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Amhara Fano Leadership Discusses Current Affairs with International Journalists and Analysts

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Toronto – Despite reported severe military losses the Ethiopian government has been claiming a major military gain in the Amhara region of Ethiopia. It has been consistently painting  an image that the Ethiopian Defense Force is doing the final work of eliminating the Fano combatants. 

Fano leaders in different parts of the Amhara region had exclusive press briefings with foreign journalists  and The Amhara Association of America published the transcript of it. 

The full transcript of the briefing is shared below 

By Amhara Association of America

Transcript of exclusive press briefing given by Amhara Fano leaders on current affairs with foreign journalists and analysts.

Updated April 2024

Summary

On Saturday, April 13, 2024, Amhara Fano leaders held an exclusive press briefing with foreign journalists and analysts on current affairs facilitated by the Amhara Association of America (AAA). The Fano leaders received various questions which were translated from English to Amharic and then the Fano were given ample time to respond in Amharic. The audio from the press briefing was recorded and shared with foreign stakeholders who attended the session live and those who could not attend due to schedule constraints. The final version of the briefing is edited therefore order of speakers may not reflect the order in which they spoke during the live briefing. This document contains a transcript of English translations of their responses (originally in Amharic). The audio is available here and a full transcript is available below with questions (in English and Amharic) and responses.

Disclaimer

AAA is a nonprofit organization that is not affiliated with any political party in The United States or in Ethiopia. AAA facilitates discussions to promote understanding between Amhara leaders and various foreign stakeholders. AAA does not claim to represent the Amhara Fano.

Fano Leaders

The Fano leaders who were present for at least some of the press briefing are listed below but do not represent an exhaustive list of all Fano leaders. Fano leaders and members are often referred to by their full name preceded by the title Fano and/or Arbegna (Amharic word roughly translating to “freedom fighter”) and often professional designations such as “Dr” or “Engineer” however these designations and titles are omitted in the list below for brevity. The attending Fano leaders and their positions within their respective structures were as follows:

  • Aseged Mekonnen, Head of Amhara Fano Shewa
  • Abebe Fentaw, Head of Public Relations for East Amhara Fano, Amhara Unity Council
  • Asres Mare Damtie, Deputy Head of Amhara Fano Gojjam
  • Beyene Alamaw, Head of Foreign Affairs and Diplomacy for Amhara Fano Gonder

First question set

  • What are Fano trying to achieve? የፋኖ ትግል ማሳካት የሚፈልገው ግብ ምንድን ነዉ?
  • Does Fano have a central structure across Amhara region? የአማራ ፋኖ የተለያዩ አካባቢ ያሉትን ፋኖዎች በአንድ አቅፎ የያዘ መዋቅር ዘርግቷል ማለት ይቻላል ወይ?
  • What has been done so far when it comes to explaining the objectives behind the Fano struggle to the diplomatic community? የፋኖ ትግል ዓለማዎች ለዲፕማቲክ ኮሚኒቲ ከማስረዳት አንፃር ምን ያክል ስራ ተሰርቷል?

Responses to first question set

Aseged

Thank you – my name is Aseged Mekonnen I am leader of Amhara Fano Shewa (Command) I will respond to the first question that was posed in brief Amhara Fano are fighting foremost to safeguard the survival of the Amhara people This is because the Amhara people have suffered genocide continuously over the past six years Therefore the primary purpose is to ensure the survival of the Amhara people After Fano are able to ensure this they will transition to other matters However the primary purpose of Fano is the survival of the Amhara people.

Asres

My name is Fano Asres Mare Damtie and I am deputy head of Amhara Fano Gojjam The goal of the current Fano resistance is to protect the Amhara people from threats and this can be seen in two ways The first one is physical security – ensuring Amhara people can live peacefully as any Ethiopian.

The second is to ensure the Amhara people have their due political representation In pursuit of these things it is necessary to change the existing constitutional order which has resulted in political marginalization of the Amhara people The constitution falsely portrays unfair relationships between various ethnic groups and aims to rectify that but it was written to make way for creation of new empires at the expense of the Amhara people This is through changing the government structure or undertaking ”regime change” We believe that we can create a system incorporating the will of the Ethiopian people through our armed resistance The other question was whether we have a single command structure There are no political differences or differences in goals within the Fano struggle Under the current circumstance as you have heard from the three of us we are operating while united in our goals and vision At this time there are Fano army structures in all [Amhara] areas with wide membership and respected leaders [Inaudible] We are currently in the process of making a centralized command structure I can not say this would not impact the struggle however we currently we are close to forming the central command Significant work has not been done in explaining our stance to the diplomatic community Aside from the work done in a voluntary capacity by AAA and other diaspora collectives coordinated work has not been done.

