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Understanding the New Socio-Political Psychology of Tigray

Yonas Biru, PhD

This blog aims to provide responses to the inquiries raised regarding my previous article titled “An Amhara-Tigray Coalition is the Solution to the Oromummaa Mass Social Psychosis.” These questions were raised through various channels, both online and offline. I will address them based on their significance, as per my perspective.

X (previously referred to as Twitter) and Facebook (previously known as a public soapbox for impromptu speeches) are platforms where online issues are being discussed. The Ethiopian Global Discussion Forum (formerly known as የእከደከድየ ዳንኪራ ቤት where intellectuals engage) is currently inactive.

Question One: The first offline question was from a professor of economics with whom I shared the article offline. He flagged two areas of inquiry.

“Yonas. You made an interesting and bold, perhaps counter-intuitive, proposal with regard to the Amhara-Tigray coalition. Seemingly, you intentionally or otherwise avoided the Agency issue in your piece, is it right? What is your thought in terms of identifying plausible agencies in the two camps that can start the policy level discussion or at least intentions without allowing TPLF or the criminal gangs in TDF evading accountability or hijacking it before it bears fruits?”

Economists use the term Agent or Agency to describe an entity that represents a defined constituent or principal in economic or political transactions. For our purpose, the question is who will lead the coalition formation representing Amhara and Tigray tribal homelands.

My Response: The intentional act of avoiding the Agency issue is crucial. From my perspective, it is not essential to try and predefine the Agency. Instead, the focus should be on initiating the conversation and allowing the Agency issue to naturally resolve itself.

From the Tigryan side, there are increasing voices of status-quo-fatigue both in the intellectual and activist circles. Let me summon two prominent voices.

Alemayehu Fentaw (constitutional lawyer) and in the past one of the ardent defenders of the tribe-based constitution now believes differently. His current view is: “Ethiopia’s ethnic federalism was meant to be a political experiment at accommodating ethnic diversity and managing ethnic conflicts. The experience so far shows that the system has failed. Ethiopia is at a moment of great constitutional crisis. Nothing short of a comprehensive constitutional reform can resolve the conflicts and halt the ongoing ethnic pogroms.”

In a recent interview with Tewodros Tsegaye of Reyot, Alula Solomon (President & Founder at Tigrai Media House) called for Amhara and Tigray leaders to put the Wolkait issue on hold and focus on bigger national issues of interest for both societies.

Having lived through hell in the past three years and seeing no hope or future in TPLF’s political past and Amhara extremism, people in the two tribal lands want change. The situation is ripe to turn the murmurs of discontent to a unified protest for a transformative change.

Regarding the fear that the TPLF may hijack the coalition before it bears fruit, my belief is that the TPLF’s delusion about Tigryan exceptionalism and sense of supremacy that used to drive TPLF’s political agenda is long dead.

Remember this. The two things that helped TPLF to assert Tigryan hegemony in 1991 do not exist in the current political and military environments. In 1991, the people of Ethiopia wanted change and embraced TPLF, believing nothing would be worse than Mengistu. Further, there was no armed group in the nation outside of Mengistu’s army and TPLF’s ragtag militia. After Mengistu’s army collapsed, TPLF consolidated the military power and secured the state’s monopoly on violence. There was no one else to challenge its hegemonic military power.

Today, the reality is different. Amhara, Oromo, and Tigray have significant armed forces. The government’s monopoly on instruments of violence is long gone. The TPLF has zero chance of taking over and consolidating military power, let alone sustaining itself in power.

The dream of making Tigray an alpha-tribe is dead. The reality is that the current constitutional order has reduced Tigray to a periphery tribe (አጋር ብሄር). As I highlighted in my earlier article, Tigray accounts for only 5 to 6 percent of the population. It is also a resource barren land. Tigray has no future in the current constitutional order.

