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HomeOpinionFanno in Need of Strategic Direction and Clarity of Endgame 

Fanno in Need of Strategic Direction and Clarity of Endgame 

Ethiopia _ FANNO _
FANNO combatants (Photo : from the web/file)

Yonas Biru, PhD 

Lurking beneath the current Amhara-Oromo conflict is a quantum energy gathering  strength like the crackle of electricity before a lightning storm. Understanding and  harnessing this dynamic phenomenon is essential to thwart the malignant crisis that is  metastasizing and carries in its womb the seeds of the nation’s destruction. 

Let us make one thing clear from the outset. The Prime Minister is the primary actor whose  Oromummaa anchored tribal fantasy, wholly predictable and preventable disasters, and  utter incompetence are pulling apart the nation at the seams. The war with the Tigrayan  People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) and the mishandling of the Oromo Liberation Army (OLA)  should have given him valuable experiences to reflect on and develop a deliberative conflict  resolution process. Instead, with a sense of infallibility and certainly one of accountability to  no one, he continues forging forward with his failed ways, deepening existing crises and  creating new ones. 

Ethiopians remember the TPLF war that the Prime Minister said he will wrap up in two weeks  lasted two years with nearly a million people dead and over $28 billion economic structures  laid to waste. On the heel of such a catastrophic war, he launched a new war against the  Amhara Fanno with confidence to bring them to their knees in a matter of weeks. Five  months have passed and Fanno is standing tall and getting taller. 

Unlike the Oromummaa political project where tribal allegiance supersedes national identity,  the Amhara challenge is that its tribal allegiance cannot be pursued outside of the survival  of Ethiopia’s national identity. Therefore, Amhara’s struggle needs to be two-pronged: saving  itself from Oromummaa cult politics and ensuring the continuation of Ethiopia as a nation. 

In the current tribalized constitution and political and military organizational architecture,  the Amhara will be foolish not to organize itself along tribal lines. A strong Amhara party  offers organizational efficiency and political leverage. But its strategic goal for a  transformative political change lies deeply in its ability to forge a broad-based national  political agenda. የአማራ ኢትዮጵያዊነት ለጥያቄ እይቀርብም may be a nice bumper sticker but it cannot be  a substitute for the lack of the two-pronged strategy noted above. 

I am prompted to write this piece because I see Fanno risking a repeat of the failure of the  National Movement of Amhara (NaMA) to sustain its initial rapid growth, owing to the lack of  a forward-thinking strategic vision to elevate itself to national prominence. They failed to  make their movement the center of gravity around which other tribal homelands could 

coalesce in the quest to protect themselves and in the meantime be a bulwark for the  nation’s peace and stability. 

NaMA’s misguided decision stemmed from their belief that the right strategy was to first  strengthen their Amhara base and then grow it into a national program. The problem was  that once tribal parties are entrenched it is difficult to broaden their outlook. NaMA was  preoccupied dealing with conflicts between Gonder, Gojam, Wello and Shewa interests more  than building a national coalition. 

This is not unique to the Amhara. By its very nature tribalism is restrictive, not all embracive. Remember Oromo-PP, Amhara-PP, Somali-PP were all supposed to transform  themselves to a national party. That was the Prime Minister’s aim in 2019 and early 2020. By  2021, the idea of transforming Oromo-PP into a national party was no more. If anything, it  transformed itself into an extremist party in the mold of Oromo-Shene. 

People say the Prime Minister was Shene all along. This is not true. What happened was he  succumbed to the dynamism and inertia of Oromummaa. Sadly, he lacked moral fortitude,  personal integrity, and political backbone to push back against Oromo tribalist forces. His  lust for power made him look like a dry leaf on a windy day. His political position shifted,  depending which way the wind was stronger. 

The Theater of the Absurd 

Abiy’s path toward a positive outcome is narrow and foggy. He is incapable of coming to  terms that he is neither godly nor infallible. His presumed sense of holiness in the genre of  Moses turned him into a cross between a mentally deranged king and an oblivious zombie  sleepwalking toward a cliff. 

