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The Perfect Being The Enemy Of The Good: Amhara Fano’s Deliberate Pace At Forming A Unified Command Center

Amhara Fano _ Ethiopia
From Social media

By Solomon Gebre Selassie


A lot has been said about FANO’s fragmented forces as a liability that is hampering the progress of the Amhara people’s struggle for justice. However, in almost all the discussions, what is overlooked is the fact that FANO has embarked on a new experiment of building a military institution from the bottom-up, an experiment almost unheard of.

In standard scholarship, rebel fragmentation has been treated as undifferentiated, top-down formations that are unable to come together and instead fight each other while fighting a common enemy (Michael Woldemariam, M. Boas [1], for instance). The trouble begins when lumping FANO as a further example of this observation. In this article, we argue that FANO ought to be analyzed on its own terms having its own special features of bottom-up organization. To help us tease out the details, we may have first to review the traditional top-down rebel institutions that we have been familiar with over the last 100 years or so.

Furthermore, it is our intent to ground our approach in Ethiopian modern history by including in this essay two events: a brief overview of the anti- Fascist Resistance who are the precursors of today’s FANO, and a short history of the beginning of the confederation of Ethiopian labor unions building their confederation from the bottom-up.

A word or two about the need for a Unified Amhara Command may be in order: the military coordination would be more efficient among FANO groups, a common vision statement would ensue, there would be a single center of public relations and press releases, and the Command would appoint a single fundraising unit in the Diaspora. Also, a unified delegation would be set up for any negotiations with the regime and other stakeholders.

Top-Down Heritage: From The Chinese People’s Liberation Army To Our Own Rebels

The 20th century rebel movements, (excluding the guerrilla and revolutionary movements of the 19th century and prior such as the French and American revolutions), are believed to be the modern variants of rebel movements. The Chinese and Vietnamese rebel movements are the forebears for the modern rebel movements, sometimes called guerrilla forces. What the top-down founding fathers framed and created was an army built in a top-down fashion by a leftist political party. This practically meant 10-20 men (there were rarely founding women) formed a tight-knit leftist party that branched into an army under strict party control. That meant the party had a political program, was governed by democratic centralism where lower bodies unquestioningly carried out the orders of higher bodies, and where strict party and military discipline held sway. Regarding assignments and promotions, the party assigned leaders both to party and military structures with no one questioning its authority. In fact, all party members and supporters believed that the party was correct all the time, and in all its actions. Out of this belief, an iron discipline cemented the foundation and superstructure of the party and army. Following the Chinese and Vietnamese experience, rebel movements formed in mid and later parts of the 20th century particularly in the Third World countries. In our corner of the world, in Ethiopia, the main rebel movements were the Eritrean Liberation Front (ELF), the Eritrean People’s Liberation Front (EPLF), the Tigrayan People’s Liberation Front (TPLF), the Oromo Liberation Front (OLF), the Western Somali Liberation Front (WSLF) and the Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Army (EPRA) of EPRP. As these were the progeny of the Chinese/Vietnamese revolutionary fathers, some of them received training from the fathers, copied, or wrote their political programs inspired by them, and followed their revolutionary path some successfully and a few not.

Enter FANO with its new experiment. There is no international party to give its cadres training and logistical support and inspire it to copy a political program. The big story in FANO’s formation was its self-defense stance to protect Amharas from their existential threat and the litany of injustices which they suffered and discussed elsewhere here.

In summation, Bottom-up and Top-down organizations may be discerned in their differences in terms of internal discipline, fairness of leader appointments and demotions, and time it takes to restructure units.

Although FANO did not have any international icons to copy and follow, it was inspired by their home- grown grandfathers who were instrumental in liberating the nation from Italian colonialism in the 1930-40s.  Some have negatively portrayed the Amhara culture of yegobez aleka (local chieftains) as a burden promoting banditry and fragmentation [2]. However, the evidence does not corroborate that. In fact, the anti-Fascist Resistance Movement of 5 years has resulted in the resounding victory of routing the Italians and giving the country the distinction of not ever being colonized by a European power except for the interlude of the Resistance. Let’s look briefly at this rich history of the Resistance Movement to see the thread connecting the anti-Italian fascist FANOs to today’s FANOs.

