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HomeOpinionUnity of Oromos and Amharas vs Dr. Abiy’s Necropolitical Regime

Unity of Oromos and Amharas vs Dr. Abiy’s Necropolitical Regime

Amhara Oromo _ Ethiopian Politics
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Tesfa ZeMichael, B.Phil.

PM. Abiy Ahmed has instituted what a Cameroonian philosopher calls “necropolitics”: the deployment of various types of violence, both physical and non-physical, with the intent of subjugating Ethiopians to conditions of life that reduce them to “the living-dead.” After having created a “death-world” in Tigray, Dr. Abiy is now busy creating “death worlds” in Amhara and Oromia. Since 2018, almost one million Ethiopians have been killed in Dr. Abiy’s wars and the famines he has allowed to develop in these regions.

Dr. Abiy pits Amharas against Amharas, Oromos against Oromos, and Amharas and Oromos against each other. He has transformed the Ethiopian Defense Forces into his private army which he has unleashed to kill Ethiopians in Amhara and Oromia. His aim is clear: to eliminate all actual and potential challenges to his rule and erase the political space necessary for the emergence of democracy. Dr. Abiy’s necropolitical regime  is packaged in what he calls a “a grand narrative.” As the man is, so is his philosophy, observed the philosopher Fichte. The “grand narrative” of Dr. Abiy is embedded not in what he says, for he says whatever suits him, but in what he does.

Dr. Abiy’s “grand narrative” and similar narratives by ethnic extremists treat Ethiopians as a people without a commonly shared history. Such a “grand narrative” allows Dr. Abiy to fragment Ethiopians on and within ethnic lines, particularly the Amharas and Oromos, making him the puppet master that manipulates each fragmented element to his own benefit. 

As we have seen recently, Dr. Abiy stage-managed the fragmentation of Ethiopian society. He met separately “representatives” of Tigray, Amhara, Oromia, Southern peoples, the Orthodox Church, Muslims, Evangelicals, and so forth. His politically orchestrated meetings embody the tactic of divide-deflect-and-subjugate, and eschew the universality of citizenship and the notion of common interests that is central to it. This fragmented way of “representing” Ethiopians, a center-piece of his “grand narrative,” is an aspect of the non-physical violence that accompanies the physical violence—killing of Amharas, Oromos, Tigrayans and opponents; destruction of churches and mosques—he directs at each of these fragments. 

His “grand narrative” is designed to prevent the emergence of solidarity and unity among these fragmented elements and thus pre-empt the birth of a trans-ethnic and trans-confessional democratic opposition. Yet there is absolutely no reason why Ethiopians, especially the Oromos and Amharas, should swallow his fictional “grand narrative” of Ethiopia as a collection of antagonistic and fragmented ethnicities.

The history of the Oromo in Ethiopia is, as the historian Mohammed Hassen shows, a history of interactions and fusions with other ethnicities, and primarily with the Amhara, since the 13th century. As the eras of the Zemene Mesafint, Emperor Tewodros, Emperor Yohannes, and the Oromization of the rulers of Gojjam (from Dejjach Yosedek to Hailu Tekle Haimanot) indicate, the political, social, and cultural interpenetrations of the Oromo and Amhara were intense and widespread. Hence the historical correctness of Lemma Megerssa’s description of the symbiosis of the Oromo and Amhara as ሰርገኛ ጤፍ, i.e., inseparable. Throughout this commonly shared history, regionalism rather than ethnicity was the basis of politics. 

Closer to us, the historical symbiosis between the Oromo and the Amhara has shown its vigor. For instance, from 2016 to 2018, Oromo youths (Qeerroos) and Amhara youths (Fano) joined their hearts and minds to struggle for freedom. As Tesfu Challa points out in his thesis, the Amhara youth “protesters were demanding an end to the killing in Oromia, [and the] release of political prisoners held in connection with the Oromo protest.” In 2018, the unity between the Oromo and Amhara delegates within the EPRDF ruling circle led to the fall of the TPLF and the appointment of Dr. Abiy as the PM of Ethiopia. 

To treat then the Oromo and the Amhara as discrete entities related to each other only antagonistically is not a “grand narrative”; it is to substitute hate filled fiction for history. How then was this rich and complex history of the Oromo-Amhara symbiosis repressed and replaced by the fictional idea of fixed and mutually exclusive Oromo and Amhara identities? How come political ethnicity replaced the historical dynamic of regionalism? The question leads us to the power of false historical narratives—the “grand narrative” of Dr. Abiy—when they go unchallenged. 

In Ethiopia, ethnic extremists produce false historical narratives by way of what philosophers call “oversimplification.” Oversimplification creates “blind-spots” where “significantly relevant” facets of reality are “concealed from our view.” Oversimplification expunges crucial information and prevents us from understanding reality adequately, opening the door for false narratives and political manipulations.

Dr. Abiy’s “grand narrative “ is rooted in the  oversimplification of the Ethiopian past. It reduces the Ethiopian past to the history of discrete ethnicities—in this case, the Oromo and the Amhara—whose interrelations are  emptied of their humanistic and constructive ideas, values and practices, and caricatured as inimical and colonial relations. This fictional history creates blind-spots that render invisible vast swaps of Ethiopian reality that are indispensable for an adequate understanding of our past and present. It thus stunts our ability to come together and create a bright commonly shared future. 

Oromos and Amharas have to recognize their commonly shared history which is, like every history, “a document of both barbarism and civilization.” Dr. Abiy has scavenged, like other ethnic extremists, the barbaric elements  of our history and made them the scaffolding of his “grand narrative.” It is up to us, Oromos and Amharas, to  retrieve and fortify the civilizational aspects of our shared history while rejecting its barbaric elements. These civilizational aspects and the democratic aspirations they incubate are our common heritage and provide the grammar and vocabulary for the unity of Amharas and Oromos. 

