by Alex Bekele
Narrow minded nationalists have targeted ethnic Amharas as their enemies for over a half century. Their central mission had been the abuse and misuse of history to demonize all Amharas. Prominent in this protracted campaign of spreading hatred on the basis of fabrications and reductionist history have been the TPLF and the OLF. Their task was made a lot easier by the coming to power of the TPLF. They carried out systemic ethnic cleansing in the Oromo Kilil, Southern regions, Benshangul, and Wolqaeit Tegede. Mass graves of over a hundred thousand bodies have been discovered in Wolqaeit by Gondar University. Mass graves in the South are waiting to be revealed to the rest of the world. By the admission of the late PM Meles Zenawi, over three million Amharas disappeared without a trace. A decade after such admission, with the raging state-sponsored Amhara genocide in the last four years, one does not need a PHD in Statistics to figure out how many more Amharas have been exterminated.
Besides, these groups have purged as many Amharas as possible from the bureaucracy on the lame excuse of retirement before their official age of retirement. They also took Amhara lands and homes on the pretext of development for the private use of the chosen people. Even more threatening to the existence of ethnic Amharas is the marginalization of Amhara students from Higher education by assigning them to colleges and universities outside of their kilil where, either they refuse to go to for fear of persecution, or they go and become victims of ethnic cleansing, or a permanent fear of one. Parents still don’t know the fate of the seventeen Dembidolo University students who were kidnapped on their way home. In fact, that should have been good enough a cause to change the policy of assigning students outside of their Kilil. The latest theft of school entrance exam is only a part of the more serious marginalization of Amhara students from higher education.
All this and more happened because Amharas were not represented in the drafting of the constitution, and later in the government. For over five decades since the narrow minded nationalists opened their offensive on the people of Amhara, we tried to defend ourselves as Ethiopians with little success. So the fact that Amharas should organize as Amhara in defense of our people and to protect our interests is long overdue. The question is what kind of organization does the objective reality demand, and how far away are we from it? To answer this question a synopsis of the objective reality of Ethiopia is necessary.
Agricultural production that suffered from a massive locust invasion and widespread drought was further ruined by the civil war. Farmers on both sides were in combat for two farming seasons, exposing northern Ethiopia to famine. Farmers in the south were unable to farm because of state-sponsored ethnic cleansing, and were robbed of whatever harvest they have and displaced in millions. Unless you fall for Shimeles Abdissa’s pie-in-the-sky lush wheat harvest, Ethiopia is starving and will continue to.
Manufacturing is also in trouble. By the government’s own admission, more than 300 factories are not functioning due to lack of inputs. Factories in the Dessie and Kombolcha area are working much below capacity due to war destruction. Those that produce are facing market problems due to the country losing its AGOA status in the US. Investment capital has dried up because of the chaos the Ethiopian government failed to control. Transportation is coming to a screeching halt due to shortage of petrol.
With countries after countries frequently issuing travel advisory not to go to Ethiopia, there is no income from tourism. In fact, the barbarity of the civil war in the north, and the savage nature of the state-sponsored genocide in the south will continue to be tourist repellents for decades to come.
Remittance that has significantly increased in 2021 and 2022 is about to take a nose dive due to the continued unresponsiveness of the government to basic questions of fairness, equality, human rights, and the rule of law. The Diasporas’ stopping sending money to the country through proper channels and boycotting Ethiopian services such as the Ethiopian Airline are no longer far-fetched.
Add to this the rampant corruptions; misuse of precious funds for luxury projects, and lack of serious austerity planning, the economy is in a freefall. Consequently, basic necessities are terribly scarce and outlandishly too expensive. Many in the capital struggle to have a meal a day. Inflation is skyrocketing, making the Birr worthless by the day. Subsequently, the national treasury is in an insurmountable hard currency crunch due to an out of sync current account balance. Import far, far exceeds export, and war time expenditure outstrips revenue hundreds of times.
The politics of the country is not in better shape either. Abiy Ahmed’s seductive rhetorical flourishes are no more. The dissonance between his words and deeds has been exposed. People are now judging him by his actions and omissions, not by his swearing by Ethiopia. He is unmasked. Surprisingly, as he is unmasked, he is throwing off all his remaining covers, and, alas! He is naked now. He no more pretends to be a statesman and a lawful leader of a great country. He has shredded even that shoddy constitution he swore to defend and shoved it into the toilet. Now, he is a terrorist who uses his position to kidnap his enemies and torment and torture them in undisclosed dungeons. He is too desperate to tolerate even the sage critics of Ato Tadeos Tantu. He no longer pretends to take his alleged enemies even to the Kangaroo Courts of his poodle, Ms Maaza Ahenafi. He really thinks he is the state, expecting his subjects to praise Le Roi Soleil.
