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The Fano Resistance: Staying the Course on the Fundamentals

Fano Resistance Ethiopia

Mekuria Gize 

General: Fano has long been a prominent name deeply ingrained in Ethiopian culture, symbolizing a rebellion against injustice and administrative misconduct by those in positions of power, whether in traditional or modern governance systems in Ethiopia. Fanoism was widely practiced nationwide during the 5-year occupation of Ethiopia by Italy. Prominent patriots and Fano leaders in Shewa were Abebe Aregay, Abera Kassa, Mesfin Seleshi, Takele Weldehawaryat, Geresu Duki, Jagama Kello, Hailemariam Mamo, Abebe Shenkut, Geleta Korcho,  the Beshie, and Enkuselassie brothers. In Gojam, Belay Zeleke and Mengesha Gembere and their followers were famous. Wondossen Kassa and Hailu Kebede resisted Italy in Wello province. Desta Damtew was active in Sidamo. The list goes on. Since the fall of Haileselassie, Fanoism remained dormant throughout the Derg era due to a newly held world outlook in Ethiopia – socialism, which led to internal communal conflict rather than unity. During the Woyanie regime, the Fano movement manifested itself haphazardly in the form of local resistance in Shewa, Gonder, and Gojam, with more intensity in Gonder. 

Real Fanoism revived when TPLF invaded Amhara   in July 2021. The Amhara youth responded overwhelmingly to join the war against TPLF, and organized themselves in groups across the four provinces of Amhara. The war provided an opportunity to reclaim the occupied territories of Amhara (Wolkayit, Tegede, Telemt, Humera, and Raya), similar to how France and Poland regained lost territories from Germany after Germany’s defeat in 1945 – territories annexed by Germany 40 years before World War II. The fact that Tigrayans speakers live in Welkayit is not a valid reason to annex Amhara territory. There are Oromiffa speakers in Kenya, Tigrinya speakers in Eritrea, German speakers in Austria, and Russian speakers in Eastern Ukraine.

When Eskinder and Sentayehu were set free from prison, they immediately went to various parts of Amhara and Afar regions to visit and give thanks to Fanos for the heroism they displayed in the war against TPLF. Their visit was a foreshadowing of the struggle to come, much like the initial scene in a film. Eskinder understood the future form of struggle, and his visit was more of a prophecy of what would evolve in the struggle against Abiy Ahmed. Upon his return, Eskinder went to the US and stayed for a brief time talking to the diaspora; upon his return to Ethiopia, his whereabouts remained elusive for a year until he surfaced in Burie. He was briefly detained by Amhara police officers but was set free due to the strong reaction from Dejen youth. His sudden surfacing in Burie made it evident that he had taken a different course to bring democracy and inclusive governance to Ethiopia. The release of Zemene Kassie and the disbanding of the Amhara Special Forces all happened together and elevated a new form of Fano movement reaching a new peak in a short space of time, thanks to Ethio 360, who announced ahead what was brewing for Amhara (a confidential document about the disbandment of Amhara special forces).  Prior to this event, Fanoism suffered a setback after General Tefera was removed as head of the Amhara security forces. Thousands were rounded up and put in jail under Dr. Yilkal Kefalew as head of the Amhara regional state. Lack of structural cohesion and without any cohesive ideology to cling to, the central government managed to suppress the force Fano could exert on the central government.Since the war against Fano was launched in April 2023, Fanos gained a strong foothold in Amhara. From mere AK-47s and primitive 19th century firearms, Fano now has all sorts of modern weapons to defend itself against the Abiy Ahmed government, despite the lack of heavy firearms like tanks, BMWs, mortars, Zu 23, and aerial vehicles such as drones, helicopters, jets, and airplanes.

Understanding the Fano Resistance: The first thing to recognize is that the Fano’s fight against Abiy  Ahmed is not a 90-minute soccer game. Fano has come a long way to where it is now. We should be patient and understand that the Fano resistance is a long journey. TPLF won the war against the Derg after 17 years of fighting, with tremendous financial and armament help from foreign governments. Fano, which stands on its own, does not have any special magic to make everything happen as we want. Fano controlled 70% of Rural Amhara in just 6 months, which is an astronomical achievement and should be appreciated. There is no need to criticize Fanos or bother them by asking whether they occupied this or that city, unless they want to share that information. You don’t need to follow Fano’s tail and bark at every little thing. Fanos do not have the manpower, logistics, heavy artillery, or aerial vehicles to hit government targets. They are fighting against a government that is heavily armed and fully exploits the resources of 120 million people. Their strategy for winning the war involves gradually wearing down Abiy Ahmed’s ground forces, which will take a lot of time. We must accept the ups and downs in this long and enduring battle. 

