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HomeOpinionAlliance, alliances, and more alliances: what for, with whom, and when?

Alliance, alliances, and more alliances: what for, with whom, and when?

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By Mekuria 

An alliance or coalition between Amharas and Tigrayans against Abiy Ahmed has been the hot topic of political pundits on YouTube talk shows and e-media, and it has been praised by elites from both camps. This seems to have emerged from desperation, as Fanos on the Amhara side has been unable to provide a quick fix (ሱሪ ባንገት አይነት ጥያቄ፤ ምክንያቱም በአልቤን፣ በጓንዴ፣ በዉጂግራ እና በወጨፎ በተጀመረ ትግል በአመትም፣ በሁለት አመትም ለውጥ መጠበቅ ተገቢ ባለመሆኑ), and there is despair and an old grudge against Abiy Ahmed on the Tigrayan side due to past losses and the inability to claim Wolkayit and Raya rapidly. It appears to be a quick-fix project on both sides, so to speak. I want to take this opportunity to highlight that the Amharas should not set a time limit to achieve victory in the fight against Abiy Ahmed. They should set up their minds for a lifetime fight. 

An alliance can be formed with any group, but what truly matters is the purpose, outcome, and the parties involved in the alliance. The purpose is pretty clear from the outset – removing Abiy Ahmed Ali from his office and bringing him to justice. The parties are also known beforehand. The unknown factor is the outcome but can be figured out by looking at the parties involved. Let us see the incentives available for Amhara to ally to safeguard common interests now and in the aftermath of Abiy Ahmed Ali. 

Oromos

If numbers matter the greatest mixing in modern-day Ethiopia happened between the Amharas and the Oromos. Regardless Oromo communities were agitated for 60 years by Oromo elites to turn against Amharas. The 2016-2018 cooperating gestures between the two groups did not bring any meaningful benefit to the Amhara. The alliance with Oromo elites to out TPLF has led to significant casualties, displacement, and political turmoil for the Amharas. This could have been avoided if there had been careful consideration from the beginning. In this context, both Amhara elites and the Amhara National Democratic Movement (ANDM) leaders are equally responsible for the consequences. Nevertheless, people-to-people cooperation can still exist and be maintained with the Oromos and Amharas.

South Nationalities 

The starting point for forming alliances with people in the South is to recognize their aspirations, which include the desire to have their own Kilil. Amharas must accept this, not necessarily because people in the south benefit from it, but because they have been primed to be ethnically conscious for 33 years. It is not uncommon on social media for some ethnic elites, such as those from Silte, Welayita, and Sidama, to propagate hatred toward the Amhara. There is no shortcut to educating these people; they need to understand the responsibilities and benefits they can gain from it. The Gurages, Gamos, Kembatas, and Hadiyas need recognition as kilil, so acknowledge it.

Somali

An alliance with the Somali people is a positive development since the two groups do not share a border, which eliminates potential conflicts of interest or clashes. To nurture this relationship, it is crucial to respect the unconditional rights of the Somali region, including the option of secession if desired. This approach can help reduce hostilities and promote a more peaceful environment. There is no need for individuals from Amhara to risk their lives to defend Bale, Harar and Arsi without a clear goal of unity as Ethiopians with equal rights, ensuring that all citizens receive the same benefits.

Gambella 

Gambella is home to some of the most Amhara-friendly nationalities, yet they are often forgotten and marginalized in the Ethiopian body politic. Their lives are threatened by migrants from South Sudan, and they need protection. If they desire this protection from the Amhara, accommodate it. Like the Gambellas, the Gamos and Gurages are Amhara-friendly nationalities whose interests must be protected. Amhara social anthropologists and sociologists can provide us with insights into the detailed aspects of commonalities that the Amhara share with people in the south.

Afar

The Afar have a historical connection with the Amhara for many hundreds of years, and the two groups depend on each other. The Afar rely on the Amhara for agricultural produce and water, while the Amhara need supplies and transit routes to and from the Red Sea through Afar. Furthermore, the Afar require the security and protection provided by the Amhara. Therefore, a policy should be formulated and mutually agreed upon by both groups.

Minorities in Amhara

A diverse population of indigenous and migrant people resides in Amhara. It is crucial to acknowledge this and provide them with opportunities for administrative roles within their communities, as is done in North America.