Abebe

My name is Fano Abebe Fentaw and I am head of public relations for the East Amhara Fano – Amhara Fano Unity Council

The first question was addressed by Arbegna Aseged Mekonnen and there is not much we can add We emerged as Fano undertaking this resistance under the belief that the Amhara people face an existential threat and that we had to mitigate this threat From this perspective our primary aim is to ensure the survival of the Amhara people Our goal is to ensure our people survive Aside from this I will not go into extensive details as it has been discussed already The existential threat is the result of false narratives which have amassed over many years And over the past six years genocide has been perpetrated against the Amhara people which is so extensive that the deaths of Amharas has become normalized as a statistic Even now these acts continue against those residing in Oromia Therefore genocide is taking place against the Amhara people And these crimes of genocide are systematic with involvement from the regime apparatus of the Oromo Prosperity Party regime [Oromo Liberation Front – Prosperity regime] Our primary purpose is to protect our people who had come out saying ”don’t kill us” so we are simply saying ”don’t kill our people” So our goal is to ensure we can emerge victorious in our struggle for self-preservation Afterwards our wish is to join with fellow Ethiopians in building a democratic system in Ethiopia In order to achieve this we must overthrow the regime led by Abiy Ahmed and his Prosperity Party officials Therefore this is our aim as Amhara Fano in brief – thank you Thank you again – the responses as made by my comrade Asres Mare Damtie are just as he says From this there are some additions – efforts have been and are underway to organize a centralized command

Our brothers are here among the stakeholders in that process Therefore it can be said this structure does presently exist Based on the situation now it can be said this central structure currently exists and this will be a matter we bring to the public soon

Beyene

Thank you and firstly my name is Arbegna Beyene Alamaw I am head of external affairs (Amhara Fano Gonder) I wanted to begin with addressing why Amhara Fano are fighting The struggle we are currently undertaking is one for self-preservation And we can only ensure our survival when the regime and group in power committing the crime of genocide is overthrown Our reason for this struggle is ensuring the security of our people [*technical interruption*] Overall we believe in order to resolve the problem faced by our people the Abiy regime and group in power must be removed from its foundation Further, regarding organizational structures We have a structure with both military and political divisions This structure includes lawyers, doctors, farmers and economists and other professionals so all disciplines are present in the structure Our structure includes all those who understand the significance of this struggle for selfpreservation against the suffering, misery and destruction brought on by the regime of Abiy Ahmed who wishes to destroy the country and impose Oromumma There are structures from all four regions and a central joint structure which incorporates all regions equally and helps to facilitate joint planning And as a result of past fighting, between 60-75% of area in the region is under Fano control

Regarding the administering itself it has been addressed previously so there is no need to repeat it We currently find ourselves at the final juncture We have created a disciplined army that is stronger than ever and understands the cause for which it fights I have finished – thank you brothers

Second question set

  • What took place yesterday in Addis Ababa? Was it a coordinated operation? Do Fano have plans to conduct similar operations in Addis Ababa? በአዲስ አበባ በቅርቡ ፋኖ ያደረገዉ ኦፕሬሽን በደንብ ታስቦበት የየደረገ ኦፕሬሽን ነበር ወይ? ከነበረስ ምን ለማሳከት ያለመ ኦፕሬሽን ነበር? መሰል ኦፕሬሽን በአዲስ አበባ ወደፉት ለማድረግ ታቅዳላቹህ ወይ?
  • Do you believe it is possible to undertake negotiations with the Ethiopian Government? ከኢትዮጲያ መንግሰት ጋር ድርድር ይቻላል ብላችሁ ታስባለችሁ?

