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A perspective on Solomon Gebre Selassie’s article entitled “The Perfect Being The Enemy Of The Good: Amhara Fano’s Deliberate Pace At Forming A Unified Command Center” 

A perspective on Solomon Gebre Selassie’s article entitled “The Perfect Being The Enemy Of The Good: Amhara Fano’s Deliberate Pace At Forming A Unified Command Center February 28, 2024”” 

photo : file

By Emjedo Farda

Mr. Gebre Selassie’s  version of Fano’s unique experiment in building a military institution from the bottom-up emphasizes grassroots involvement and self-reliance. According to the author, it contrasts with traditional top-down rebel institutions influenced by international parties, such as the Chinese and Vietnamese rebel movements. Fano’s self-defense, the author claims,  traces back to its roots in the anti-Fascist Resistance (or anti colonial or patriotic movement of 1936-1941 Ethiopia), and the struggle in the formation of Confederation of Ethiopian Labor Union (CELU) organization formation which had their  roots in local resistance. 

Comparing today’s Fano leaders  to those who led the anti-fascist struggle is a distortion of the past historical facts. The Battle of Maychew was a significant engagement during the Second Italo-Ethiopian War, fought between Ethiopia and Italy from 1935 to 1936. Some of the prominent Ethiopian leaders who participated in the Battle of Maychew and were considered patriotic figures during this conflict included  Emperor Haile Selassie, the reigning Emperor of Ethiopia during the war who  played a crucial role in rallying Ethiopian forces against the Italian invasion along with his officers Ras Kassa Haile Darge, Ras Imru Haile Selassie, Ras Seyoum Mangasha etc. , and these  leaders, along with many others organized the patriotic people of the time in resistance and symbolized the spirit of Ethiopian patriotism during the war against Fascist Italy’s invasion under Mussolini. Ethiopia as an independent  state defending itself from foreign invaders looks nothing  like the current armed struggle among Ethiopians.

The Fanno warriors  of today consist of Shaleka Dawit Wolde-Giorghis,  Eskinder Nega, Zemene Kasse etc and the poor peasant kids  who are mobilized to kill and be killed needlessly because of the current politics of the movement. The politics, the leaders and the movement have no resemblance to the Anti-Italian Fascist resistance during  Ethiopian’s  occupation in world war II.  The author drawing similarities is based on a fundamental misconception in understanding and characterizing  the present state of Ethiopia which is not colonial and is a nationalist and reformist one.

The author’s  second  fundamental misconception downplays or ignores  the importance of an organization/ political party  which typically  sets the  core beliefs or ideologies that guide its policies and actions. These can include economic beliefs (like capitalism or socialism), social beliefs (such as conservatism or progressivism), or a combination of both and the politics that serve  its guiding principle(s). The principles  are  a source of strength when defending its position from other parties. 

The principles of an organization/party identifies, informs its strategies, and mobilizes its supporters, ultimately contributing to its success in the competitive world of politics.  A  well-defined organization/ party politics  serves as a guiding principle and a source of strength when defending its position from other parties and/ or terrorist organizations. This  is vividly absent in Fano’s struggle making it susceptible to demagogues and diaspora intellectuals contending to please external enemies.  

When referring to other countries’ historical examples,  leaders of North Vietnam during the anti-imperialist war against the United States were primarily Ho Chi Minh and Vo Nguyen Giap. Ho Chi Minh, a key figure,  led a  well-defined party politics in Vietnam and served as the President of North Vietnam from 1945 until his death in 1969. Vo Nguyen Giap was a general in the Vietnam people’s army and played a crucial role in planning military strategies against the United States and its allies during the Vietnam War. These local leaders, along with other Vietnamese  party officials and military commanders, led the resistance against U.S. involvement in the internal affairs of Vietnam and  were victorious.

The  Vietnam War officially ended on April 30, 1975, when North Vietnamese forces captured Saigon, the capital of South Vietnam. This event marked the conclusion of the war and led to the reunification of Vietnam under one rule.

A well-defined party/organizational politics  provides a sturdy foundation for the party to withstand attacks and criticism from rival organizations  or parties. By clearly articulating its positions and justifying its policies, a party/organization  can effectively counter arguments and defend its position against detractors. A strong and  well-defined party politics energizes and mobilizes the party’s supporters, rallying them behind a common cause and inspiring them to advocate for the their party’s/organization’s agenda. Fano sorely misses a party/organization leadership.