It is often argued that Fano lacks unified leadership for the international community to engage with, and many of us seem to have bought this argument. However, let’s consider the parallels. Who was the unified leadership that the international community engaged with when it came to the TPLF in Temien? Not only did they struggle to meet with each other, TPLFites also had a hard time talking to each other. The international community only began reaching out to the TPLF leadership after Abiy Ahmed withdrew his army from Tigray. Any discussions prior to that were conducted through groups or individuals overseas reaching out to the Biden administration. Similarly, there are civic organizations currently advocating on behalf of Amhara and Fano. 

In order to establish unified leadership, all Fano representatives from the four provinces need to convene and engage in discussions. Only then can their leadership qualities be truly assessed. However, Fano is currently unable to do this due to security risks. It is important to remember Getachew Reda’s facial expression and watchfulness as he spoke to a foreign journalist who had traveled to a remote Tembien village.

Restricting Abiy Ahmed’s Source of Income: The second thing is to research the primary sources of income for Abiy Ahmed and identify their locations, which is also a crucial aspect of the struggle. If these revenue sources are accurately identified, they become legitimate targets to attack. In his parliamentary speech, Abiy Ahmed stated that, if threatened, he would use state resources totaling 10 billion in the fight against Fano. Therefore, it is very important to make those resources unavailable through a preemptive strike.

Evening Demonstrations: Town hall meetings and peaceful protests or demonstrations have been an uphill battle in Ethiopia since Abiy Ahmed came to power. In a chemical reaction, stability is disrupted when equilibrium conditions are changed, such as by altering pressure, temperature, or concentration of reactants. Similarly, dictators exploit societal equilibrium conditions to brutally rule over their subjects. The key question is how to peacefully disrupt this entrenched system of government and governance. Sudden evening protests in selected parts of Addis Ababa and in high-density cities across Ethiopia will disrupt the smooth operation of the administration, thereby slowing work and revenue flow and possibly set the stage for a larger and heightened form of struggle against Abiy Ahmed. Such protests are difficult to contain for the police and could be effective to bring the government down. Let’s contribute more useful ideas on this to defeat the enemy

Anti-Drone and Anti-Tank Equipment: Experienced individuals can provide guidance to Fano on defending against drone attacks. Diplomatic Amharas should seek assistance from Amhara-friendly governments. Fano does not require a large amount of this equipment.

Ideology: Marxism-Leninism was the driving force for the EPRP and TPLF in resisting the Derg. It helped mobilize the city youth and peasant army, respectively to fight with determination. Fano should have documents to boost the morale of its fighters, such as the book, Berara by Dr. Habtamu Tegegne  (በራራቀዳሚት አዲስ አበባ) and the Aba Bahri article from the 16th century, and the deeply disturbing recent horrific memories of the OPDO-OLA killing operations conducted on Amharas in Wellega, Benishangule, Arsi, Ziway, and Shashemene. Professor Haile Laribo may also have articles and documents to boost Fano’s fighting spirit. 

Lobbying: Lobbying the Biden administration is like trying to get blood from a stone. Every day, Anthony Blinken and Mike Hammer are discussing the Pretoria agreement, displaced Trigrams  and “Western Tigray,” despite the fact that Amharas are the rightful owners of the land. They never mention the 1 million ethnic Amaras who were forced out of Oromia and Benishangul, nor do they talk about the 40,000-50,000 Amaras killed in Oromia. They also fail to address the 20-billion-US dollar loss incurred by the Amhara region due to the TPLF invasion, the rape of women and underage girls by TPLF soldiers, and the killing of innocent civilians when TPLF invaded Amhara. Nevertheless, we should not be discouraged from urging Congress, the Senate, and the wider international community to impose sanctions on the Ethiopian government to alleviate the suffering of the Amharas, who are experiencing ongoing gross human rights violations. The sanctions we are seeking should be strong enough to have an impact on the Abiy Ahmed administration. While severe sanctions may have negative effects on the broader population, nothing is more crucial than preventing the potential extinction of over 40 million Amharas under Abiy Ahmed’s rule. Abiy Ahmed is using state resources to fight against the Amhara, not his private savings. Acts like the Magnitsky Act are designed to impose sanctions and hold individuals accountable. What is the point of sanctioning individuals like Shimelis Abdissa, Berhanu Jula, Abebaw Tadesse, Temesgen Tiruneh, and Abiy Ahmed, who keep their money in Ethiopian banks or own real estate in Ethiopia or keep their private hard currency  somewhere in China or Thailand banks? Shimelis has stated that he has no intention of traveling beyond Moyale town and therefore does not plan to apply for an American visa or have any interest in spoiled USAID wheat (የነቀዘ ስንዴ). The same argument applies to the others. They are content with being the rulers of impoverished people in Ethiopia forever. The key measure is to deprive them of access to all sources of foreign currency so that they cannot purchase ammunition and firearms.