Such an Oromo-Amhara unity will trigger a political momentum that will mobilize Ethiopians of all regions to actively participate in the construction of a democratic society. Will Dr. Abiy accept such a vision of Oromo-Amhara unity? No. Is it because he believes that his fictional ethnicizing “grand narrative” is right that he rejects such a vision? No. Rather, it is because he knows that his oversimplifications of Ethiopian history are wrong that he rejects the vision of Oromo-Amhara unity. Having a dark quad personality, he engages in what psychoanalysis calls the “fetishist disavowal”: “I know what I believe is false, but I will keep on acting as if it were true.”

Oromos and Amharas must rise above Dr. Abiy’s false “grand narrative,” retrieve their shared common history and democratic aspirations, and make their unity the catalyst that unites Ethiopians to replace his necropolitical regime with a democratic one. Given the many political, cultural, and other historical successes the Oromo-Amhara unity has made possible in the past, the new historical task of rescuing Ethiopians from the necropolitical regime of Dr. Abiy demands a democratic unity that transcends ethnic identities.  Amharas and Oromos have the responsibility to reconstitute their historical unity by retrieving and cultivating the civilizing values, ideas and practices they have in common rather than by cherry-picking, in the manner of  Dr. Abiy and ethnic extremists, the barbaric elements that antagonize them. 

Dr. Abiy has amassed modern weapons. He has publicly stated his readiness to use Ethiopia’s financial resources to procure more weapons. As we have seen in his killing sprees in Amhara and Oromia, Dr. Abiy does not have a moral compass. He does not hesitate to use these weapons indiscriminately. The lesson here is that we should not take our desires for reality. No single entity, be it Fano, Shene, or another group, can by itself dislodge Dr. Abiy from power. Without the Amhara-Oromo unity, his necropolitical regime will continue indefinitely. 

Ethiopian Intellectuals and the Ethiopian media have an important role to play in puncturing and deflating Dr. Abiy’s “grand narrative” and similar narratives by ethnic extremists, and in awakening and developing the Oromo-Amhara symbiosis. In other words, to change Ethiopia, we need to change how we think about Ethiopia.

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


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  1. While criticisms of any political leader are valid within a democratic framework, it’s crucial to avoid hyperbole and unsubstantiated allegations. The assertion of Tesfa ZeMichael, B.Phil. of Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed’s leadership a “necropolitical regime” is a serious claim that requires careful consideration and analysis. Let’s examine some of the arguments presented ….

    In 2018, Ethiopia underwent a significant political transition with the appointment of Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed. While his reforms were initially met with optimism and praise, they also led to political tensions, especially with more established political entities such as the TPLF.

    The article accuses PM Abiy of practicing “necropolitics” which is defined as creating conditions that reduce people to “the living-dead.” It alleges that Abiy has orchestrated violence and famines, resulting in the deaths of almost one million Ethiopians since 2018
    Ethiopians know the TPLF’s first indirect war in Somali Killil using Abdi Mohamad Omar, commonly known as Abdi Iley followed by the self-inflicted TPLF’s war in November 2020 (supported by US and EU)), and the eventual demise of some of the TPLF’s leadership and a significant part of its forces and the catastrophe in the regions that followed (including Amhara and Afar kill). Defining these facts/ events as a result of necropolitics policy rings hollow and unjustified. Events that moved the nation 2018 and 2022 are fresh in our memories and denial or absence of investigations before making such untrue accusations of this magnitude is unfair. PM Abiy agreed to a policy of “Cessation of Hostilities Agreement” in Pretoria in November 2022 and he could have chosen not to.
    Furthermore, the authors suggest that PM Abiy deliberately fuels ethnic tensions and conflicts within Ethiopia to maintain power. While ethnic tensions exist in Ethiopia, attributing all conflicts solely to Abiy’s actions oversimplifies a complex societal issue.Ethnic divisions and historical grievances predate Abiy’s tenure and were aggravated and especially reinforced by the previous TPLF regime in Ethiopia. It is wise to rely on credible data, investigations and reviewing the developments that led to PM Abiy ascent to power before making accusations of this magnitude.

    The essay also criticizes Abiy’s approach to governance, labeling it as a “grand narrative” designed to fragment Ethiopian society and prevent the emergence of democratic opposition. There have been positive steps towards opposition participation and political openness under PM Abiy compared to the previous regime. The first is a relatively free and fair and election with a reformed National Election Board . And yes opposition parties had issues alleging irregularities and lack of a level playing field under PM Abiy’s administration. Compare this with a National Election Board led by TPLF cadres , who won elections by a100 % and opposition parties (Kinijit & Hibret) followers were killed by the TPLF cadre/soldier sharp shooters. Most opposition party members were jailed, killed or exiled. Portraying Abiy’s actions as solely aimed at perpetuating his rule as necropolitics overlooks his efforts towards democratization such as initiating political reforms, releasing political prisoners, allowing opposition politics and liberalizing the media and the current engagement in peace talks to resolve conflicts in the country. Is it perfect? No. But it still is a better policy than before. In any democratic society, it’s imperative to base criticism on factual evidence, avoid sweeping generalizations and promote constructive dialogue towards a more democratic system.

    “Necropolitical regime” does not define PM Abiy’s regime and requires a serious understanding of Ethiopia’s complex realities and a commitment to seeking peaceful and equitable solutions to our challenges. Democracy is not a one time event but a developmental process and avoiding hyperbolical statements and staying with the facts is a good place to start.


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