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Fano’s Defiance ( by Biniam Ambachew)

FANO _ Ethiopia _ August 8
Fano combatants in the Amhara region of Ethiopia (Photo : from the web)

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: 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: boiled-to-the-surface/ 

3. Birara, Aklog. (6 August, 2023). “Abiy Ahmed Deploys his Airforce Against Amhara” Borkena  Ethiopian News and Opinion: 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: consequential-annexation-by-tplf 

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): 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”. 8. 5 August, 2023. “Massive arrest in Addis Ababa, some cities in Oromia”. Borkena: 9. Berhanu, Girma. (1st October, 2022). “The New Auschwitz: Wollega, Oromia region, Ethiopia – OpEd”. wollega-oromia-region-ethiopia-oped/ 

10. Pearce, Jeff. (3 August, 2023). “The Future of Ethiopia is with the Amhara Popular Front”. 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፡ 

Biniam Ambachew  is Medical Student in San Francisco, CA & passionate Amhara Advocate 

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


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  1. The power behind this crisis is the Eritrean dictator who is training and arming the Amhara insurgents. He knows that the Oromo dominated government army can be defeated by the insurgents he is training and arming. The only forces that can put down this insurgency is the TDF and the Oromo public should demand the government to deploy the TDF in Oromia. before the Amhara forces gain total victory over the army. Oromia is the gift of Tigray to the Oromo people and TDF are ready to defend it.


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