By Biniam Ambachew
As of August 4th, 2023, Abiy Ahmed’s cabinet has declared a six months long state of emergency in the Amhara region. Internet and telecommunication services are shut down. In a matter of days of the state of emergency, more than 4,000 Amharas were abducted and detained in concentration camps inside Kokebe Tsibah Secondary School in Addis Ababa, with a vast majority of detainees taken into undisclosed locations. (8)(2) Among the detainees are day laborers, member of parliament Christain Tadele, city council member Dr. Kassa Teshager and others. (8) The security crisis in the Amhara region has deteriorated since the National Defense Force entered the Amhara region in March of 2023. (2) Abiy Ahmed deployed many infantry units of the National Defense Force (ENDF) under the command of General Birhanu Jula in what’s dubbed as a “law enforcement” operation to disarm and demobilize the Amhara Special Forces (ASF) and Fanos, freedom fighters. The immediate decision to disarm Amhara forces and the failure of the November 3rd, 2022 peace deal – Cessation of Hostilities Agreement (COHA) in Pretoria, South Africa, to bring lasting peace and stability, aggregated with the prolonged, systematic political and economic exclusion and exploitation of Amharas that vilified, dehumanized, and persecuted them, all culminated to a breakout of widespread anti-government protests in the Amhara region in April 2023, which continues to simmer to this day, leading to a full-scale conflict between Fano and the National Defense Force (ENDF). (9) The National Defense Force is a compromised institution because of its subservience and loyalty to the Oligarchy of Abiy Ahmed’s Oromo Prosperity Party (OPP). As a result, the National Defense Force is no longer a nonpartisan federal army; instead, it’s become dominated by Oromo ethnic nationalists, who are serving the interests of the Oromo Liberation Army/Front (OLA/OLF) at the expense and peril of the unity and integrity of Ethiopia. In addition, the National Defense Force fails to remain politically neutral as its high-ranking officials are Abiy Ahmed’s loyalists intentionally selected to consolidate his power further.
The ongoing conflict between Fano and the National Defense Force has been raging for several months, with the vast majority of the National Defense Forces being captured. In a recently leaked audio by an independent media outlet – Ethio 360 – Deputy Chief of Staff of the
National Defense Force General Abebaw Tadesse stated that the ENDF under Abiy’s leadership has turned into a one-ethnic dominated military force, and that’s on a scale far worse than the era of TPLF. (11) Such statements from high-ranking military officials eviscerate Amharas’s trust in the federal army. Amharas strongly believe that the National Defense Force is used as camouflage to deploy Oromo nationalist forces into the Amhara region. As a result of this mistrust, Amharas firmly believe that the brave Fano freedom fighters are the only capable and trustworthy fighters that will defend them against all domestic and foreign enemies.
As of August 5th, 2023, the majority of 30 districts in Amhara regional state have fallen into Amhara Fano’s jurisdiction, including major cities such as Lalibela, Gondar, Debre Birhan, and parts of the regional capital Bahir Dar. (1) The Amhara Prosperity Party (APP) regional officials ranging from zones, woredas (districts), and kebeles (wards) have fled the region. Amhara Prosperity officials have willingly resigned from their office, and the Amhara regional police and militia members have voluntarily joined Fano’s resistance. The ongoing fight began primarily in the Wollo region, where the East Amhara Fano led by Mere Wodajo controlled the strategic town of Gashena, and commander Fikru controlled the historic town of Lasta Lalibela. (2) It quickly spread to engulf other cities in the north and south Wollo region, with Lalibela and the town of Kombolcha having canceled commercial flights indefinitely. Simultaneously, fighting occurred in the north, south, and central Gondar regions, including Debre-Tabor, and in Gondar City, the most populous city in the Amhara region. At that point, Abiy’s regime forces began firing artillery at the University of Gondar Hospital. Abiy’s regime forces deliberately engage in urban warfare, targeting residential areas, schools, hospitals, citizens, and UNESCO world heritage sites such as Gondar’s Fasil Castles. Abiy Ahmed has sent more reinforcements in a futile attempt to control Fano, and early reports are also indicating that Tigrean forces are mobilizing on the Tigray-Amhara border.