During the Tigray civil war, I was advocating for a negotiated settlement, stressing it is peace not war that will destroy the TPLF. Since the Pretoria agreement, the TPLF exists in name only. Its powerbase is eroded. Its activist and intellectual landscape is deserted. Its own best interest compels it to change path. The environment is fertile for a Northern coalition.

This is not to say some in the TPLF circle are not clinging to their illusion. But such remnant forces are driven by a dying inertia not by a political strategy. The people of Tigray have no shoulder to carry such a community of fools.

Remember before the war, half the people of Mekele did not leave their houses without at least one garment sporting the red and yellow flag. Today, they will not wear it even if it is handed for free. They see it as the source of their misery.


Question-Two: How would the Amhara-Tigray Coalition differ from the Oro-Mara coalition?

My Response:  The Oro-Mara coalition started on a good footing. Moderate forces in Amhara and Oromo were in power. Unfortunately, they failed to control extremist forces within their landscapes. In both regions extremist forces emerged and grew feeding each other oxygen.

The murder of Dr. Ambachew was the result of run-away Amhara extremism in the አብን camp. In the Oromo tribal land, Oromo-Shene emerged as a powerbase for extremists. The center of gravity of the Oro-Mara coalition gave way to a new center of gravity with a new power dynamic that brought extremist forces to the fore. The Oro-Mara coalition collapsed.

The current political environment is different. Tigrayan extremists are all but dead. Amhara extremists are fast losing ground. The recent rejection of Shaleka Dawit and Eskinder Nega by Fano forces is a flashing signal. The diaspora Amhara extremist colony that is led by Ethio-360 has lost steam as the epicenter of Amhara useful idiots.

In general, what Ethiopians of all tribe, creed, hue, and shade need is a peaceful coexistence. Such voices are nowhere louder than in Amhara and Tigray, the two primary targets of Oromummaa.

The issue now is forming an Amhara-Tigray coalition and focusing on how such a coalition can be expanded to include others who are in the anti-Oromummaa camp. The anti-Oromo coalition must start with the Amhara-Tigray coalition and broaden its base.

In Conclusion: In 2018 or early 2019, I wrote an article titled “አብን, Shut Up, Sit Down, Listen and Listen Good!” It may be time for a sequel with the following title: “Hermitized Amharas and Tribalized Tigryans, Shut Up, Sit Down, Listen and Listen Good!”


4 thoughts on “Understanding the New Socio-Political Psychology of Tigray”

  1. The writer seems to have missed that the sticking point for Amara -Tigray rapprochement is the so called contested areas. The issue cannot be ignored if the said rapprochments is to take place. Amara and Tigray have to agree as to how to deal with thee areas. Say, solve the deadlock via self determination and referendum as suggested by PP or split it in half or agree to joint ownersship and use rights or any other arrangement that suits them. As things stand now, Amara region (government including Fano) seems to support to keep the areas Amara or opt for a referendum whereas Tigray wants them back to the region as per the Pretoria agreement (PA) in which TPLF clevely inserted a legal jargon – status quo ante – and wants it enforced with the support of U.S. AU and others now. TPLF will not be done as the writer suggested as long as it plays the PA card. Though TPLF has surely lost its vitality and credence in Tigray, Tigreans have given it a second chance to bring back the contested areas. That’s why TPLF is doing everything possible to force PP hand over the areas. TPLF will die a natural death and become history only if it fails to deliver on this issue. Simply put, Amara – Tigre coalition is unlikely to emerge before a breakthrough – such as loss of TPLF of the said areas And resolution appears unlikely in the near future. If anything happens, it will be after PP positions itself in power for a second term in about a year from now. PP will continue to keep Amara and Tigray at odds delaying action on the issue. That’s how PP will ensure Oromo rule over Amara and Tigray for the time being.