Tigray 

Cooperation between ethnic Tigrayans and Amharas spans thousands of years. Tigray is a semi-independent ethnic land known from time immemorial and is not a newly federated entity created by the 1987 constitution. Therefore, it is illogical for Tigray to refer to Wolkayit and Raya as Western and Southern Tigray, respectively, as it appears to be a land-grabbing project. If they were to be called Wolkayit, Tigray, and Raya region, it might make a little more sense. Irrespective of the long history of an ethnic Tigray enclave there is however a high mobility of Tigrayans into the traditional lands of Amhara as they share numerous common linguistic, cultural, and religious values and ruled under the same kingdom.

These years of coexistence between Amharas and Tigrayans were not without any form of pitfalls, particularly between the ruling elites competing for power. Once defeated, however, it was a common practice in both communities to accept whoever came to power. What has been strange in modern Tigray body politics is a new form of radicalism among the youth that emerged in the 1960s, which brought ruling class contradictions to the average person. For instance, after the death of emperor Tewodros in 1869, Yohannes IV came to power and in his early reign, he committed severe atrocities in Gojam and Wello, but the Amharas never complained about this, understanding it as a display of power. They supported him in his administration. On the other hand, the new generation of Tigrayan elites deviated from the traditional practice and criticized the Shewan dynasty, when Menilik came to power, that has little to no presence in Tigray. They accused Menelik of sabotaging the war in Metema becoming the cause for the death of Emperor Yohannes. Tgrayans accused Menilik of snatching the rulership over Ethiopia from the legitimate heir of Emperor Yohannes. Modern descendants of the Yohannes generation even claimed that Menilik destroyed the Tigrayan economy during the Battle of Adwa despite his march to Tigray solely focused on liberating them from the colonial rule of Italy. They also argued that warriors like Alula Aba Nega were the true victors of the battle, not Menelik. Funny enough, they also blamed Menelik for not advancing further north crossing the Mereb River. If they had indeed won the war, why didn’t they cross the Mereb River and pursue Italy beyond the Red Sea? Such conflicting narratives have widened the divide between the two elite groups. 

Tigrayan complaints and rebellion persisted in Tigray in the form of peasant insurrection and student movement and continued past Emperor Haile Selassie’s death well into Megistu’s era eventually throwing him in 1991 in cooperation with the Eritrea People Liberation Front (EPLF) and with the moral and material support from neighbouring Arab countries and the West. የላም አሽናፊ እንዲሉ The victorious TPLF subjugated Amharas with full force for 27 years through ideological and ethnic labelling pitying them against other ethnic groups. Resentment and anger gradually set in Amhara leading to the overthrow of TPLF with the cooperation of Oromos.  

After being chased to their local base in Mekelle in March 2018, TPLF leaders struggled to adapt to the new reality. Living as a 6 % minority is hard to swallow for TPLF leaders who have been used to all sorts of privilege and respect. As a result, TPLF provoked war in October 2020, against the Ethiopia National Defense Force (ENDF) in Tigray and further escalated it by invading Kirakir with the intent to arrive in Gonder at dawn and capture Bahirdar at lunchtime; however, it faced significant resistance from the Amhara Militia and Special Forces. The war was finished quickly; in 3 weeks for one thing TPLF’s actions were not condoned by ordinary Tigrayans who did not want to put up armed resistance against the ENDF. Wounded and humiliated, TPLF went to its hideout in Tembien and emerged stronger through prolonged guerrilla fighting.  The next actions of the TPLF was to ally with OLA and invade Amhara through Kobo in Wello. Unlike in the war of 1987-1991 waged against Mengistu, under Meles Zenawi’s leadership, the current TPLF felt invincibility and started to kill and mass rape Amhara women, old women and underage girls destroyed infrastructure, and looted what is good in the region. Up to now, no one has been accounted for. However, unsuspecting, and unprepared they were, the Amharas had no option except to fight back and the TPLF was crushed for a second time. This second war was costly for Amhara. Trillion birr worth of resources were destroyed, and thousands killed and raped.  The TPLF came back for a third time through Kobo and made the same mistake – targeting innocent civilians and Amhara infrastructure. This time, having learned from their mistake in the second war, the Amharas defended themselves better and decisively defeated the TPLF in a short period, inflicting significant losses on the TPLF army. Up to now, there has never been any self-evaluation among the TPLFites to condemn their actions and openly come to ask for forgiveness from the Amharas. Still, they have not been made to pay for the losses Amhara incurred. Instead, we are listening to their Wolkayit and Ray rhetoric from Tigrayan elites as if having a few Tigrinya speakers entitles them to own a large swath of land the size of a medium European country. To this, I say learn from Kenya, Eritrea, and Ukraine. There are Oromos in Kenya, but that does not give entitlement to Oromia. There are Tigrinya speakers in Eritrea, and that does not give Tigrayans the right to claim Eritrean land. In East Ukraine, 80% of the population is ethnic Russians, but the world did not support Russia annexing East Ukraine. Historical ownership and administrative power over Wolkayit and Raya a significant factors. Egypt is claiming the Abay water for historical usage. Also, war has consequences When Germany lost World War I and II, it returned the land it took by force from France and Poland. Not only that, it lost German speakers with the land, and Germany was split into East and West.