As of August 6th, 2023, in Gojjam, parts of Bahir Dar city, Amhara’s regional capital, are under Fano’s control, and an active battle is raging to control Bahir Dar airport. Fano has gained control of areas in West Gojjam and Awi Zones, including Liben (North Achefer), Mehal Genet (South Mecha), Gonje (near Motta), Finote Selam, Jiga, Injibaraa, Dangila, Daga Damot, and Bichena. (2) In Shewa, Shewa Robit, and Debre Birhan, the industrial capital of the North Shewa region, which is 130 km from Addis Ababa, has been liberated by Fano. (1)(2) The town of Minjar, a strategic city in South Shewa that controls the flow of the Ethiopia-Djibouti railway, is expected to fall to Fano. A new interim civil administration is being established in each town that Fano liberated. Curfews and command posts are declared to maintain public order. Banks, telecommunications, power grids, water supplies, and other social infrastructures & institutions are actively protected, monitored, and restored. Fano is maintaining the standard of decorum & the rule of law in each community.
An existential threat fuels Fano’s defiance. Being Fano is a matter of surviving, protecting, and fighting for freedom, liberty, and a just cause. In scientific evolution terminology, it’s a struggle for existence and the freedom to pass down your genes to your offspring. Fanos not only has galvanized a wide-scale of public support in the Amhara region and beyond, but every able man and woman is joining the struggle to become Fanos. Fano is a historical term used in Ethiopian battles against injustice and foreign invaders, and it represents the essence and spirit of the Amhara people. Professor Girma Berhanu reveals that “Fano is not just an embodiment of physical defiance but also an intellectual movement that abhors ethnic fascism, narrow nationalism, apartheid policies, internal colonialism and all forms of pseudo-legal acts of political corruption. Instead, it upholds a civic sense of public duty, patriotism, and vision for the good of the entire country”. (6) The Western media classifies Fano as a paramilitary militia engaged in guerilla warfare. However, Fano is not a militia; it’s a citizen-based patriotic front and represents a universal value for standing up against injustice, abuse of power, and oppressive governance. Fano’s ideology and bravery have the potential to liberate Ethiopia and the entire Horn of Africa from the shackle of ethnocentric politics and bring forth a more democratic world.
At the current trajectory, it’s safe to foreshadow that the entire Amhara region will fall under Fano’s control in weeks. Abiy Ahmed’s regime forces currently deployed into the Amhara region will be entirely decimated or taken as prisoners of war. The next phase of the war will undoubtedly lead to the battle of Addis Ababa, which will transcend the current conflict into the international stage. Addis Ababa is the capital of the African headquarters and a seat of many international diplomats and consulates. Abiy Ahmed’s megalomaniac personality will most likely resort to using airpower, including drone attacks, resulting in civilian casualties. It will cause incalculable collateral damage in the Amhara region and deepen the widespread hatred and resentment against Abiy’s governing party. Abiy Ahmed will likely attempt to induce an all-out civil war as a last resort to save his crumbling power.
As things stand, Amhara scholars globally will likely move swiftly and meticulously to seize this opportunity to forge a strong collaboration with all Fano factions in the Amhara region and beyond, and they will begin to expedite and contribute to the resistance and construct a pathway for the future. Amhara scholars should also follow the developments on the ground very closely and be extremely cautious in their political engagement. They should also avoid political parties or individuals working to sabotage, destabilize and disenfranchise the Amhara struggle. In addition, as the Fano movement gains momentum, all Amharas and other concerned Ethiopians will move to galvanize the international community for support, and they will mobilize an inclusive dialogue to strengthen Fano logistically and diplomatically. It’s plausible that we might witness a situation where Amharas begin lobbying the African Union, the United Nations, the United States of America, the European Union, the Russian Federation, and other heads of state and influence the narrative that Amhara’s resistance will have a profound impact in building a new prosperous Ethiopia that will have a strong army which will maintain peace and stability in the Horn of Africa and that it will serve as a beacon for economic growth and commerce in stabilizing the volatile geopolitics of the Horn.
Fano’s ability to neutralize Abiy Ahmed’s regime forces and control the vast majority of cities in the Amhara region speaks to the military tactician, bravery, and brilliance of Fano. It’s almost impossible for a conventional mechanized military to achieve the amount of territorial gain that Fano controlled in a matter of weeks. Fano, equipped with their ancestral wisdom, strategy, and tactics, can use the terrain and geography to their advantage, launch surprise counteroffensive attacks, and exert guerrilla and trench warfare tactics to their advantage. Perhaps the most indispensable justification is that Fano fights for just a cause. A cause for rejecting Abiy Ahmed’s fascist regime that relegated and excluded Amharas from the Pretoria peace deal, a reason for the culmination of decades-old economic and political marginalizations, exploitations, and subjections that amount to internal displacements, ethnic cleansing, and genocide. It’s also imperative to highlight that Fano has galvanized the Amhara population and has tremendous support logistically, intellectually, and psychologically.