    Borru misses so many points all the time simply because he’s not ready to get out of his cocoon in which he’s encapsulated himself for several years. It’s the same old “analysis” he repeats ad infinitum such as Amhara extrimism, Amhara shene, failed Amhara intellectuals and activist circles, etc. etc. He picked labels ” Amhara extrimism, Amhara shene” from Abiy Ahmed who used them first and then took them to new heights though they do not exist. No need to waste time talking about these labels since the facts speak for themselves. An intellectual himself, Borru is anti-intellectual in some sense. Not only is he anti – Amhara intellectuals, but also ant – Oromo and anti-Tigrean intellectuals as well.. Check out what anti-intellectual refers to and talk to me on the subject. It’s a personality treat that needs intervention to effectively deal with it. Like get a cure from the treat. I’ve no objection to his criticism of activists,; I agree some of them are notoriously stupid.

    As CHUCH GEMECHU rightly noted, TPLF is working hard to get back what it claims is Tigrean’s land. It is the only prize TPLF can present to Tigreans in compensation for the loss of hundreds of thousands of Tigrean lives and destrucion property resulting from the war into which it dragged the entire population. Again, as CHUCH GEMECHU noted, Tigreans have given TPLF one last chance; no wonder it’s striving to live up to the expectation. If it does not presnet the land in a short order, it will be out forever. Since the economic value of the land is blown out of proportions, Tigreans i will – I would say in large numbers – volunteer to fight for it The proof is TDF’s invasion of part of the land in the last few days. I don’t see how Amhara and Tigray will form a coalition to get rid of PP while the two peoples are ready and willing to fight on that piece of land. It’s a long way for Tigreans and Amharas to see eye to eye.

    The question is how PP will make use of this Amhara – Tigre debacle? Borru will not “analyse” this for you. His interest is to challenge Oromo intellectuals who breathed life on Oromummaa because, according to Borru’s discours the country’s problems of tribalism will be solved if this “evil” thought and practice is defeated. Initially, writing about or speaking on Oromummaa was a simple intellectual exercise, later it gripped the perception of ordinary Oromos and transformed itself into a world outlook and finally emerged as a military, political and economic force. Now, Oromummaa has gone beyond intellectual exercis and becaome a force to recon with. At this stage, no effort should be wated to defeat it.

    So, if no effort is to be wasted to defeatt Oromummaa, what’s the option? Leave Oromummaa to Oromos. Let them show to the whole world that it is what they calim it is. The option for non-Oromos is to disengage from Oromos. How? Via confederation or separation. Once Tigreans recover the land they’re sayng is theirs, they’ll opt for confederation or separation. Given the Ortomo rule which is anchored on Oromummaa, Amharas too have no other choice but to opt for confederation or separation. Even at this moment of disagreement between the two, Tigreans and Amharas will be better off if they administer themselves independent from Oromo chockhold.

    No surprise that Borru says nothing about confederation. As a retiree, he could have done many constructive things rather than make anti-intellectual games his pass time. It seems he has found his equals only in that quarter, but he’s wrong. Wake up, Mr.

  3. I see a fair, mature and objective discussion going on here. Hats off to you, guys!

    I serously doubt if TPLF will be history even if it fails to bring back the contested land. In fact, TPLF is likely to lose if a referendum is held even with options given for the population in the said land to votes to joinTigray, Amhara or have a new region. Referndum is most likely to end up with the population voting to join the Amhara region. If not, its most likely a new region will emerge. Forseeing these possible outcomes, TPLF keeps on opposing referndum and insists on the land “returned” to Tigray as per the Pretoria Agreement. It appears Prosperity Party (PP) is for referndum which Amhara region does not oppose. So, with what optionis is TPLF left? To go to war which it’s most likely to lose. This being the possible outcome in the coming year or so, you think TPLF will simply say Tigrians “good bye” and liquidate itself? I don’t think so. The likely scenario is it will stay in power by further weakening the already weak opposition in the region. I don’t see the end of TPLF.