The current problem in fostering such cooperation and alliance with Tigray is identifying the instruments and agents to carry out the mandate of the alliance. The subsequent stumbling blocks that come to the fore are TPLF, Salsawi Weyane, Baytona, Wunat (Free Tigray), and Tigrayan elites on one hand, and Fano and Amhara elites on the other hand. The TPLF and Tigrayan elites have a bad record against Amhara that history will not absolve. The TPLF is the significant force behind all forms of Amhara misery. The Prosperity Party, controlled by the Oromo People’s Democratic Organization (OPDO-PP), came to power and exploited the governance system of the TPLF, escalating the conflict with the Amhara people to unprecedented levels in the past 500 years. When the TPLF formed a coalition with the Ethiopia People’s Democratic Party (EPDM), a much weaker fighting force, in 1987, it had better leadership that at least knew its destination and did not attack ordinary Amharas on the way to Addis Ababa through Amhara traditional enclaves. This peaceful troop movement was not replicated in the recent TPLF conflict.

True, Tigrayans and Amharas have a bigger and more ruthless enemy standing at their throat. In principle, they must cooperate if they want to safeguard their interests and must show good gestures for lasting peace. What happens to an Amhara will by default happen to a Tigrayan. If Amharas are chased out of Oromia and Addis Ababa this will surely happen to Tigrayans, and about a million Tigrayans are estimated to spread across Ethiopia. Up to now, I have not heard any reasonable Tigrayan elite concerned about these facts and calmly deliberating about the matter and giving it a second thought. Instead, they are still in hyper agitation calling Amharas Tesfafi. The only lone reasonable voice we hear is from Gidey Zeratsion and a few souls here and there. But these are politically dominated, rhetorically outsmarted and or outnumbered by a collective suffocating voice and hence do not have an impact on the wider community. I say let the Tigrayans elites learn from practical life and come to their senses. When they realize that contradiction with Amhara leads to nowhere, they will probably start to sound normal. The sign of it is when they start to stop coalescing around Oromo extremists in discussion forums and behave properly. Tigrayan elites complain of Amhara attacks including road blockades. That is completely false. At some point, the Dessie route may have been closed, but the Afar-Kobo line has never been closed, yet they make it look like Amharas are compromising their supply lines. They complain Fano did this and that without seeing their own sins.

Because of the radicalization of the 1960 generation of the Tigrayan elites who are opinion leaders and still in power, an Amhara-Tigray coalition is not a good project to establish, carry out, and follow up on. It is another Oromara project that miserably failed. The radical Oromos, who were brainwashed for 60 years and learned all sorts of hatred towards the Amharas, following the teachings of TPLF, were the agents of that coalition. It did not take more than 3 months before Abiy Ahmed breached it by filling the Security, Police, Defense, Air Forces, Judiciary and Addis Ababa mayorship with Oromo nationalists with a clear intent to marginalize Amharas. There were no shared values between the allying Amhara and Oromo elites. When there are no shared values, a coalition does not work. Likewise, there is no shared value between Amhara and Tigrayan elites. We know it. There are numerous recent happenings to pinpoint that Tigrayan elites are not reliable partners.  Why did TPLF form a coalition with OLF? Why did TPLF call ye beher behereseb conference and formed a coalition in Mekelle shortly before the 2020 war? Why was an independent Tigrayan Orthodox Church formed? Why did some Tigrayans refuse to see the Ethiopian Orthodox Patriarch, who is ethnically Tigrayan, but welcomed Adanech Abebi and Shimelis Abdissa on a red carpet? This rebellion stems from a deep-seated hatred towards Amharas. 