Making the bad situation worse, his military power is bestowed in the hands of a delusional  Field Marshal who is a reincarnation of Sancho Panza de la Mancha with a 16th  century Oromummaa soul both in the title he holds and decisions he makes. Sancho Panza  is a supremely entertaining early 17th Century peasant in Miguel de Cervantes’s masterpiece  Don Quixote. 

Notably, there are three differences between Sancho Panza and the Field Marshall. First, the  Field Marshall is less likeable. Second, Sancho Panza was following Master (Don Quixote) partly out of curiosity and fascination about his silliness whereas the Field Marshal is driven  by a sense of pride, reverence, and blind loyalty to his master. Third, unlike the Field Marshal  who is reckless and dangerous to the stability of the nation, Sancho Panza was a harmless clown.

The Over Supply of Clowns in Ethiopian Politics 

Ethiopian politics is never short of clowns. Some people see TPLF being another source of  existential threat. I see TPLF leaders as a cross between a clown and a fly on a ceiling. TPLF  is like a fly on a dining room ceiling flying from one corner to the other. Its presence does  not make a material difference, but it may be an annoying nuisance. Your mind tells you to  ignore it, but your eyes cannot avoid following it. The case with a clown is the same. You try  to ignore its presence but you cannot remove your eyes from it. 

Whatever TPLF’s leaders do to reduce their followers’ psychological trauma and win the  support of its delusional diaspora, they will not change the political status of their tribal land  in terms of influencing Ethiopia’s political trajectory. What is saddening for the people of  Tigray is that TPLF is doing exactly what it was doing before the war. ጌቾም መሞጣሞጥ ጀምራለች::  የትግራይ ዳያስፖዎችም “እምበር ተጋደላይ” እያሉ በእስክስታ የታጀበ defiant dance ጀመረዋል:: It is the déjà vu of the  symphony of the absurd – with Gecho serving as the Maestro. You want to ignore them, but  you cannot help your eyes that follow them. 

The Rise of Amhara Fanno 

Amhara Fano is gaining momentum because of four factors. The first factor is TPLF’s and  Oromo-PP’s flirting around the issues of Wolkait and Raya. The Prime Minister’s futile  attempt to use Wolkait and Raya as a carrot and stick strategy to keep the Amhara under  leash backfired by animating Amhara nationalism and militarism. 

The second is Oromo PP’s monstrosity that is driven from the Oromummaa bestiality. The  rank-and-file members of Amhara-PP, Amhara militia and Amhara special forces are aghast  by the Oromo PP-led government. They have not only seen Oromo-PP leaders being  christened in the holy mud of Oromummaa, but they have also witnessed as they forcefully  evict Amhara people from the Oromo tribal land and deny them entry to Addis Ababa. This  has led the rank-and-file Amhara-PP, militia, and special force to sympathize with, provide  material and intelligence support to, and even join the Fanno uprising. 

The third factor is the Amhara silent majority that has shunned Amhara Fannos in the past  is now embracing them, going as far as providing them with cover and logistical support.  Increasingly, the Amhara silent majority is taking bold actions, such as blocking roads and  joining Fannos on battlefields. 

The fourth factor is even more potent. The social psychology in the Amhara tribal land is  changing. An optimistic, if not euphoric, Amhara national psychology is being birthed. This is  planting new seeds of impulse that tickle and awaken Amhara’s slumbering inner strength.  The Oromo-PP’s ultra-stupid desire to degrade, humiliate and bring Amhara to its knees ignited the fire of protest. There is no power that is stronger than an agitated inner strength  borne out of a sense of betrayal and humiliation. It was like a coiled spring ready to erupt. 

Recent repeated victories across the Fanno universe have energized vigorous uprising across  the Amhara tribal land. The tale of victories and the sight of raised flags herald the Fanno  resistance is inching toward an inflection point where the path to victory in terms of forcing  the Prime Minister to blink is becoming clearer. 

Once the point of inflection is breached, the defection rate from Amhara special forces will  pick up speed and the silent majority will start to join the movement in mass in pursuit of  freeing Amhara from political Oromummaa. 

Let us remember that the Field Marshall is getting his military’s ass whipped by the Oromo  Liberation Army (OLA) in the Oromo tribal land. There are three critical differences between  Amhara Fanno and the OLA warrant mentioning to give context to the emerging Fanno  phenomenon. 