Advisory Committee: One important point for the Diaspora to consider is the formation of a political advisory committee that can advocate on behalf of Fano to the international community. Discussions should begin in order to achieve this goal. The committee will consist of representatives from all organizations representing the Amhara in the diaspora, as well as prominent Amhara individuals. The committee will have subcommittees representing the four provinces of Amhara. Approval is needed on this from provincial Fano leaders in the field. This advisory committee can also organize fundraising events in close coordination with Amhara diaspora communities, organizations, and willing Ethiopians.

Conclusions

Fano, a young organization rebelling against Abiy Ahmed, is still in the process of establishing a unified command. However, a decentralized leadership structure is actually beneficial for the struggle against Abiy Ahmed, as it ensures that the fight can continue even if one leader faces a setback. Our focus should be on developing Fano leadership at the Woreda and provincial levels. Once provincial leadership is achieved, there is no need for a single Fano leader, as decision-making processes will involve input from all four provinces. Blaming Fanos for not having unified leadership is unnecessary, divisive, and untimely. What is needed is a common agenda.

Up until a year ago, some prominent pro-Ethiopianism elements were praising Abiy Ahmed as a person with a grand vision but poor management skills, while others hailed him as the best leader Ethiopia has had in a long time. Some even argued that the federal government should have a monopoly on violence and that Fano and the Amhara Special Forces should disarm. Who are you to criticize Fano? You were wrong, and Fano was right! Despite these challenges, Fano has persisted and made significant progress, and there is no doubt that it will continue on its path to victory. Our ancestors fought against fascist Italy without a political program or roadmap, relying solely on courage and determination. Similarly, in the fight against fascist Abiy, we do not need a roadmap or a political document, only courage and determination, like the Taliban. Abiy Ahmed’s army had no right to interfere in the Amhara region, as the Amhara people have unanimously rejected the Prosperity Party and the Amhara government.

The suffering of the Amhara people is now clearly visible. The frequency of drone bombings on Amhara civilians is six times higher than in Tigray. For unknown reasons, the international community appears biased when it comes to Amhara issues. Remember that the UN Security Council has convened over 12 times to discuss Tigray’s issue. The vocal West, which prides itself on human values and democracy, is nowhere to be seen when it comes to the cause of the Amharas. Despite the lack of interest from the international community, we should continue to engage them. However, these distorted views can only be rectified by winning the war. Let’s learn from the Taliban.

The strong support of the USA for Tigray could suggest that the USA sees the potential for a merger between Tigray and Eritrea, which would provide secure access to the Red Sea. This would be particularly advantageous if Tigray politicians held significant power in the new country. Meles Zenawi saw Isaias as a threat to his power and anticipated a merger of these Tigrinya-speaking nations in the future. Additionally, the takeover of western Tigray could secure agricultural land for the long term.

When considering the level of atrocities committed against the Amhara people, the dishonesty and lack of empathy shown by the prime minister, as well as his failure to address the issue of Wolkayit as part of the Semien region, which is historically governed and protected by his wife’s ancestors, raises questions about the shared values of the Oromara Alliance that brought Abiy Ahmed to power. The indifference towards the Amhara people displayed by Oromo political party leaders is also concerning. In retrospect, this is thought-provoking.

Fano should avoid engaging in any discussions at this time. Even if Mike Hammer wants to speak with Fano’s leaders, they should decline. Instead, if he wants to support the freedom of the Amhara people, he can focus on stopping Abiy Ahmed from using drone bombings on innocent Amhara civilians. It’s important to remember that the TPLF negotiated after gaining control of Tigray. With Abiy Ahmed holding a monopoly on power in Ethiopia, meaningful discussions seem unlikely. It’s concerning that he has so much control, similar to Kim Jong Un in Nortrh Korea, with his ministers and generals taking note of everything he says. This is not acceptable in a multi-ethnic society. It’s very disheartening.

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

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