For a coalition to happen the silent majority of the Tigrayans should be able to remove TPLF, and other TPLF-like extremist parties like Baytona, Salsawi Weyane and Wunat (Free Tigray) and overcome the disciples of TPLF, which includes the majority of the Tigrayan elites. That being said, the Amhara are open without any preconditions to ordinary Tigrayans who aspire to be liberated, work with the Amhara, and remain friendly to them.

Sincerity, remorse, and apology are very essential requirements to create cooperation and maintain harmony. The Tigray elites still see themselves as invincible and they often brag they retreated from Debresina because the USA ordered them to back off when in fact, they could reach Addis Ababa and control the government. This is echoed by the Tigray elite at every level to this date. At the same time, the Tigrayan elites play victims in the 2020-22 war. They earnestly believe they did nothing wrong. Instead, without any shame, they say Amhara and the central government started the war and killed them. They never acknowledged their wrongdoing in Amhara in their three-time evasion. Pushed by many factors or out of losing minds, people can do wrong but eventually admit when the dust settles; they must acknowledge mistakes and learn how to work with others to repair the damage they caused. We do not see these things in TPLF and the Tigrayan elites except for a few. Under such circumstances, calling for a coalition is wrong. Cooperation between the two regions should be limited to committing not to fight each other. That is all. Besides, allying with Tigray will also scare Eritrea a much friendlier nation to the Amhara. If Tigrayans get rid of TPLF and defeat their elite’s conflict-ridden mindset, it is possible to form a good alliance with Amhara and Eritrea as well which will lead to creating a formidable force against Abiy Ahmed. Who wants to remain under Abiy Ahmed Ali’s rules deprived of telephone, internet connection, portable water, banking, electricity, fuel, fertilizer, and medication; women and girls being raped, and civilians drone bombed? Independence is by far better, but you would not form an alliance that would compromise your well-being as observed in the past few years.

Eritrea 

Eritrea, a small nation with a 1000 km coast on the Red Sea, controls two key ports, Assab and Massawa. If Ethiopia were to break up, Eritrea would become the main trade gateway for Amhara. Amhara cannot overlook this and must adopt a friendly policy towards Eritrea. The claim that Debretsion is better than Isaias is simplistic, lacks political insightfulness and is not in the best interest of Amharas. It is made by individuals who do not understand the suffering of the Amhara people and lack the wisdom for what is to come in the future in Ethiopia. Eritreans did not invade the Amhara region or subjugate Amharas, nor did they impose the ANDM on them or take any Amhara territory. Besides, a high-level Eritrean delegation visited Bahir Dar to apologize for any war propaganda that may have implicated Amharas during the Eritrean liberation war against the Derg Regime. Contrary to this, the Tigrayans have not shown any remorse for their actions.

What the Amharas have to focus on is creating a strong bond with Eritrea. Should Ethiopia disintegrate, which the Amharas do not have to worry about, there is another life tomorrow. The Amharas can construct a dry port at Woldiya-Hara Gebeya and Humera. Assab and Mitsiwa are only 350 and 400 km respectively. What is more important for the Amharas is reclaiming and restoring their historical regions, Shewa, Gojam, Wello, and Gonder. They are better off with this arrangement than living with the chameleon Abiy Ahmed and his foot soldiers. Amharas have everything needed to be an independent and prosperous nation. Water, land, and industrious people are the bedrock of prosperity which Amhara have.

International Community

During the conflict between the TPLF and ENDF in Ethiopia, the international community, particularly the West, pressured Abiy Ahmed to stop the war. The UN Security Council held 13 meetings urging Ethiopia to cease hostilities. Aid agencies mobilized to provide food and medicine to the affected population in Tigray. Recent reports indicate severe food shortages in Amhara, surpassing those in Tigray. However, the focus of the international community and media remains primarily on Tigray, as Tigrayan diaspora activists have been more vocal. Atrocities against the Amhara population by the Ethiopian government are not hidden from the West, but action has not been taken against Abiy Ahmed. Amharas have been disproportionately affected in recent years, as documented by human rights organizations. What good does it do to plead repeatedly with the Biden administration, which has not responded, for the protection of Amhara civilians targeted by Abiy Ahmed? The IMF, along with Western financial institutions, is preparing to provide funding for Abiy Ahmed’s regime, which is waging a genocidal war against the Amhara people. Amharas must seek support from Russia to defend themselves, as both Orthodox Christians and Muslims among the Amharas are facing alarming attacks by the regime and its covert killing squad. The Amhara people may need arms for self-defense, and Russia should be consulted in this regard. 

