes regardless of which region is the legitimate owner of the two contested areas. Our focus is the systemic difference in the way Amhara is treated by the PM. Amhara is expected to respect, honor, and protect the rights of other tribes while its rights are systematically and ubiquitously violated.

There is also the question of the population of Wolkait. According to an official 2017 population projection, the total population of Wolkait was 434,879. Extrapolating the 2017 figure to 2021 yields a total population of 483,198. In the meantime, TPLF claims, nearly 1.2 million Tigrayans were forcefully displaced from Wolkait. This is to inflate the Tigrayan population for the planned referendum.

In Conclusion

The Wolkait issue is perhaps the thorniest issue in the nation’s politics. No government with an iota of political prudence and sensibility would inflame and galvanize a population of 40 million at a time of war. Only stupidity or desperation can explain this. May God relieve the Boy-King from his misery and Ethiopia from him.

8 Comments

  1. This one seems balanced, but I still don’t understand why the writer is not consistent regarding Amhara interest. It seems calculated to confuse and/or convince us.

  2. Excellent article. May God Bless you for this wonderful piece.

    If TPLF lies about easily verifiable contemporary numbers, how can it be trusted over its claims regarding things past?

    “There is also the question of the population of Wolkait. According to an official 2017 population projection, the total population of Wolkait was 434,879. Extrapolating the 2017 figure to 2021 yields a total population of 483,198. In the meantime, TPLF claims, nearly 1.2 million Tigrayans were forcefully displaced from Wolkait. This is to inflate the Tigrayan population for the planned referendum.”

    Only their protege, Abiy Ahmed, lies more than the TPLF. Kudos, TPLF: You have successfully created your Frankenstein!

  3. Subject: “The Boy King’s Ploy: Buying Tigryan Fighters with Fake School Test Results and
    Wolkait” , November 6, 2023

    Humble Commentary,
    a). First of all: There was no need for me to read the lengthy Article

    b). But, in any case, I can say with SADNESS that Ethiopians are sacrificing their LIVES,
    just because certain individuals of the highest educational level wanted to satisfy their
    individual ambitious desires >>> regardless of the LIVES of the Ordinary Ethiopian
    Human Beings.

    c). Very sad to say — and deeply embarrassing — that the LIVES of AFRICAN HUMAN
    BEINGS, where ever they may be, would also seem to be taken for granted for the
    benefit of “SMART ALECKS BLACKS TOO !!!!!!!!!!!!

    d). Oh Dear BLACK Africa — a Continent that has always been subjected by Whites may also SHOCKINGLY by other Marauders (that we all know), Amazing phenomenon never seen anywhere else. How else can one explain the behaviour of ‘high strata’ of Black Africans! If denied, it is clearly and insidiously understood. Let us not scratch ourselves among ourselves!!!!!!!!!

    e). I DO NOT NEED TO WRITE MORE

    f). And so, we can only wish good luck to the well known hammered countries in
    our Africa and around the Globe. We pay for something that cooked by others.
    In general, The “BLACK MAN” is unlucky in all the Continents of the World.

    g). For sure, I am not insulting anyone but only repeating what they do without any
    sense of humanity. And YET, ——-please fill the gap —————–

    —–THE REPEATEDLY CRIMINAL PHENOMENON FOR LIFE WITHOU JUSTICE —-

  4. Well written.
    Citizens have a constitutional right to live anywhere with in Ethiopia.
    Tigrians who fled from Wolkait and Humera shall be able to return to their homes.
    This is clear and not an issue.
    But the region Wolkait, Etsegede and Raya belong to the Amhara region. This is the issue.
    Actually this issue was the n the table for so long and before the north war.
    Atleast a compromising solution should be possible if there is a political will.
    Last but not least: the issue of Wolkait is also an issue for the unity of Ethiopia.
    If we want to keep Wolkait within Ethiopia, it should belong back to Amhara.

  5. Good job and one redeeming achievement to savor for those young boys and girls who just survived the mother of all wars their region has ever seen! In fact, I am not surprised by their accomplishment because just like those in Eritrea keeping oneself educated by every chance they get is in their psyche. Even during the war years with Mengistu, foreign journalists who visited the bases of both EPLF and TPLF, they were astonished fighter got back to classrooms learning math and other science subjects after coming back from a day of fighting. So, kudos young men and women!!!!

  6. I think the issues for all disputed areas in Ethiopia shall be settled with dialogue, not with a barrel of guns. As the suffering only affects the poor and the vulnerable not the elites that starts all.
    My solution for all disputed area is to be governed by the federal government not by the competing regional states period.

  7. As most of your writings, your ” story behind the” 69.9% test results” is not plausable. That “the PM is in desperate need of fighters in his futile effort to win the war against Fanno” is simply laughable. As we see it, the PM is not in short supply of riff raff- rag -tag army that surrenders itself and its arms at every front. What the army lacks is cause and motivation.

    Tigray might have melitia, but is the militia willing to fight for the PM? I doubt it. Again, as we know it, TPLF has no control over this militia. What TPLF can do is try to convince the militia help the PM fight Fanno in return for repossesion of Welkait and other areas it claim belongs to Tigray. But, Abiy has blown it a couple of days ago saying referendum decides the future of these areas. So, no militia will raise a finger in exchange for an issue which appears settled.

    One obvious thing is TPLF and the government in the region keep invoking the Pretoria Agreement (PA) to get back the said areas. It appears, both TPLF and the government have lost steam to unleash another war anywhere for any reason. They have realized that any war in Tigray or by Tigreans anywhere will be the end of TPLF. On top of that, both are witnessing how Fanno has become a formidable fighting force and possibily an agent of change for the entre country including for Tigray. Their hope on PA is getting bigger by the day as Fanno’s strength makes Welkait a moot issue. They squandered their chance when they crossed to Amhara region to “settle accounts” rather than recover Welkait. Now it’s all gone for good.

    Brief. The story behind the 69.9% test tesults has nothing to do with the militia. As a scholar and a gentleman of high caliber based on your stated educational level, YOU , Dr. Yonas were supposed to come up with some convincing explanations rather than make a wild guess and try to relate what’s unrelated. 69.9% test results for Tigray students to recruit Tigrian militia? Ridiculous.

    As to me, the 69.9% test results was intended to shame and blame B. Nega for his recent blunder – even kick him out of office – using lax exam security system broken by cyber savvy team. It might have been done by people in the government itself (for the same or different reasons stated above) or simply for big money. Given the national average which is 3.2%, the 69.9% pass should have been automatically cancelled and an inquiry held. Last time I checked my neurology notes, war situation kills brain cells of students in mass and recovery of half lost cells takes at least a decade for a one year war. The three month preparation was no explanation. Probablly, they were studying the answer of the exams.

    I suggest the House of Peoples’ Representatives education sub-committee investigate this national fiasco in an open hearing in which the publi can freely attend and participate. Conduct forensic investigation of the examination security system breach and possible hck of computer softwares and database. Call and grill B. Nega and his assistants. Call head of Tigray education bureau to answer serious questions. Call some students to take oral exams.

    It’s ony after an inquiry that the truth will come out.

    You, Dr. Yonas, though living in peace, you seem to have lost more brain cells than the students. Think hard and long before you write.

    Kukush

  8. Make that:
    Even during the war years with Mengistu, foreign journalists who visited the bases of both EPLF and TPLF, they were astonished when they saw fighters getting back to classrooms learning math and other science subjects right after coming back from a day of fighting.

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