First, the OLA is a criminal establishment that robs banks and kidnaps innocent people for  ransom. In contrast, Amhara Fanno is restrained from criminal activities. Second, Amhara  Fanno is increasingly embraced by the people of Amhara, while the OLA is rejected by the  people of Oromo. Third, the OLA is very much restricted to Wellega albeit it is engaged in hit  and run attacks outside of Wellega. By comparison, Amhara Fanno is lurking operating in  every nook and cranny across the Amhara tribal land. New ones are sprouting like spring  blossoms. 

The Prime Minister and his Field Marshall are best advised to remember that there are 11  administrative zones in the Amhara tribal land. It will not be too long before each one of  them marshals its own Fanno brigade spreading across the 185,700 square kilometer land,  currently under the Amhara region. By comparison the Tigray tribal land is 19,088 square  kilometers that is currently under the government of the government of Tigray. 

Let us remind the Prime Minister that, in June 2021, he pulled the Military out of the Tigray  region because it was not able to fight the TPLF that was supported by the people. He will be  foolish to think federal forces can win against Fanno, who is increasingly supported by the  people of Amhara with a population that is multiple times more than the population of  Tigray. 

What happened in Gorgora two days ago is a harbinger for what is to come in the Amhara  tribal land. The field Marshall came by car and escaped by a helicopter. The strength of the  current Ethiopian military that the Field Marshall has assembled is like the wheat Ethiopia is  exporting. It exists only in the Prime Minister’s mind.

The federal forces that the Prime Minister as the nation’s commander in chief and his Field  Marshal assembled to suppress Fano hail primarily from the Oromo and Southern Peoples  tribal lands. The fact that they are suspicious of the allegiances of its military personnel of  Amhara origins is bound to fracture one of the nation’s last bastions of unity – the military! 

Potential Problem with Fanno 

From Ethiopia’s stability and continuity perspective, I see two areas of danger in current  developments in the Amhara tribal land: Internal Amhara Conflict and Amhara-Oromo Civil  War. 

In the absence of a unifying strategic political agenda that goes beyond protecting Amhara  from Oromummaa, the emergence of 11 Fanno brigades working independently bears the  seeds of discord and potentially even worse. Every strong military organization requires an  even stronger political architecture with a strategic brain trust to guide and control it.  Otherwise, as every Fanno brigade gets traction in its own area of operation, the Amhara  tribal land will face a new environment that can potentially break it up into fiefdoms of  warlords.  

Only a political novice will think the political elbow throwing between Gonder, Gojam, Shewa  and Wello factions will not happen between their armed forces. Of course, there is no surety  that this will happen. Conversely, there is no guarantee that it will not happen. Wise leaders  cannot leave such potentiality to chance. They need to be proactive. 

Averting Civil War 

In the face of Oromummaa’s insatiable appetite for domination and intemperate instinct for  Mogassa inspired bloodletting, the continued strengthening of Fanno comes with an  increased risk of a civil war between Amhara and Oromo. If this happens, as it is likely to  happen, there will be no winner. Apart from massive death and destruction on both sides,  Ethiopia’s stability and continuity is likely to deteriorate or even crossover to irreversibility. 

In the face of existential threat, the Amhara people have no choice but to defend themselves.  But from Ethiopia’s survival perspective, it is important to keep an eye on the dynamic that  can spiral out of control as the two groups escalate their conflict, drawing energy from their  hate to, and fear of, each other. If we fail to short-circuit the transmission line that allows  polarization between the two groups, Ethiopia will enter a zone of entropic chaos. If and  when that happens, the chance to slide into national disintegration will be of high probability. 

A Two-Pronged Approach

Protecting Amhara from Oromo-PP may be a necessary condition to save Amhara from  Oromummaa savagery and Ethiopia from disintegration. But it is not a sufficient condition.  A winning political agenda requires a two-pronged approach: to save Amhara and create a  political environment for national consensus building. 

Consensus building is an arduous task that requires nuanced, judicious, tolerant, and  inclusive agenda and strategy. Saving Amhara from Oromummaa brutality and building  national consensus must be pursued concurrently, not sequentially. This is important for  two reasons. 