Conclusions

1) An Amhara-Tigray coalition is not a viable or advisable solution at present. The recent history of conflict and animosity between the two elite groups, as well as the actions of TPLF and Tigrayan elites, make it difficult to establish a meaningful alliance. The TPLF’s past actions, including provoking war and targeting innocent Amhara civilians have created deep-seated mistrust and resentment among the Amhara population. Additionally, the lack of shared political views and common goals between the Amhara and Tigrayan elites further complicates the possibility of a successful coalition.

2) The truth is that Tigrayan elites, OLF, and OLF sympathizers are engaged in a “scratch my back and I will scratch yours” game to control Amharas. They are ideologically intertwined, so it does not make sense for Amharas to form an alliance with the TPLFites.

3) Instead of focusing on forming alliances with Tigray, the Amhara should prioritize building strong relationships with Eritrea and other neighboring regions. Creating a dry port at strategic locations and reclaiming historical territories can lead to economic prosperity and stability for the Amhara people. The Amhara needs to embrace diversity and inclusivity, welcoming individuals from different ethnic backgrounds into their community.

4) For any form of cooperation to succeed, sincerity, remorse, and a willingness to acknowledge past mistakes are crucial. The Tigrayan elites must demonstrate a genuine commitment to peace and reconciliation, acknowledging the harm caused by their actions in the past. Without these fundamental elements in place, calling for a coalition between Amhara and Tigray is premature and unlikely to yield positive results.

5) The Oromara coalition, which gained momentum from Amhara’s intellectual naivety, has taken the lives of thousands of Amharas and caused the displacement of millions of Amharas. Proponents of that coalition never considered the long-standing grudges and animosity the Oromo elites had against Amhara. Amharas should not consider the destructive paths of such actions in the name of alliance with Tigray. 

6) Forming an alliance with Tigray may also unsettle Eritrea, a much friendlier nation to the Amhara. Tigrayans need to eliminate the TPLF and overcome their elite’s conflict-ridden mindset. By doing so, it is feasible to establish a strong alliance not only with the Amhara but also with Eritrea, ultimately creating a powerful force against Abiy Ahmed.

7) The best approach to resolving the Amhara-Tigray relationship is to recognize the rights of Tigrayans living in the areas while firmly asserting ownership of Wolkayit and Raya by the Amhara. Amharas cannot abandon their interests in Wolkayit and Raya because ethnic Tigray, with a known border, has existed for many hundreds of years, if not over a thousand years. You should not negotiate or allow someone else to claim territory in your backyard.

8) The routine comments made by Tigrayans about the Pretoria agreement do not hold much significance for potential collaboration with Tigray. At this point, cooperation between Amhara and Tigray should be limited to committing not to fight each other. Tigrayans must tone down the claim about Wolkayit and Raya. An escalation of conflict between the two regions or between Amhara and the federal government in Wolkayit actually benefits Amharas, as it may promote a third-party alliance with Amhara and prompt the international community and the UN to pressure Abiy Ahmed Ali to end the war in Amhara. Tigray is considered a sacred cow to them. They envision an Eritrea-Tigray merger after the death of Isaias, which would allow the USA to control the Red Sea. Tigrayans are seen as the best ally to maintain order.

9) Regardless, people-to-people cooperation and alliance against Abiy Ahmed are possible with all groups of people in Oromia and Tigray, except aligning with the elites and governing parties. However, this should not be a policy line to pursue or energy to waste. 

10) A stronger and more united Ethiopia benefits all Ethiopians. The assertion that only the Amharas are the beneficiaries of a unified Ethiopia is nonsensical. Amharas should not be unfairly targeted with such accusations. In fact, it is in the best interest of minority nationalities to encourage Amharas to remain in the union. Otherwise, they will face severe consequences. Amharas have everything needed to be an independent and prosperous nation. The focus for the Amharas should be on creating an inclusive and welcoming constitution, along with a fair and impartial judiciary system. Anyone who wishes to live in Amhara and become a citizen of the state should be embraced. Concerns about Ethiopia should be considered a secondary issue and a potential source of failure. Ethiopia is not solely an Amhara endeavor; all others must contribute their fair share of sacrifices if they desire to be a part of it.

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

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