    What’s surprising is, let alone say “good bye” to Tigreans and liquidate itself in anticipation of loss of the land, TPLF does not even want to change its name and register with a new name with National Election Board (NEB) after its designation of “terrorist” organization is lifted. What’s in name for TPLF unless it wants to win in everything it contests? It’s not clear why NEB backed by the Ministry of Justice refuse to register it in its old name – TPLF? Proclamation No. 1176/2020 on
    Prevention and Suppression of Terrorism Crimes hold TPLF responsible for everything it has committed before the designation is lifted. It’s banned from requesting the legality of its transactions including the return of confiscated property as a result of the designation. All the same, if its reinstated with full legal personality, what’s the problem with changing its name and registering anew? Just asking.

    It appears TPLF’s basis insistence for reinstatement in its old name is the Pretoria Agreement (PA). But the PA is not a treaty that enables TPLF to claim the Agreement suprsedes the country’s laws including the constitution which, according to NEB and MJ disallow them to reinstate TPLF’s name it had before the terrorist designation. A treaty is essentially an agreement between two souvereign state and Tigray is not a souvereign state and tPLF is not governemt of souvereign Tgray. As to me, TPLF’s insistence to keep its name is part of its long held practice of “my way or the highway”. PP is working to bend the laws of the country and fulfil TPLF’s demand on this matter, but provided PP is for referendum on the land issue, it will eventually make TPLF history. Still, it’s in PP’s interest if TPLF picks a new name since it will be easier to bring it back under its fold with a new name.

    Even the designation of terrorist lifted, would TPLF be criminally be held for the crimes it allegedly committed while the designation is in effect. What we’re witnessing is TPLF wants others to be charged for crimes perpetrated against Tigreans but not itself. Isn’t that a twisted logic? As the saying goes, “it takes two to tango” and it takes at least two parties to go to war. That’s what happened in our country. We want everyone involved to be responsible for the egregious crimes committed against people and propery. Again as the saying goes, ” no peace without justice”. I agree with what TPLF says regarding the so called “transitional justice” which is a joke, but TPLF has to face justice as well which it demands others face. Applies for all.

    Hats off to the commentators.

  4. It’s me CHUCH GEMECHU. My equivalent to is Oromummaa is Ammaruummaa. I found the following a while ago which I believe brifly outlines what it Ammaruummaa represents. The word is Oromified for our Oromo brothers and sister to conceptualize it and make the best out of it for themselves. I’ve copied and pasted it here hoping it will not raise dust. Lean back, read it and reflect on it. It might sound nonsense now, but the way things go in the country, the future easy to see in this comment.

    Here is a suggestion to FANNO to save Amharas and the country.

    Once again in our recent history, Amharas have emerged as the holders of the master key to solve Ethiopia’s multifaceted problems. How? By opting for confederation.

    Amharas have no choice but to move for confederation simply because ethnic federalism in the Ethiopian context or in any other country’s context has not worked except for those who seized state power.

    A multi-ethnic country under ethnic federalism, Ethiopia will not have a fair and free election and govern without the opression of one or another ethnic group. Hence, democracy is an illusion that cannot be realized under ethnic federalism.

    The way Oromo rose to power and now control the entire country through proxy regional governments is the proof. Tigreans have done it for the last thirty years and Oromos have stepped in Tgreans shoes to impose similar one ethnic group rule.

    With their number and the size of their region, Oromo opressive rule will be much worse than Tigrean`s. Give another two years to Oromo rule, Ethiopia will be the tail of the whole world by all standards of measure.

    So, it is time for Amharas to exercise their constitutional right to self-determnation and vote on confederation. If they adopt conederation, it will give them the opportunity to attract direct foreign investment since confederation will enable them to have economic diplomats and even have embasies abroad cutting the Oromo controlled foreign ministry diverting foreign investment to Oromia and other favoured regions. Amharas can also have a defense force which will protect them from foreign invaders including attacks of ethnic Oromo organizations. Full control over the resources in the region without interference from the ethnic fedrealist rule is certain.

    The Belgian model of confederation which appears to hep advance amhara interests is something to explore.

