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HomeOpinionFANO and a Pan-Ethiopian Pro-democracy Front 

FANO and a Pan-Ethiopian Pro-democracy Front 

Fano forces are seen with Ethiopian Flag the Federal government and Oromia region outlawed (Photo : file/SM)

Tesfa ZeMichael

Unlike the sectarian TPLF that waged a war to dismantle Ethiopia, FANO is the first resistance movement that is creating a real possibility for the ingathering of all pro-democracy Ethiopians to dispose of the Abiy/PP sanguinary regime. This opportunity obliges us to think about the future and saves us from being drowned in the events of the present. 

To know what is happening in the present is important, but if it is not supplemented with thinking about the path we need to follow into the future, we will be caught unprepared. The consequences of such unpreparedness are dire, as the events of 2018 show.

There are pro-democracy Ethiopians in all the regions of Ethiopia. These are Ethiopians who give primacy to citizenship without in any way denying their ethnic background. They do not see ethnicity as a hermetic identity, but rather as  contingent and fluid. Ethiopian history offers many examples of this. Ethnic traversal, oscillation and hybridity have been taking place in Ethiopia since at least the 13th century, as Mohammed Hassen, the Oromo historian, intimates.

Pro-democracy Ethiopians do not see ethnicity as a self-enclosed and impermeable identity but as an open line of communication to others that allows them to go beyond ethnicity and discover their shared common needs, interests, and aspirations for democracy. They reject state-defined and locked ethnic identity (the 1995 Constitution) and see ethnicity as an open path to democracy. 

The walking to democracy changes our understanding of ethnicity but does not abolish it. It unmoors ethnicity from the panopticon of ethnic identity, opens it up, and  makes it a stepping stone to a politics that values the life of each Ethiopian and makes freedom, equality, fraternity and solidarity the parameters of Ethiopian politics. I will call this democratic ethnicity and oppose it to ethnic democracy. 

Ethnic democracy is a system of oppression known as Herrenvolk democracy. It is based on the fantasy of ethnic purity and identitarian wholeness. The Abiy/PP regime uses its defense and security forces and its private army, the Oneg Shene, to enforce its Herrenvolk or ethnic democracy through  ethnic exclusions,  ethnic separation, territorialization of ethnicity, ethnic-cleansing, and monopolization of power. We have to be wise up to the evidence that Oneg Shene is Abiy/PP’s private army that functions as the Sturmabteilung or the assault division of Abiy/PP’s Oromummaa plan for establishing Herrenvolk democracy in Ethiopia.

The heart of Abiy/PP’s Herrenvolk or ethnic democracy is the hatred of the Amhara. The demonization of the Amhara as the enemy of all ethnicities, the attribution to the Amhara  of all of Ethiopia’s ills past and present, and the constant insinuation that if the Amhara were to disappear peace and prosperity will reign in Ethiopia are actively spread by Abiy himself, his PP stalwarts, his private army (Oneg Shene), and his partisans in cyberspace. We see here emerging the Abiy/PP version of what happened in a certain European country in the 1930s.

 FANO rejects Herrenvolk or ethnic democracy and endorses democratic ethnicity. This is implicit in the FANO maxim:“The Amharas are free, only when all Ethiopians are free.” FANO’s maxim provides a pan-Ethiopian democratic horizon in the sense that one could say, “The Oromos are free, only when all Ethiopian are free,” “The Afars are free, only when all Ethiopians are free,” “The Somalis are free, only when all Ethiopians are free,” “the Tigreans are free, only when all Ethiopians are free, “ and so forth. The maxim thus makes freedom the ingatherer of Ethiopians.

The FANO maxim thus suggests that there are, potentially or/and actually, Afar, Oromo, Somali, Tigray, Gurage, Sidama, Gomez, and so forth, FANOs. The elements for a pan-Ethiopian pro-democracy front are already there, and the conditions for forming it appear to be ripe. 

FANO is a resistance movement that espouses the democratic needs, interests, and aspirations of Ethiopians, and fights to make them triumph. To ensure the success of its struggle, it could explore ways of joining up with pro-democracy movements or FANOs from all of Ethiopia’s regions. An ingathering of pro-democracy Ethiopians will hasten the collapse of the Abiy/PP regime. Without such an ingathering of Ethiopia’s pro-democracy movements, the struggle against the Abiy/PP regime could be unnecessarily long and costly in human life.

Indeed, the formation of such a pan-Ethiopian pro-democracy movement is urgent. If we let the Abiy/PP regime continue its destructive “Blood and soil” ethnic democracy, the likelihood that Ethiopia will become the second Rwanda and that the present slow-motion Amhara genocide could  become a fast-moving one cannot be excluded. Active peace and unity in Ethiopia require the presence of an active pan-Ethiopian pro-democracy movement.

Hence the importance for FANO to reach out to pro-democracy Ethiopians of all regions and explore the possibility of forming a pan-Ethiopian pro-democracy organization to rescue Ethiopia from the Aby/PP sanguinary regime. Since FANO’s maxim is an expression of a democratic political principle, it is the embodiment of this principle in a pan-Ethiopian pro-democracy resistance movement that is crucial and not who are the persons that lead it. 

Competent Ethiopians, whoever they may be, committed to the universal ideas and ideals of democracy are what Ethiopians need as leaders, and not leadership based on precedents, privilege, lineage, fame, degrees, prizes, or ethnic calculations. Personalizing politics and power is falling into the Abiy/PP trap of ethnic politics.

The Diaspora hailed from all corners of Ethiopia and thus could contribute to the  effort to form a pan-Ethiopian resistance front in the sense discussed above. What this contribution could be requires collective deliberations. Whatever may be the outcome of such deliberations, we need to bear in mind that  a political idea that is not embodied in an organization, however powerful the idea appears to be, is a wet paper tiger. 

If the Diaspora succeeds in forming and activating a process that contributes to the emergence of a pan-Ethiopian pro-democracy front, it will add one more brick to the wall of resistance FANO is building back home. 

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


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  1. This just got received from the battle front. The brave warriors of The Fano Army were engaged is raging battles with the army of Abiy for the last three months. After four major engagements in Gondar, Dessie, Bahr Dar and Debre Markos this week the Fano warriors had put more than 79,000 soldiers of Abiy’s army out of action and had captured 212,989 of them along with 150 T72 tanks, 10 SU-35 fighter jets and more than 300 armored personnel carrier vehicles. The gallant Fanos are now just outside Addis Ababa waiting for orders from their high command to deal Abiy’s regime the final blow and declare the Republic of Ethiopia. Listen everyone. Go out and celebrate this victory.


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