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Does Amhara nationalism have a unique DNA?

 By Biruk Yimer       

The genesis of ethnonationalism  

Identity politics in Ethiopia traces back its origin from the student movement. The student movement, which was a critical juncture in Ethiopian history, was echoing the anti-Amhara narrative for political mobilization. Walelegn Mokenen’s naive historical account sketches a road map for segregation and marginalization. This perverted narrative molds the political ideology of ethnonational groups that came to exist lately. OLF and TPLF can be mentioned in this regard. 

After the TPLF led regime assumed state power in 1991, the anti-Ahmara narrative took the shape of state structure. The constitution in its preamble declares open war against the Amhara society. The federal structure degrades the ethnic group into second level citizens in all corners of the country.  As a result, the siege mentality, which is the driving force for ethnonationalism, started inculcating in the minds of Amhara People. Patriotism under the umbrella of civic nationalism loses its grip. The psychological shift turns upside down the political landscape. 

Why is Amhara nationalism  justifiable?

The precursor political elites from OLF and TPLF used the catastrophic episode in the state formation era as a pillar to construct their ethnocentric ideology. History is politicized and designed in a way to hit a utopia grand project. Without being trapped in the politicized history, it is utterly impossible for those hardliners to survive as a political entity. 

The genesis of TPLF and OLF political narrative begin with demonizing Amhara. Amhara was a colonizer in imperial Ethiopia; the freedom of Oromo and Tigray people would be fulfilled with secession and creating a new banana republic. The interpretation is far from reality. It’s wishful thinking and only exists as a hallucinating dream in the minds of parochial groups. Yet, exposing the tenet of this sophistry historical claim to the light of logic would provide us a comprehensive insight.  

First, to reach the holistic picture of our societal past journey, we need to liberate history from the yoke of wicked political entrepreneurs. It is an undeniable fact as the ethnic groups of the country suffered indiscriminately at the hand of imperial regimes. No ethnic group was privileged to exercise monopoly of power. 

The nobility from wollega and Gonder speak the same language as far as the class identity is concerned. The tenants in Wollo and Harar had subjected to the same ruthless subjugation. Jimma Aba Jifar, for instance, had a great number of slaves from his own tribe. The social strata laid its foundation on the economic class. Ethno-centric judgment had never played a pivotal role in shaping the body politic of 19th century Ethiopia.  So the dichotomy for national oppression lies on a seriously flawed argument. 

Secondly, TPLF and OLF political entrepreneurs also stick to the atrocities committed during the state formation era. Although the interpretation is a bit weird in the face of history, they embrace it as a hallmark for their narrative. It is tacit that all state formation had embarked on the bloody path for unification. Bismarck in Germany and Garibaldi in Italy had launched a gruesome campaign against its own people to consolidate a centralized power. Consequently, the undue atrocities that were inflicted on various ethnic groups during Emperor Menilik expansion couldn’t be taken as a peculiar historical scene. 

Evaluating the 19th century political dynamics from the contemporary democratic governance point of view is also utterly fallacious. Equality and freedom are recent phenomena even in advanced countries. One of the pillars of Democracy, universal suffrage, incorporated in the USA constitution in 1920. The unjust political system was entrenched in all countries. Most developed countries were forced to pass through painful evolution to build the prevailing transparent and fair political system. We need to take into account this bare fact in analyzing the overall political dynamics of our past history. Nonetheless, the kind of nationalism that has been propagated by Oromo and Tigray intellectuals deviated from the actual reality on the ground. So,  What is a unique feature in  Amhara nationalism? 

The core driver for Amhara nationalism, however, is unparalleled with Tigray and Oromo. There’s no need to trace back the historical episode to instigate and fuel Amhara nationalism. The agony has already been rampant and omnipresent for the last four decades. 

All forms of ethnic cleansing projects have been committed against Amhara. The Welkait people were obliged to flee from their ancestral homeland. A politicide, mass killing of political elites of Amhara, is also pervasive. Those who live in Wollega, Benishangul and Gurafereda have been massacred because of their identity. All gruesome acts didn’t commit in the remote past. 

The heinous crime hasn’t abated with the coming of the OPP led regime.  After OPP/PP has consolidated the central power, its treacherous color gradually becomes visible. More than four hundred thousand innocent Amhara, who live around the capital city, have become homeless overnight under the pretext of Sheger city. 

The political Oromuma replaces Revolutionary Democracy as a leading political ideology. Oromummaa strives to reinvent Ethiopia in the face of Oromo extremists’ bogus narrative. The Oromo dominated regime targets primarily Amhara for its shortsighted vision. With all this gloomy reality, the final trajectory decision complicates the country body politics.  

The Pandora box has opened with the foolhardy attempt of disbanding the Amhara special force. The naive decision emanates from the unsophisticated Oromo extremists’ mind. After disarming the special force, they were quite sure that the prevailing ethnic apartheid system would  sustain for an indefinite time. Surprisingly, the reverse has come true. The chaotic political scene has helped Amhara fano force to resurrect as a fresh power. 

Fano is the tipping point of Amhara nationalism 

The Amhara Fano is the offspring of collective consciousness. All Fano speak one language. They said :-“We fight for survival”. The combatants are morally and spiritually advanced as compared to OLF-Shene. Even the National Defense Army lacks professional disciples like Fano. Fano fighters aren’t an ill trained group. Most fighters were former members of the National Defense Army. They were forced to leave the army because of  ethnic profiling. Their contribution in overturning the invasion of TPLF was immense. Currently, Fano has become a nightmare for Oromo and Tigray hardliners.   


The Fano force is marching toward the capital city. Time is ticking.  The OPP led regime is in a panic mood. It is barely possible to overturn the impending failure.  In light of this the political space is overwhelmed by antagonizing speculations. 

Some commentators state that the incumbent regime can get a loophole, if a genuine dialogue is put in practice. To me, the national dialogue commission, which is  a lap-dog for PP, couldn’t be eligible to mediate the astronomical project. AU can be the right candidate, instead. To make the dialogue feasible, the Amhara fana is also expected to stipulate the preconditions on the paper. The second scenario that should be handled with precaution is post  OPP/PP political dynamics.

Neutral observers fear the political climate that could prevail after the demise of the PP led regime. I share their concern. We might enter into a Hobbesian state.  Ethnocentric conflict could have erupted with the failure of the OPP/PP regime. Because, no independent institutions are in a position to absorb the political shock. Fano might face difficulty to emerge as an overarching power in the country. As a result, there would be a power vacuum. The fate of innocent citizens living in the Oromia region could fail on the hand of hardliner cadres. This would lead to a catastrophic situation. So to avoid these terrible conditions, Fano should seek a true alliance from Oromo and other political elites before marching to the capital city.

Biruk Yimer could be reached via e-mail :

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


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