The Ethiopian Resistance Movement Of 1936-1941

Obviously, the first FANO movement was composed of Ethiopians of all ethnic and religious groups in the singular aim of defeating Italian colonialism. After the main army was defeated by Italy which used poison gas and air bombardment, Ethiopian FANOs fanned out to the different parts of the country to engage in effective guerrilla warfare. In Wolkait, Tegede, and Telemt, Dejazmach Negash Workneh led the guerilla army [3]. In Telemet another leader was Dejazmach Tiruneh Feleke. In Armachiho and Gonder Bitweded Adane and Ras Amoraw Wubneh led the campaign. In Shoa- in Minjar, Shenkora, and Bulga, the leader was Dejazmach Fikremariam AbaTechan[4]. In Southern Ethiopia, Ras Desta Damtew,Dejach Beyene Merid, and Dejach Gebre Maryam Gari led the assault on the Italians. In Gojjam,  Mengesha Jembere,  Negash Bezabeh,  Hailu Belew and Belay Zelleke attacked Italian encampments and garrisons. While these FANO leaders led the attack in the countryside, others such as Abera and Asfawossen Kassa in the north, Dejach Balcha Safo in the south, Ras Abebe Aregay in the northwest, and Dejach Fikremariam Yenadu in the east attempted at insurrection in the cities, especially in Addis. This was also complemented by the wust arbegnoch that supplied the guerillas intelligence, food and medicine. Woizero Shewareged Gedle of Shoa is a prominent lady in this regard [5]. According to Professor Bahru Zewdie, the guerrilla attacks by the FANOs frustrated the plan of Italian colonialism to settle thousands of Italians in Ethiopia to live off agricultural produce [6].

Hence the gobez aleka culture of the Amhara that was part and parcel of the Ethiopian anti-fascist Resistance, rather than leading to fragmentation and defeat, was instrumental in achieving Ethiopia’s independence with the help of Allied forces. In addition, notables like the sons of Lij Iyassu- Melake Tsehay Iyassu in Shoa and Yohannes Iyassu in Begemidr were symbols of unity as well as the exiles in Sudan and the Black Lion movement who strove to give the struggle political and ideological direction [7].

The First Bottom Up Organizing In Ethiopia In The Early 1960s- The Labor Movement

Here, comparing a civic organization with a military group has its limitations. However, the point that should not be lost in the contrast is the enormity of the challenges FANO is facing in building a unitary leadership from the bottom up.  

According to the Ethio-Eritrean first General Secretary of the Confederation of Ethiopian Labor Union (CELU), Beyene Solomon, there were two major challenges facing the pioneers in forming the umbrella CELU from the bottom-up. First were the obstacles from the Haileselassie regime that forced the labor union pioneers to secretly meet in various places while organizing labor in the main cities of Ethiopia- Addis Ababa, Dire Dawa and Asmara. (Although Ethiopia was a member of ILO since 1926, it only ratified the labor conventions in 1962) [8]. The second was the lack of interest and understanding by the labor force to form a union to advance its interests. The pioneers had no blueprint to follow. In this regard, Beyene appreciates the help of two intellectuals, the late Professor Mesfin Woldemariam from HSIU and Professor Bereket Habteselassie who worked then in the Office of the Attorney General [9].

Luckily, unlike today’s FANO, the labor leaders got international help in training their members, getting them the bylaws of the Kenyan labor union and monitoring the election of officers [10].

Thus, in 1963, CELU was formed in the following manner: 

5 labor leaders were  designated to oversee the election of officers, Two international observers attended the founding meeting and the following 7 officers were elected: Abrham Mekonnen from Wonji Sugar factory was the President, Zelleke Woldemariam from Dire Dawa Textile was the Vice-President, Beyene Solomon from Heavy Freight Transport was the General Secretary, Alemu Bogale from Ethiopian Fiber was the Assistant Secretary, Hailu Aga from Ethiopian Airlines was the other Vice President, Dereje Mekonnen from Fogstad Woodworks was the Treasurer, Shukurulla Yusuf from Ethiopian Fiber was the Assistant Treasurer and Abera Abate from Mosvold Woodworks was the Auditor. In addition to the Executive Committee listed above a Board of Directors of 8 labor leaders was created [11]. 

Forming a super union in an urban setting and with all sorts of assistance took over a year and half and, is it small wonder if FANO takes time to reach its goal?

Thus, reviewing the first bottom-up attempt in Ethiopia to create an umbrella organization renders valuable lessons to understand the slow and deliberate pace of FANO, a military group that, unlike the labor group, must constantly battle the enemy, has no blueprint to follow, and has no international or local monitors to hold its hands to go through the elections. They do everything by themselves and on the fly. 