Our social conditions have been made toxic by government designs. Spreading hatred among ethnic groups is a state strategy supported by the constitution. Fomenting religious conflicts for political profits is coming from the highest office. State led defamation and degradation of religious leaders, particularly those of the Islamic and Orthodox Christian faith, are watering down all the benefits of their teachings and their examples for our people. Those desperados have forgotten that society survives more on its morality than on laws or the threat of violence. Hooligans in state power are spreading hooliganism in our society. Add to this all the hedonistic vices financed by the out of control corruption, we have lost all our social moorings. The great majority of people who are struggling to survive on a meal a day are all angrily gazing at those who are obscenely indulging in hedonistic vices and gastronomic excesses. To borrow Charles Dickens’ words, Ethiopia is “A Tale of Two Cities.” What does all this mean politically?
It means an unmitigated State failure—a breach of the contract between the people and their rulers. As civil war has been raging for almost two years, as over ten million people are internally displaced, as a state sponsored ethnic cleansing is raging in the bigger portion of the country, no one can talk of a functioning state. When the ruling party jettisons all its pretension to be lawful and makes extrajudicial measures such as kidnapping rules, not the exceptions, it has admitted it can’t rule the old, relatively civilized way anymore. The corollary of this is that, people who have given up on the protection of the state of their lives, limbs, and properties are taking the responsibility of protecting themselves into their own hands. They are refusing to starve peacefully. They are saying no to the unbridled power of the state. They are demanding at least a modicum of peace and security, and an opportunity to make the bare minimum required for survival. For all these deprivations, they are ready to fight. This condition—a condition in which the rulers are not able to rule the old way, and the people are refusing to be ruled the way they used to—is the eve of a popular change. It is an objective condition pregnant with change.
The midwives are strong organizations. Supposedly multiethnic parties who work for the liberation of the Ethiopian people: Your time is now. You are about to be tested. You can’t sit idle watching a government that is operating above and against the law to abuse its people. Your direct action is urgently needed. The mass of the unemployed and those employed with starvation wages and salaries, the displaced, and the persecuted multitudes are clamoring for your leadership ready to explode with a volcanic rage. Are you going to lead or buckle down? Act, or disband, and get off the way!
Professional organizations such as workers’ unions, teachers associations, bar associations, and other mass organizations should rise up too. Your members, the pillars of our society, are working the hardest and paid the least. Besides, they suffer daily abuses and humiliations by government agencies unworthy of the positions, privileges, and authorities they have. Freedom comes at a price. Your rank and file members are a lot more ready today to pay this price than ever before. Stand up for your rights.
As a target of state-sponsored genocide the brunt of all the evils of this government and that of the invasion of terrorist TPLF fall on the people of Amhara. Yet our organizational preparedness is less than satisfactory. We have to catch up. The progress we saw in our Fanos, Amhara Militias, and Amhara Special Forces had been spectacular. These forces successfully defended their people from TPLF invasion, armed themselves from the enemy, and strengthened their structures. Yet, the federal government is on a campaign of disarming and disbanding them. We should do all we could to scuttle this campaign. This, however, does not mean all our hopes are pinned to them, for two reasons.
First, there is a chance the state machinery may succeed in disarming and disbanding our forces, by cutting funds for the Special Forces, by bribing and intimidating some of the Fanos, by concocting terrorist attacks on public structures and blaming it on them, and declaring war on them. Their resilience and commitment has a limit. After all, they have lives of their own, wives, husbands, children, fathers, mothers, livelihoods, etc. They meant to extinguish the fire, stop the flood. They are neither a professional army, nor a political party.
Second, as I stated already, all our problems emanate from lack of political representation. And we don’t have political representation, for we don’t have—yes—a strong political party. Whether we have our military forces or we lost them, we still need to form an Amhara Party with a spine. With the resourcefulness of the Amhara people and culture I would like to believe it is already in the process of formation, if not already formed. In the meantime, we have to keep this terrorist administration busy with different kinds of civil disobedience. That way, we limit the damage it can do to us, and raise and train leaders in the struggle.
Forming such a party is difficult and easy at the same time. The difficult part is getting professional organizers. It cannot be done on a part-time basis, especially with the urgency the objective reality demands now. We need a handful of bright pioneers with youthful energy and a stable mind willing to organize around the clock. This is difficult to come up with. The easy part is the readiness of the people to join the struggle and pay sacrifices. It is like the whole Amhara is ready for change, if not the whole country. Once started, I have no doubt, this party will grow by leaps and bounds within a short period of time despite severe political persecutions. That party will give the necessary leadership to the remaining Amhara forces and recruit most of those willing into a permanent army of its own. This way Amhara will defend itself and protect its rights, and defend Ethiopia when called upon.
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