Responses to second question set

Asres

Ok – regarding the matter of what transpired in Addis Ababa similar operations have been undertaken in various major cities targeting only military and security structures What makes the Addis Ababa operation different and the reason it drew media attention is probably because it was the first of its kind in the capital. This and other operations have been planned and coordinated for a long time. Going forward this work will continue in an improved manner Such operations are carried out in order to attain victories and fulfill our vision and the end goals of the struggle so they will continue Next to address the question of whether Amhara Fano can negotiate with the regime

[Inaudible] …millions of young people have entered this resistance As this has been happening our country has a leader with no sense of accountability for all that has happened so we have no faith that they will prepare themselves for negotiations in good will As when they will come to that reality and when they will accept that truth, the struggle on the ground will determine it The reality on the ground and what must be done without any political or moral hesitation is to crush the Ethiopian military that has invaded the Amhara people and region, its the only plan From our experience so far, we don’t believe the government has achieved the capability to resolve the Amhara people’s questions through negotiations

Abebe

Regarding negotiations there is something we want the international community to understand The Amhara people are not difficult to administer and believe in a central government and the history of the past supports this The people like peace and want peace In fact this is a people who have made significant contributions to peace efforts in Ethiopia and throughout Africa This is the case now and it will be in the future too Despite this there have been efforts to falsely portray the Amhara people as being against peace including by the ruling party and this is part of the false narrative rhetoric The Amhara Fano entered its resistance in order to ensure the survival of the Amhara people saying ”don’t kill our people” This is a people who have been subject to horrific atrocities in the 21st century.

This is a people suffering genocide And this genocide is systemic – led and perpetrated by the regime by order of Abiy Ahmed Therefore allowing Abiy Ahmed to continue his reign would mean endorsing the enslavement of our people And that would be if the people were allowed to live as slaves We cannot accept this scenario but Abiy Ahmed seeks to fulfill his vision of prosperity on the burials of the Amhara people We fully understand this reality so we refuse to negotiate with the Abiy Ahmed regime with reason The matter of our survival being the primary reason That is against the Prosperity Party regime led by him and his affiliates So the continuation of this regime’s rule would mean the continuation of the existential threat against the Amhara people and this threat could in fact result in endangerment of being eliminated The Amhara people have been engaged in a heroic resistance against a regime using everything from AK-47s up to drones to massacre the Amhara people including innocent civilians We strive to mitigate this, neutralize the fear and ensure our survival If we were to negotiate this would mean salvaging this regime And the continuation of this regime would mean the people would move towards being wiped out The Amhara people are peace seeking and the Amhara Fano came from this society and are fighting this war in a highly disciplined manner We are fighting to ensure the survival of the Amhara people with discipline meaning the world can attest we are not committing acts of theft or rape which is unthinkable for us This is our moral stature which the international community should understand The Amhara Fano will ensure its survival and promote a democratic system not only in Ethiopia but in the Horn of Africa region Amhara Fano are fighters capable of making grand change and carry a grand vision This is our vision On behalf of Amhara Fano I would like to clarify our stance towards negotiations is not because our people dislike peace or are war-like as they say So if we negotiate and the regime continues the Amhara people will disappear Therefore the regime must be removed from its foundation not only for the Amhara people but from Ethiopia and East Africa since their fate is interlinked As you all know, with the Red Sea issue and the Somaliland issue, he (Abiy) was trying to mobilize the Ethiopian people for war but when he could not succeed now he is plotting to start other wars The removal of this regime from its foundation would not just bring substantial change to the Amhara people or the Ethiopian people but also for the entire Horn of Africa. That is the big change we are bringing The international community should take this into consideration and everyone should do their part to get rid of the murderous and destructive regime of Abiy Ahmed The reason we refuse to negotiate is because this would mean the continuation of the Abiy regime and the elimination of the Amhara people This would make us complicit in our own demise therefore we reject negotiation We have set out in this final struggle and we are in a circumstance where we are fully committed to this cause We are currently in favorable circumstances and are in a position where we can ensure the survival of our people On this matter we wish for the international community and especially for America to give this matter due attention Thank you

Aseged

Thank you – we are at a time when Amhara Fano from all four corners are coming together under a single centralized command structure This is because we are approaching the time of victory So we are working to bring our structures together Our ultimate goal is winning and taking power As Amhara Fano we believe peace and equality for all people can only be assured when we enter and take control of Arat Kilo As we do this we will not carry out any negotiations with the murderous and racist Abiy regime and his affiliates There will be a transition period and during this transition there will be engagement with communities in Ethiopia over how to build a new system We will create an Ethiopia which promotes peace and equality for all its citizens Amhara Fano believes this will be achieved only through engaging in discussions in equality Therefore when we topple this regime we will lead a transitional government And in this transition we will conduct dialogue with various communities in Ethiopia and with international observers to promote equality The Amhara Fano believe there is no other option but to build a country where all can enjoy peace, equality and where people can move and go outside in peace This is our ultimate vision – thank you

Beyene

I can comment on the operation which was conducted in Addis Ababa. For a long time a system for carrying out operations comprising members from across the four parts of the region.