For this reason, millions of Amharas classify Fanos as their children, as their freedom fighters, not a local militia. It will be dehumanizing & underestimating to consider Fanos as a militia group. Lastly, although Fano is currently operating in the Amhara region, Fano is not only fighting for the Amhara people but also the freedom and liberty of all Ethiopians, and Fano is not against any ethnic group; it’s against Abiy Ahmed’s genocidal and fascist regime. In conclusion, it’s in the interest of the international community to call for the resignation of Abiy Ahmed and his Prosperity Party without any more bloodshed and bring all the stakeholders in Ethiopia to engage in a national dialogue and reconciliation for a translational justice and accountability, and a more democratic translational government. If Abiy Ahmed’s regime forces continue escalating urban warfare against Amhara civilians, it will most likely spill over and engulf neighboring countries, and it will have unprecedented consequences for the Horn and the continent of Europe. Ethiopia must transition from survival mode and existentialism towards peace, genuine political plurality, inclusive and equitable governance, and freedom to work and travel anywhere.
1. Alemu, Robel. (3 August, 2023). “The Guns Have Not Been Silenced”: The Hidden War on Amharas in Ethiopia and the Silence of the West”. Addis Insight: https://addisinsight.net/the guns-have-not-been-silenced-the-hidden-war-on-amharas-in-ethiopia-and-the-silence-of-the-west/
2. Mandefro, Hone. (4 August, 2023). “How years of tension in Amhara boiled to the surface”. African Arguments: https://africanarguments.org/2023/08/how-years-of-tension-in-amhara boiled-to-the-surface/
3. Birara, Aklog. (6 August, 2023). “Abiy Ahmed Deploys his Airforce Against Amhara” Borkena Ethiopian News and Opinion: https://borkena.com/2023/08/06/abiy-ahmed-deploys-his-airforce against-amhara-aklog-birara/
4. Tesla, Wosenyelew., Kelklie, Moges. (2 August 2021). “Welkait, Ethiopia: Geo Strategic Importance and the Consequential Annexation by TPLF”. Horn Africa Insight:
5. ዓለምነው መኮንን.,ዓለምነው መኮንን.,ማንተጋፍቶት ስለሺ., (01 June 2023). “በአማራ ክልል ጦርነት እና ግጭት ከግማሽ ትሪሊዮን ብር በላይ የሚገመት ንብረት ማውደሙ ተገለጸ”. Deutsche Welle (DW): https://p.dw.com/p/4S4Lu 6. Berhanu, G. (2022). Fano: A living savior of the Amhara people And the Ethiopian spirit. Advances in Social Sciences Research Journal, 9(1), 112–119.
7. Aragawu, Adimasu. (5 April 2022). “Researchers discover more mass graves of ethnic Amharas”. Waltainfo.com: https://waltainfo.com/researchers-discover-more-mass-graves-of-ethnic-amharas/ 8. 5 August, 2023. “Massive arrest in Addis Ababa, some cities in Oromia”. Borkena: https://borkena.com/2023/08/05/ethiopia-massive-arrest-in-addis-ababa-some-cities-in-oromia/ 9. Berhanu, Girma. (1st October, 2022). “The New Auschwitz: Wollega, Oromia region, Ethiopia – OpEd”. Eurasiareview.com. https://www.eurasiareview.com/01102022-the-new-auschwitz wollega-oromia-region-ethiopia-oped/
10. Pearce, Jeff. (3 August, 2023). “The Future of Ethiopia is with the Amhara Popular Front”. Jeffpropulsion.substack.com: https://jeffpropulsion.substack.com/p/the-future-of-ethiopia-is with-the?utm_campaign=post&utm_medium=web
11. 6 August, 2023. “የጄኔራል አበባው ምስጢራዊ የድምፅ ቅጂ እና በድል የታጀበው የአማራ ህዝብ ትግል!”. Ethio 360 Zare Min Ale፡ https://twitter.com/HabtamuAyalew21/status/1688246642976358400
Biniam Ambachew is Medical Student in San Francisco, CA & passionate Amhara Advocate
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