The  author  states  that Fano  “…unlike traditional rebel movements reliant on external support, .. prioritizes self-sufficiency, which can enhance resilience and independence. For example, Fano’s focus on local resource mobilization and community-based defense strategies enables it to sustain operations without relying extensively on external funding or arms supply”.   If  there is no well-defined party politics/organization  to lead the struggle,  no amount of defense strategy or external funds  will help the movement forward and will result in its  degeneration and extinction.

While maintaining a consistent well-defined party/organization politics is important, parties/organizations  also need to engage in negotiation and compromise to advance their interests in the political arena. A well-defined party /organization politics provides a framework for these negotiations, guiding party leaders in their interactions with other political actors.

The author,  in his second article for “a Unified Amhara Command”…cites that “critics point to internal divisions within Fano, highlighting the need for a unified Amhara command  to provide strategic direction”.  The author states “for instance, differences in ideology, leadership ambitions, and regional interests sometimes lead to factionalism within Fano, weakening its overall effectiveness and coherence”. Based on his quote of differences, then the first thing to do is to reconcile differences where it is possible focusing on the importance and decisive nature of well-defined party politics position which currently is unidentified and  woefully missing in the author’s  discourse  or the Fano movement.

A well-defined party politics  serves as a guiding principle and a source of strength when defending its position from other parties or terrorist organizations . It shapes the party’s identity, informs its strategies, and mobilizes its supporters, ultimately contributing to its success in the competitive world of politics. This is sorely missing in the several  Fano movements, and the author says very little or nothing about it.

The author relies on Fano’s ethical treatment of prisoners of war which contrasts favorably compared to other rebel groups, potentially bolstering its legitimacy and garnering support. Yes,  the Oromo Liberation Army (Shene) kills not only its prisoners but innocent civilians, displacing people from  the vicinity of  their village.  The author’s point is well taken on its merits but how much “good behavior in treating prisoners’ ‘ can make up for  lack of  a consistent well-defined party or organizational  politics remains a mystery in  the author’s narrative.

The author also states as a force for  Ethiopia’s democratic transition “Fano’s role and its goals of establishing a democratic government includes identifying stakeholders including opposition parties, civic groups, TPLF, OLA, and religious institutions” and emphasizing the importance of “dialogue with OLA & TPLF and even elements within the regime after dismantling the ruling party”.  OLA and TPLF have exacted a lot of capital from the good will of the Ethiopian people and their adventurous wars have cost them dearly lately and both groups have been diminished  and are on the edge of irrelevance. 

The author’s  supportive suggestions  about the needed pro-Fano media communication with the diaspora and its role  in fostering collaboration, unity of purpose, and supporting the needed communications  etc., is not clear.   Some of the leaders of  Fano in the past,  like Shaleka Dawit Wolde-Giorgis who on a diaspora mic said that  Amharas are the “heir apparent” and entitled to ascend to power and lead Ethiopia .  He continued “if not us (Amhara) who are we going to leave our country to?”  This view is more a liability  and  backward looking  and a view counter to pro-democracy movements.

HW

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

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1 COMMENT

  1. Mr. Emjedo Farda,

    You have overlooked a fundamental aspect of warring groups. You cannot compel them to convene a meeting and elect a leader as in the formation of a political party. These fighting groups were not initially structured as parties with designated leaders. They arose spontaneously, and they cannot be compared to the leaders of Vietnam or Ethiopian patriots who held prominent positions from the outset. However, as the struggle against fascist Italy persisted, new leaders emerged gradually, such as Belay Zeleke in Gojam and Abebe Aregay in Shewa. Leadership is earned through battlefield achievements, not simply by conducting elections in a specific forest. If the Fano in Gojam, Shewa, or Gonder, or Wello achieves a significant victory, the leader will naturally gain recognition from the other Fano members. Why do you believe that establishing a party like Ezema or Semayawi is a simple task? You cannot compel armed men to follow you; leadership is determined by your performance in battle. That tie is not yet ready. One has to excel over others, and that time is not there. They are on par. Rather they should form a committee of the four provinces.

    However, you did raise an important point regarding the necessity for the Fano to control resources in the areas they govern. I believe the fanos did not intend to impose taxes on the people. They believed that the primary responsibility of the local population was to support their daily food supply, which they did. Do you think the small amount of money we send is sufficient to feed thousands of fanos? A resounding no.

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