    In any event, Ethiopia needs vast decentralization resembling confederation since the federalism the country has adopted is notheing other than unitarism in disguise. Controlled from the centre, it has miserably failed to develop the country let alone prosper and ensure safety and security of its citizens. The chaos we see in the country right now has much to do with lack of development (in all sectors) and security. Both have proven beyond the capacity of the ethnic federalist government to provide. Change of government at ethnic federal level is not the answer for these problems.

    Tigreans have floated the idea of confederation or separation even if they pretend to remain part of the country for the moment to get federal budget and borrow money from local and international sources in the name of Tigray and obtain direct foreign assitance and aid. They are being treated by the feds as a de facto independent state receiving foreign dignataries and opening diplomatic offices abroad. Tigreans know that they will not be fairly treated under Oromo rule because the federalism in place cannot be reformed to realize equality; as a result, their choice of confederation or separation appears just.

    Amharas must seize the opportunity to decide their destiny via self-determination as well without wasting another year under incompetent Oromo rule. Despite all the atrocities they have committed on theselves, Amharas, Afars and many others, Tgreans are embraced by the Oromo rule since Oromos now feel tobe the only savours of Ethiopia.

    Folks! Don’`t be fooled!. Oromos pretend to be “savours” only if they rule the entire country as one piece. Like any other ethnic group that aspire to oppress and dominate ,they are after resources rather than equality, democracy and respect of human rights.That’s why they are unwilling to drop ethnic federalism which CANNOT be reformed to accept equality of all peoples in the country. Democracy is dead and buried under ethnic federalism.

    If Amharas want to be heard and embraced as Tigreans, they have to go for confederation. Once confederaltion is implemented, talk about non-thnic based federalism and negotiating a new constitution is possible. There is no country that moved from ethnic federalism to non-ethnic federalism directly; the short cut to this long process is recourse to confederation first.

    If confederation is not accepted, Amharas will be better off if they say good bye to the ethiopian state. It is outdated for Amharas to hang on “mama TOBIA” cry since nobody in the country is interested in it any more. What Amharas got from this cry is atrocotoes, redicule and shame. All these on Amhara because they gave Oromos and other ethnic groups a country which they are not ready and willing to let go. If Amhara insist on confederation, Oromos might call the army on it to « protect » the unity of the country! That will make them a laghing stock since they were in the forefront to weaken the unity of the country. Now they cannot be alllowed to reverse gear.

    Amhara! Wake up and smell the cofee. Tell Oromos that you want confederation – if not confederation then separation. Oromo crack down will soften even disappear as it did for Tigreans if Amhara opt for confederation. But the idea is not to see Oromo softening on Amhara, it is to seek real confederation as a wayout from decades long quagmire and pave the way for a talk on a new constitution. Oromo softeneing take Amharas no where.

    Try it! It will work and catapult Amhara development and growth to the sky and ensure your security. It will eventually liberate Oromos too from their bloody distructive path poised to take everybody else down them.

    FANNO – make this BRIEFpoints your motto and win – Amhara economic freedom including control of its natural resources; direct diplomatic relations to attract foreign investment and aid; its own defense and security forces; democracy backed by free and fair elections in the region by regional political parties only; no ethnic federalist party to run for office in the region.

    Slogans : እኛ አማሮች አማሮች ሙሉ የተፈጥሮ ሃብታችንን ለራሳችን ጥቅም እናዉላለን፣ እኛ አማሮች ነጻ ቀጥታ የውጭ ግንኙነት እንመሰርታለን፣ ይህ ለእድገታችን (ዲፕሎማቲክ ቢሮ መክፈትን የሚጨምር ለመዋእለ ንዋይ መሳብና የውጭ እርዳታ ፍሰት) ወሳኝ ነው ፤ እኛ አማሮች የራሳችንን የመከላከያና የደህነነት ተቋሞች እንመሰርታለን፣ እኛ አማሮች ማናቸውንም የፌደራል የፖለቲካ ፓርቲዎች የማይጨምር በክልል ፓርቲዎች መካከል ብቻ በሚካሄድ የሃሳብ ፉክኽር ዲሞክራሲያዊ ነጻና ፍትሃዊ ክልላዊ ምርጫ እናካሂዳለን፤ ከነዚህ በመነሳት በእኩልነት ላይ ለሚመሰረት ነጻ ዲሞክራሲያዊ ፌደራሊዝም እና አዲስ ሀገመንግስት እንሰራለን፥