Fano’s Splendid Resume’

As we have shown above, talking about FANO’s fragmentation and imagined infighting is viewing the issue out of context. As far as methodology is concerned, even if true, it is wrongly treating a transient and dynamic phenomenon as a result, thus forgetting its stage of an early process. It is only one year since FANO was forced to defend itself against the repressive forces of the Abiy regime. Thus, in the past 10 months or so, it has successfully repulsed the enemy forces, captured arms from the enemy, and trained tens of thousands of youths. It has shown admirable coordination between the forces in the 4 provinces, growing in number from small units to brigades and Armies. It has been accepted by the people in all regions, forcing Abiy to blame the people for “hiding FANOs”.  In short, FANO is now fighting a people’s war in its true sense. Although a major programmatic and policy paper is expected, still in its various manifestos and interviews, the leaders have outlined FANO’s intent to overthrow the Abiy regime and usher in a transitional process with other stakeholders. Some have doubted FANO’s capability to overthrow the Abiy regime, without paying attention to its tremendous growth in less than a year and to its huge potential [12]. FANO has shown its humanity in the way it handles prisoners of war, who are either sent home, or those who volunteer to stay with FANO, are allowed to do so.  Unlike rebel groups and regime- supported bandits in the Oromia region, FANO does not destroy places of worship, it does not brutally kill innocent people and show their gruesome videos on social media. FANO does not kidnap people for ransom. FANO does not engage in bank robbery, it rather protects them.  The mostly informative article “Understanding the FANO insurgency… “of February 24 has accused FANO of “coercive taxation and alleged forcible conscription” [13]. This is baseless since the authors have not presented any source or evidence to back up their allegation. The same article has also unfairly tried to locate FANO’s struggle within the prism of Ethiopian Orthodox Christianity [14]. This is unfortunate as it is well known that Muslims and others are playing an equal role in the FANO struggle as evidenced by the examples of Wollo Unified Command leader Colonel Fentahun Mohabaw and other military leaders like Solomon Ali, Mohammed Awol, Nureddin, etc.

Comparing the two combatants, FANO and the so-called Ethiopian National Defence Forces (ENDF), in terms of their ethics and military rules of engagement, is like daylight and darkness. There is so much documented evidence against the so-called ENDF killing of innocent civilians, in such places as Merawi, Wogel Tena, Antsokia, Deneba, Ensaro, Fenote Selam, Gish Abay, and Ajire’. The drone bombs and heavy weapons it rains indiscriminately and disproportionately have killed several hundreds of innocents. Its robbery of people’s personal effects and vandalizing of places of worship and artifacts is beyond belief.   

FANO is in mortal combat with the regime’s decaying and purposeless ethnicized army. While we have pity on the sons and daughters of poor Ethiopian peasants being herded into this mercenary duty, the only way this tragedy can end is when Abiy’s PP party is dismantled and brought to justice to account for all the crimes over the last 6 years.

Challenges Facing Fano

Despite its promising start and decorated status, FANO faces major internal and external challenges. The main internal challenge is of course the creation of a Unified Amhara Command with a political vision statement. We have discussed this issue above and pleaded for time as FANO deals with its battles, security and administrative issues. Of the external issues, one is the incorrigible Amhara bandas serving the regime as militias and riot police. These traitors corrupted by the huge sums paid for their treason have created difficulties for FANO as scouts, intelligence units and fighting force.  One hopes that as FANO grows and coalesces around a single center, these scumbags would either come to their senses, or dissipate as a force. Another challenge for FANO is the war economy in the Amhara region. The constant bombardment of villages has adversely impacted the productivity of peasants. Innocent civilians are being massacred as mentioned above, people who could help the formal or informal economy. The regime forces are also burning farms and crops ready to be collected and stored. It is also alleged that the regime is intentionally buying out crops, such as teff and wheat, to starve the people there. The fact that unhindered transport from country to town and vice versa has been hampered translates to economic hardship. As this worsens over time, the population in the Amhara region may lack capacity to feed itself and support feed FANO fighters.  The best solution to this quagmire is for FANO to create capacity to take the war outside of the Amhara region, or/and for other regions to revolt against the PP to take the pressure off FANO. A third problem is the regime’s mischief in creating mistrust between ethnic and religious groups in the Amhara areas. For instance, FANO has already foiled the regime’s attempt to create a rift between Agews and Amharas in Gojjam, and between Muslims and Christians in Wollo. FANO’s success so far does not mean the regime will not repeatedly revert to these dirty tricks and others. FANO ought to be constantly on the lookout for any signs of manufactured fissures among the people. As part of regime divisive actions, the National Election Board has recently issued recognition to a “Wollo Province political party” in the regime’s futile attempt to break up Amhara unity. There is also talk about the regime’s plan to divide what is called the Amhara Kilil into four or five weaker and pliable units. The religious card is always in Abiy’s back pocket, so again, FANO must be watchful of the regime’s diabolical moves.