The system is intended to selectively target regime leaders and officials considered to be part of the regime’s spinal card and brain This will also continue and our brother the heroic Arbegna Fano Nahusenay Andargae was also a leader within Amhara Fano Gonder The work that was done was satisfactory to us It was a first display of where we want to go This work will continue tomorrow and the day after It was a demonstration that Fano are organized even near Arat Kilo directly under the ruling party The work was undertaken jointly with participation from Shewa Fano, Wollo Fano and Gojjam Fano This was also because there is work underway to bring the Fano from all four regions under a central command This operation was one way we have demonstrated our cooperation I believe there was also a question raised about negotiations if I am not mistaken As Fano we have no wish to negotiate with the murderous regime of Abiy Ahmed which employs ethnic federalism for its ethnonationalist agenda The reason being we believe ethnic federalism is the root cause of the ethnic-based massacres, mass displacement, persecution and destruction of property And because we believe regime change is necessary So as Fano we have no desire to negotiate with this murderous criminal regime When we realize the end goal of our struggle and regime change occurs it will become possible to hold dialogue with brotherly communities and people’s across Ethiopia on self-governance and leadership

Third question set

  • Does Fano have a political wing and does it have any political strategies for governing areas under its control? Are there areas they have under their control now and how are they governing those areas? ፋኖ የፓለቲካ ክንፍ እና በቁጥጥር ስር የሚሆኑ ቦታዎችን ለማስተዳደር የፖለቲካ ስትራቴጂ አለዉ ወይ? በአሁኑ ወቅት በፋኖ ቁጥጥር ስር የሆኑ አካባቢዎች አሉ? ፋኖ እነዚህን ቦታወች እንዴት ነው እያስተዳደረ ያለው?

Responses to third question set

Abebe

Great thank you – I believe both points have been addressed by my comrades There are many things that have been raised in connection with the goals of Fano As it is known we are leading a struggle for self-preservation We are balancing both the political and military wing as we continue our struggle We have many educated members including doctors, professors so this is a struggle where we have professionals on the field with us and there is no shortage of expertise or political experience There are many liberated areas and it is Fano that is administering in these areas On this matter what is important to understand is outside of the main roads leading to Addis Ababa (and Arbegna Aseged may supplement this point) We can see the majority of rural areas are under the effective control of Fano They must understand our capacity as Fano because it is us who are administering For us as East Amhara Fano, in the areas where we operate there is presence of the enemy’s army in the major cities, there are Prosperity soldiers We have avoided urban warfare to prevent our people from becoming collateral otherwise we are fully capable of engaging in these areas.

We are fighting for our people but the regime has used any pretext to attack civilians including with drone attacks in major cities, so our operations in major cities has mainly been to get resources from our people as well as the enemy The majority of rural areas are being administered by Amhara Fano We are working on administration in rural areas at the kebele level we are organizing administrators and even members of the peace and security bureau They should understand this and that the ruling power has been isolated to the major cities It is hard to call the ruling power a government. Most of the people live in rural areas. In the current situation, it would not be an exaggeration to say Fano is administering more than 60 Outside of the main roads and main cities the regime has no control for example Prosperity Party’s hold on Woldia does not connect to Dessie. They (the government) can not use the road. Next, we are in the process of interconnecting Wollo area as majority of the rural areas are being administered by Fano We are also organizing and appointing leaders we are overseeing renewed development efforts Over the past year the Amhara people did not pay tax to the Abiy government and even now they are not paying tax The people are paying tax to Amhara Fano, who is fighting to safeguard the people, by providing food and other supports. The Prosperity Party is disabled and no longer functioning in Amhara Region. This is what we would like you to know, our people have been using all available resources to support us, and as I stated earlier we have been organizing the people using our structure to help appoint leaders so we are working on administration for the people. And it can be said virtually all rural areas are under Fano administration On this occasion I would like you [facilitators] to relay this to them [international audience]

Beyene

When we set out in this struggle we had a political strategy in place and a political division There are a large number of areas under our control and we have arranged administrations including political representatives from the people at the kebele level Overall Fano are administering but also in the middle of an armed struggle So there are elected leaders from the public and we collect taxes to empower these leaders to administer effectively We are doing this at the moment as we are administrating kebeles and woredas So we do have a political strategy in place which allows administration, we are able to facilitate administration from elected leaders and these leaders work closely with the Fano This is what I can say in response to the question The response was short in accordance with the question This is what I can say.

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