First, the speed with which the government is crumbling suggests the time window is narrow  for a sequential approach. Second, as noted above, once tribal forces are entrenched at any  level, it is next to impossible to broaden the agenda. This is what NaMA faced when they  tried to reform their party to broaden their agenda and political horizon. 

Currently, the political reality in the Amhara tribal land is encouraging in terms of defending  itself. But that in and of itself cannot take us to the promised land. What happens in the  Oromo tribal land is just as a critical component in defusing the ticking time bomb and  averting a looming civil war.  

Remember Ethiopia is bigger than Amhara and Oromo. Building broad national agenda with  the Somali, the Gurage the Wolaita, the Afar, the Gambella and others who feel betrayed and  harmed by the Oromummaa cult politics is of significant strategic importance. It will pave  the way for an alignment of strategic forces around a unifying agenda to counter  Oromummaa’s hegemonic fantasy. Amhara alone cannot author a national agenda and  invite others to line behind it. The process of forging a national agenda is as important as the  modality and substance of it. 

A strategic national agenda is necessary to develop a concomitant roadmap to establish a  winning national program that resonates with disgruntled Ethiopians in all parts of the  nation. The strategy and the roadmap must win the support and confidence of Ethiopians of  all hues and political persuasions. Above all, the strategy must be anchored in a win-win  outcome. Such an approach will help build a national coalition and simultaneously  strengthen the Amhara within its own tribal land by accelerating the support of the silent  majority at home. 

Another important point is having a clear and achievable endgame both at the Amhara and  national levels. Is the Amhara end game to overthrow Amhara-PP? Then what? Is it to replace  the Abiy government with a coalition government? If so, is this shared by other tribal  homelands?

Equally important question is: What plan is in place to avoid a civil war between Amhara and  Oromo? Remember, there are millions of Amhara in the Oromo tribal land. Is there a plan to  protect and save them? Remember also that a civil war between Amhara and Oromo will  blow life into TPLF and encourage it to open a new round of war against Amhara to reclaim  the two contested lands. Is Amhara prepared to defend itself from both ends and still  advance its tribal and national agenda? 

There is Still Hope 

Peace can come only if both Amhara and Oromo reconfigure their power calculus and reboot  their political system. There is a reason to believe the political environment is progressively  opening-up a space for a win-win outcome. 

Despite the Prime Minister’s bravado and chest-beating, his powerbase and legitimacy are  being increasingly eroded. The D-day of reckoning that he is a king without cloth is not far  off. The growing broad opposition in the Amhara tribal land along with the rise of Fanno and  the elevated restiveness of the silent majority is bound to change the nation’s political power  balance. 

Put in the vernacular, the descent of Oromo-PP from the pinnacle of political height and the  rise of Amhara from political paralysis brings with them potential equilibrium points where  a delicate balance can be struck between the two. 

The question is: Is Amhara ready for this eventuality? If there is an opportunity to negotiate,  who will speak for Amhara? What will be the political agenda? What and who will drive the  strategic engagement? These are questions that need to be addressed with a sense of  urgency. 

Elders, civil society organizations, intellectuals, professional and business organizations, as  well as trade unions and other national stakeholders need to weigh in with new energy and  spirit to broaden the agenda and build consensus. It is past time the silent majority in the  Ethiopian intellectual class step up and crowd out their cacophonous tribal counterparts who  are peddling conflicts and bloodletting.

Editor’s note : Views in the article do not necessarily reflect the views of borkena.com  

Related reading : Time is on Fano’s Side ! (Girma Berhanu)

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10 COMMENTS

  1. States do not and should not have armies, that’s the job of the federal gov. So long as you continue on this path you risk conflict even more on the Ethiopia you seem to love.

    • So, the rest of the people should just simply die, allow themselves to be killed, to be mass murdered, is that it?

      That is what you are saying, isn’t it?

      Of course, that has been and continue to be the only thing happening with a Federal government that has been leading the country for the sake of one group, to the exclusion of everyone.

      It is nonsense, the people have the right to fight against unjust government, by whatever means necessary.