As a variant of the economic problem, FANO will also have challenges of administering liberated areas. As a local government, FANO is expected to provide municipal services, such as schools, medical facilities, water and electricity and maintenance of roads, etc. The local tax base may not be sufficient to cover such expenses, especially as the war economy grows worse. This problem might be alleviated, if not fully solved, by Diaspora contributions and remittances. For this to effectively take place, the creation of a Unified Command Center that appoints a central fund collection entity is a prerequisite.   In summation, we have listed challenges and possible solutions of internal and external problems facing FANO.

Fano As A Force For Ethiopia’s Democratic Transition

Because of FANO’s first-year successes, the expectations are high. The FANO leaders themselves have at various times explained their desire and goal to establish a democratic government along with other stakeholders. Who are these stakeholders and what is expected of FANO? Some of these stakeholders are Ethiopian opposition political parties, the association of civic groups and non-governmental organizations, TPLF, OLA, and the likes of the Joint Forum of Religious Institutions. The talk with OLA and TPLF has particular significance. Major ethnic community elites have unnecessarily drifted apart over the last few decades despite the people’s cultural and historical ties. Abiy uses the schism as an opportunity to stay longer in power. The said armed forces have a historical burden to reset the country on the right path along with other stakeholders to find everlasting solutions to such issues as a modern, non-ethnic constitution and the issue of contested lands by facilitating people-to-people consultations.

Depending on how it intends to wind down and accept responsibility for the anarchy and state terrorism it unleashes through its quasi-terrorist organizations such as Kore Negeeyna formed in 2019 [15] and Gachena Sirna [16], PP might be a partner. After getting its house in order, FANO ought to reach out to these and more stakeholders for consultations and mutual understanding to plan a smooth landing and a fresh start in post-PP Ethiopia.

Regarding Dialogue with the regime, FANO, as it has done before, must be cognizant of the core Amhara issues. Abiy has collapsed the questions into his trick bag and says there are only three: development, contested areas with Tigray and modifying the Constitution. However, the injustices meted out to the Amhara and Ethiopian people are not limited to these. Amharas continue to be massacred in areas far and near; tens of thousands of Amharas are incarcerated and continue to be profiled and jailed, Amharas have been denied entry into Addis; Amharas and other Ethiopians have lost their homes due to demolition in and around Addis by PP, etc. Therefore, the appropriate remedy is the dismantling of PP and laying the groundwork for democratic transition, transitional justice and national reconciliation.

Of late, calls to the regime by Western powers to start a dialogue with its opposition are in the news.  FANO can deal with this once a Unified Command has been formed and the appropriate people have been assigned with the mandate to talk on the issues within the parameters outlined above. Saying as some FANO supporters state bluntly “No Negotiations” is unwise and borders on adventurism that would portray FANO as anti-peace. More than anyone, FANO needs peace, but on its own terms and with the guarantee for a fresh start.   

Pro-FANO media (for lack of a better term, but they are pro-democracy media) such as ABC media, Addis Dimts, EMS, ESAN, Ethio 251, Ethio 360, MM, Mereja TV, Roha, etc. as admirable as their services are, must lead by example by showing collaboration and unity of purpose instead of their disparate and sometime competitive journey. They could for instance together host a monthly or bi-monthly roundtable among themselves to exchange experience, discuss media code of conduct, and as a platform to bring their audiences towards a common understanding, while keeping their individual identity. As FANO gets closer to a Unified Command Center, these media should not lag and instead should make it easy for FANO to communicate with the Diaspora by standing together.

The pro-democracy media must preach repeatedly that power grows out of the ballot box, and that power resides in the people and that the democratic process must be respected. The media should in no way be a platform for those who have not gotten their way in the democratic process and try through a media to undo the majority’s verdict. Additionally, the pro-democracy media could be a motor to synergize the efforts of Amhara-themed voices, and Ethiopian-themed voices, such as AEPAC.


  1. Insurgent Fragmentation in the Horn of Africa: Rebellion and Its Discontents, by M. Woldemariam, Cambridge University Press, 2018