    “አማሮች ሙሉ ሃብታችንን ለራሳችን ጥቅም እናዉላለን¨

    አባይን ውሰዱ። ምንጩ ጣና ሃይቅ አማራ ክልል ነው። ይህ ማለት ከሃይቁ የሚመነጨው ውሃ እንዲሁም ውሃው የሚፈጥረው ሃይል ንብረትነቱ የአማራ ህዝብ ነው። እየተሰራ ያለው ግድብም በአማራ ክልል መሆን ሲገባው አውጥተውታል። ይህም ቢሆን አንዱ ውሃው የተፈጥሮ ሃብቻችን በመሆኑ ውሃውን ተከትሎ የሚገነባው ግድብም ብንረታችን ነው። ኦሆዴድ የሚመነጨውን የመብራት ሃይል ገቢ ተጠቅሞ እኛንው መልሶ እንዲወጋን ማጎበት የለብንም። ይህ ብቻ አይደለም ፤ ማናቸውም የክልሉ ሃብት ንብረት ለክልሉ ህዝብ ጥቅም ብቻ እንዲውል ማድረግ አለብን። ኦሆዴድን ተረዳድተን እናራቁተው። ሃገር የመሆን ፍላጎታችን አንዱ መገለጫ ይህ ነው። ኦሆዴድ ኦሮሚያ ውስጥ የሚያደርገው ይህን መሆኑን እነረዳ።

    ቀጥታ የውጭ ግንኙነት ካልመሰረትን ክልሉን በኢኮኖሚ በፍጥነትና በተሟላ ሁኔታ ማሳደግ አይቻለንም። አሁን ያለው አሰራር ሁሉም የውጭ መዋዕለ ነዋይ በማዕከል በኦሆድዴ የተያዘና ለኦሮሚያና ጥቂት ለተመረጡ የኦሆድዴ ፕሮጀክቶችና የሚውል ነው። አንድ ወይም ሁለት ክልሎች የኦሆዴድ ኦሮሚያ ትርፍራፊ የሚወረወርላቸው ሲሆን ይህ ደግሞ አማራ ክልልን አይጨምርም። በግል የሚማጣ የውጭ ሆነ የሀገር ውስጥ መዋዕለ ነዋይ አፍሳሽ ክልሉ ጦርነት ውስጥ ስለሆን ባትምክረው ይሻላል በሚል ማስፈራሪያ እንዲተው ወይም ወደሌላ እንዲሄድ ይነገረዋል። የት ቢባል ያው ወደታወቀው ኦሮሚያ። እና ጎበዝ! አማራው በስንቱ ይጠቃ? አማራው ቀጥታ የውጭ ግንኙነት መስርቶ ፣ ኤምባሲዎች ከፍቶ ፣ የመዋዕለ ነዋይ እምባሳደሮች ሰይሞ ክልሉን በኢኮኖሚ ካላስመነደገ ወደባሰ ኢኮኖሚያዊ ፣ ወታስደራዊ፣ ፖለቲካዊና ማህበረዊ ቀውስ መግባቱ እይቀርም። ሁሉንም ለኔ በሚለው ስግብግቡ ኦሆዴድ ኦሮሚያ ስር አማራ ሊያድግ አይችልም። ኦሮማይ!

    It’s not only economic ties wiith foreign governments that Amhara needs, the ties should include political, cultural, military and social issues. This begins with neigbouring states, expand to involve the continent and then beyoond to the whole world. I can’t wiat to see that happen.

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