      That is what the Amhara are doing, the FANO doing and we wish them every success.

    • True Ben. But the issue here is different:
      If the Wolkait issue had been adressed in Pretoria and a solution or atleast a transitional solution was found, every one will agree to the disarmament of Fanno. But issue is still unsolved and TPLF is arming itself to reconquer Wolkait.
      Here: GoE has failed to adress the need of the people in Pretoria.
      Btw: Wolkait is not only an issue for Amhara. It’s crucial to keep the integrity of Ethiopia.
      Second: why not disarm the Oromia special force too? Why start with Amhara?
      Third: there is no clear and genuine roadmap by GoE on how to reintegrate the disarmed special forces.

  2. Subject: “Fanno in Need of Strategic Direction and Clarity of Endgame ” By Yonas Biru, PhD, July 31, 2023

    Humble Opinion, July 31, 2023
    a) Let us be honest. The squabbling is not about individuals but among tribes, the weapon of our dear Black Africa
    for the disintegration of ourselves!!! What a delight to the ancient hungry colonialists, around the Globe.
    b) Extremely SAD to say, Ethiopia will drive itself to disintegration — sooner or later.
    c) And that will be the greatest TRAGEDY in our dear Africa — and for that matter, in the whole WORLD (hidden)
    d) And so, the extraordinary World HISTORY of A BLACK AFRICAN COUNTRY –ETHIOPIA, will vanish with the wind.
    e) That will then be recorded as a WORLD HISTORY of CLASSICAL TRAGEDY.
    f) ‘F’ for Failure. It does not matter who is who to blame: ETHIOPIANS, IN TOTALITY, ARE THEIR OWN MURDERERS >>>
    NO ONE ELSE
    ——–THE END ———-
    ———————————————
    Post Script
    I cannot help being very harsh with my words. Please forgive me.

  3. Simply outdated, totally out of touch and still entrenched in his archaic mindset. You can tell I am being so reserved and extremely generous here.
    ዘራፍ! ዘራፍ! ዘራፍ የጠቅል አሽከር! ዘራፍ እኔ የዚያች የኮሶ ሻጭ ልጅ መይሣው ካሣ! ዘራፍ!
    ታጠቅ ብሎ ፈረስ ካሣ ብሎ ሥም
    ዐርብ ዐርብ ይሸበራል አዲስ አባ ከዚያም: እየሩሳሌም!
    ዘራፍ እኔ የ መይሣው ካሣ ግርፍ! ዘራፍ!
    I will see you in Addis Ababa next week!!!!

  4. Ring, ring!
    I think my phone is ringing?
    Hello! This is Ittu. Who is calling?
    You know my Ittu. Who else? This is your friend.
    Yeah, I know your voice. You’re Am-Mishear. Whadda’up?
    Same ole, same ole. I’m not alone here. I’ve Pants-On-Fire, Know-It-All and JJ here with me. They all say hello.
    Hi Ittu. Hi Ittu, Hi Ittu!
    Hi Y’all! When you gonna announce your decision to run for the presidency?
    Soon. I and my running mate JJ are putting the final touches on our plan. When the campaign is over and votes counted, it going to be a landslide. Quote me on that one. When you have a firebrand like JJ as a running mate it spells nothing but victory.
    Wow! What happened to the USA foreign policy on the HOA. The Biden Administration has lifted the anti-democracy designation from the current regime back in the old country. How did you let that happen? I thought you told us you had given a 36 page policy guideline to Envoy H.E. Ambassador Mike Powers when you two guys had a 3-hour meeting in LA a month ago.
    Yes he overstepped the strict instruction I gave him then. He had an ear full from me when we both were invited to a conference in San Diego this last July 21, 2023. You should have seen him. He apologized to me and he told it wasn’t him who did it. It was Blinken. Btw, I told you I hate that Mustafa Omar with a passion just like I hate those who call themselves Oromos in stead of Somali Abo my late uncle gave them 46 years ago.
    Okay, keep talking.
    My friend here Pants-On-Fire is a survivor of Mengistu’s killing machine. He was in prison, tortured and poisoned with potassium cyanide daily for ten years. I also have here Know-It-All who revealed to the world that there is no citizenship in Ethiopia and the only country that has citizenship is his country of Eritrea. Did you notice him while he is talking?
    Yes I had noticed him. He likes flashing his glistening front false teeth(denture)
    Wow. Ittu, you are very attentive. My running mate JJ is back in pink lately.
    Yes I have noticed your running mate Jihadi Jane. Her two cheeks are so puffed up with daily shot of Botox. Would you tell her to make up her mind about her color and wigs. One day she is blondie and the next day she is brunette. She is confusing everybody.
    You know I can’t tell her that, Ittu. She will go bunkers with me on that one.
    So what else is going on with you lately, Af-Mishar?
    It seems everyone out there can not get enough of me. When they organize a conference the first person they call is me. Even the Amharas and Neo-Gobena Oromos seem to finally accept the truth nothing but the truth that without me and my participation they will just disappear. I have been telling you and the rest that without me in it you can kiss say goodbye to the whole of current day Ethiopia. Remember there are no Amharas but all of them are Somali-Antes and they have accepted that.
    Btw, Af-Mishar. How old were you when you came here in 1981?
    I was barely a teenager.
    Wow, you were a teenager about 17 yrs old then
    Yep. That is what a teenager means, Ittu.
    That makes you about 59 yrs old now.
    No I am older than that.
    You are right. You look like a man of at least in his late 60’s. So, that big man from the US Congress came looking for a teenager 42 years ago because he heard about the diplomacy process of a teenager punk?
    No I was not a punk but I used to listen to punk rock even before I came here.
    So long Af-Mishar!!!