African Guerrillas, M. Boas, Lynne Reinner Publishers, 2007

  1. Some on social media have wrongly argued that this culture adversely affects today’s FANO from forging unity.
  2. YeWolkait Guday, A. Tamiru, Washington DC, 2012(E), p. 258
  3. And Afta Lawgachihu, G. Haile, Collegeville, Minnesota, 2008, p.28
  4. A History of Modern Ethiopia, 1855-1991, Eastern African Studies, B.Zewde, 2001, pp.166-174
  5. Ibid.
  6. Ibid.
  7. Fighter For Democracy, The Saga of an Ethiopian Labor Leader, B. Solomon, PublishAmerica, pp.62-68
  8. Ibid.
  9. Ibid
  10. Ibid
  11. The authors of an otherwise informative piece titled, “Understanding the FANO insurgency in Ethiopia’s Amhara Region”, February 2024, p.3 make such an argument.
  12. Ibid., p.8
  13. Ibid., p.8
  14. Reuters Investigative Report: “Ethiopia: a secret committee orders killings and arrests to crush rebels”, February 2024
  15. “Who is responsible for ethnic-based massacres?” Interview with OLA’s Commander, Reyot YouTube, 7/9/2022  

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  1. “Fano As A Force For Ethiopia’s Democratic Transition” is an illusion and a prop for the inexhaustible highlander ego. From the year 1974 (Socialist revolution) to 1983 (Tplf ethnic federalism) to 2010 (Abiy’s Tplf 2.0) to belligerent Fano, everyone of them promised “democratic transition” at the point of the gun! Everyone of them failed and made matters worse than they were. Just listen to Fano agitprop; they brag to takeover A Rat Kilo, kick everyone out and allow only those abiding by the rules they lay out. I am not kidding. Tplf had said the same thing; and similarly Socialists in their multiple colors (usually red and extra-red). Fano is all ጉራ ድንፋታ and fascistic, as it will not allow any alternative views! If you don’t agree with the Fano line you will be maligned terrorized and killed!

    • Alem, So far Fano has been saying they would stand for Amhara right and work with other communities who stand for themselves so we have to see the result.

  2. The Fano Movement is indeed the result of decades of grievances of the Amhara “highlanders” and the most likely catapult for the building of a democratic Ethiopia where the individual Ethiopian, not an ethnic enclave or entity, determines his and her own destiny for life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

    The oromumma grandeur of delusion and illusion HAS BEEN A FAILURE FROM ITS MiSERABLE AND BLOODY START!!!!!!! Now Kenyans, Somalians, and the rest of peace loving people in the Horn of Africa have woken up from their sleep and are watching, alert and ready, for each and every move their dictator and SICK neighbor aka abiy ahmed is cooking, plotting and conniving behind their backs. Simultaneously, the international community now also understands, their is a mad man on the loose with his blood drenched cadres and hoodlums, mass murderers and outright shameless thieves, that must be contained, cut to size and thrown away to the dust bins of the bad, the ugly and the horrible of yesterday, just like the hitlers, mussolinis, stalins, gadafis, and husseins of yesteryears.

    The world now knows this venomous snake inside out, and he knows he is being watched. As typical of tinpot dictators running banana republics with their kangaroo courts, this cuckoo with loose screws in his head , nauseating megalomania, sociopathic lust for power and control imprisons, tortures, displaces and kills anyone that dares challenge and question him and his oromumma pipe dream.

    On his watch, Ethiopia has become number 1 in the world with the most internally displaced people, IDPs now in the range of 5-10 millions. There is mass food inadequacy and as many as 30,000,000 plus Ethiopians in all regions North, South, East and West of the country are expected to be facing massive food shortage.

    Meanwhile, the despot is building projects with borrowed money that have zero, absolutely zero economic value to the average Ethiopian. These mega decorative projects that are designed to hide the massive failures of his “government of hoodlums” carried out by Chinese construction companies are also a source of the embezzlement and looting of Ethiopian public resources by the abiy oromumma gang.

    All branches of the Ethiopian government, the executive, the legislative ( parliament) and the judiciary are tools of one crazy despot at the helm of power, who imprisons, jails, tortures and executes anyone that he even suspects of as a challenge to his throne.

    Fifty years of revolutions, chaos, war and displacement have given Ethiopians just another tinpot dictator who fake education credentials, a fake PhD, a fake colonel title and fake pastor labeling. The ignorant, loquacious, tear jerkingly boring wanna be boy- king is not an intellectual as evidenced by his dumb as brick speeches and excruciatingly boring speeches. The boy-king is not a pastor as evidenced by his lack of respect for the religious freedom, culture and traditions of Ethiopians. The boy-king is not a respectable military leader either, as evidenced by his very undisciplined, unprofessional and criminal collections of riff ruff who have been accused of torture, war crimes, extrajudicial massacres and theft of properties of the population they swore to serve consecutively for the past almost 6 years since the arrival of this filth and sycophants. All these add up to nothing but a Machiavellian fiend with no scruples, no ethics, no humanity, no self-awareness and most of all an iota of self respect for his own being!!!!!!! Always enamored with self adulation, lust for power and control- THE CALIGULA OF ETHIOPIA!!!


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