  5. Abiy Ahmed's government must remove the Federal Army and ALL Oromo and non-Amhara armed groups out of Amhara regions!! Abiy Ahmed's government must remove the Federal Army and ALL Oromo and non-Amhara armed groups out of Amhara regions!!

    Abiy Ahmed’s Oromo controlled government must remove and the Federal troops from Amhara regions and stop using the national army to do its dirty job, killing its own people. Army’s main responsibility is to protect people and country not to wreaking havoc and massacring in Amhara regions.

    Amharas are left with no option but forced to protect themselves from relentless massacre and Genocide by state sponsored Oromo controlled army. Amharas are being massacred in Wellga Oromia region and now Abiy has moved to Amhara region itself to kill and destroy Amhara people and regions.

  6. I just heard that the national soccer team of the old country will be here in the US for friendly matches with different teams this week. You folks in the Atlanta area are the lucky ones to have the rareset chance the see one of the matches. I am ordering you to go out in droves and give those young men the moral support they need.

    Also make sure to watch our daughter Naomi bint Girma and her team march towards the final in the Women’s World Cup being played in Oceania. So far she has been doing a commendable job deserved for starship. Go Naomi, go!!!!

  7. If I am not mistaken, the PM holds (supposedly) a PhD in conflict mediation or resolution. But what we see instead is that he appears to create or allow conflicts to proliferate and worsen at an alarming rate. We are now at an inflection point. The very survival of Ethiopia as one nation is very much in jeopardy. Yet, the PM is playing with his pet projects: the palace and Sheger city, etc….Herod singing while Rome is burning!? The gravity of the situation has not dawned upon him, or else he cares not one wit. There will come a moment when he will seek the alliance of the Oromumma faction and the TPLF to deal, once and for all, with Fano militia. If that happens, then we will be witnessing our own version of the Yugoslav Wars. If Fano’s ambition is only to defend Amhara nationhood then it will be acting no different from the Oromo nationalists, or the TPLF remnants. What it needs to seek, as the author suggests, is a much broader alliance with other nationalities to counterbalance the unhealthy alliance between the two. I fear that its ideological and political maturity is not at the point where it can overcome its anger and think strategically and concertedly.

  8. Oromia is the gift of Tigray to the Oromo people and there are famous oromos like professor Gabissa, journalist Tsedale Lemma, Dr. Tsegaye Ararsa and many others who acknowledge this fact and are grateful to Tigray. They stood by and are the true friends of Tigray. The Tigray forces will intervene if Oromia is threatened or its sovereignty is violated by the Amhara and Eritrean forces.

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