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Belligerent Amhara Regional State and Trails of Blood, Rape and Ethnic Cleansing

Belligerent Amhara Regional State and Trails of Blood, Rape and Ethnic Cleansing

Aynalem Sebhatu


After the death of Prime Minister Meles Zenawi in 2012, inter-regional federal states and intra-regional conflicts grew among different ethnic groups threatening to split the Ethiopian federation apart. The ethno-nationalist demands intensified after 2015, especially with the rise of Abiy Ahmed to power. Contrary to his graduate work and his expertise on conflict resolution, Abiy helped foment discontent among political elites and sowing seeds of discord became his hallmark of his leadership.

The wars with Tigray and Oromia, the ethnic conflicts and the looming conflict with Sudan that have created adverse economic, political and social conditions in which Ethiopia now finds itself may be a bad omen for the stability of the country. These damning political developments may force Ethiopians to look at themselves and ask themselves in truth whether they are prepared politically and economically to cope with the realities similar to that of the Derg era mode of existence.

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At this time of uncertainty and disillusionment of Ethiopians about the fate of their country, the Amhara political elites, the Eritrean army and Abiy Ahmed’s army are accused of being responsible for the worst atrocities in Africa since the genocide of Rwanda in 1994, including the massacres in the western Tigray’s town of Mai Kadra and in the holy city of Axum. In fact, massacres of innocent Tigrayans are a daily ritual now and the entire regional state of Tigray is becoming an open-air mall of genocide.  

In western and southern Tigray thousands of Tigrayans have been raped, looted, slaughtered and hundreds of thousands have been expelled. The Amhara special forces and the Fano attacked Tigrayan dominated towns, destroying private and public properties and forcibly expelling civilians from the region in a brutal process that is identified as “ethnic cleansing.” Girls and women are forced into sexual slavery and taken into northern Amhara region as “comfort women.” One day, the Tigrayans’ trails of blood, rape, sexual assault, torture, starvation, imprisonments in western and southern Tigray will be opened and it is going to be a shocker to the conscience of human beings and certainly it will be a violent offense against human decency.

Given the genesis of the war and how the Amhara invaded Tigray, the narrative of all sides suffered in Mai Kadra is, at best, a misreading of what really happened there. The Amharas' fabricated story goes to describe their notion of shared culpability due to the heinous crime created by the revival of the old ethnic hatred between the Amhara and Tigrayans. This is an age-old denial tactic of “blaming the victim;” a weapon of choice for politicized and rationalized violence in order to strengthen the plausible deniability of ethnic cleansing against Tigrayans.

The Amhara political elites did not articulate a coherent policy for their region, but they have generally been highly critical of the TPLF on its management of the country. Never mind about their partnership with the TPLF in running the country for a long time. They have labeled the TPLF the greatest threat to the country and to the region, implying they are keen to work more closely with Isaias Afewerki and Abiy Ahmed to wage war against Tigray.  Their only articulated coherent policy for the last three years could be characterized as expansionist settlers’ policy against their neighboring federal regional states and Sudan.

The Amhara elites show no interest in resolving conflicts using constitutional means and following the rule of law of the country. They set out to expand their borders through the use of force, it does so in ways that require misleading the people of Amhara in facing serious sacrifice of blood and treasure.  All these human sacrifices, wastage of resources and political capital is done in the name of the unsuspecting the people of Amhara.

The Amhara elites’ actions and political orientation are increasingly becoming similar to that of Isaias Afewerki’s strategy of “belligerent maximalism.” It is a strategy of political survival for the leaders of the Amhara region and it fits very well with the political calculation of Abiy Ahmed. All along, Abiy Ahmed’s political strategy has been to create chaos in northern Ethiopia and in Eritrea.  He would love to see the mutual destruction of Eritreans, Tigrayans and the Amhara so that his dreams of becoming a king with power and wealth comes true. If this does not come to fruition, he would love to see Chinese walls or planted explosives and barbed wires on the borders of Eritrea and Tigray, Tigray and Amhara regions.  

Political elites of Amhara have used diversionary external policy in order to distract the people of Amhara from the injera and wat issues within their region. The political elites skillfully diverted the attention of unemployed youth to organize under Fano and special forces to find an adventure in the “wild west” of Tigray.  They awakened and misled the young about Welkait and Raya (western and southern Tigray) and prepared them for war against Tigray.  The Fano and the Amhara extremists’ first taste of blood of Tigrayans took place in different places of northern Gondor in 2016. They killed and expelled thousands of Tigrayans without mercy while the regional officials looked away. Some of the victims were born and raised in Gondor and have no idea where Tigray is. Alas, a significant number of the Tigrayans were forced to move to western Tigray in 2016 and after. They thought they were in their ancestral land and safe but the trail of hate followed them again in fateful days of November 2020.

The Amhara political elites, specially, members of the Amhara Prosperity Party (the old EPRDF), facing a political challenge from a brand-new political organization, the National Movement of Amhara (NAMA), that was created in Bahir Dar in 2018. NAMA embraces a more radical agenda. NAMA gained much popularity from the Amhara youth and it threatened the powers of the ruling party of Amhara. But the very threat of radicalism and chaos that empowered the NAMA eventually provoked a crushing backlash from Abiy Ahmed. Some of the members were jailed. They changed their political rhetoric and tone it down, at least for the time being, and they embraced the diversionary political ploy against the political punching bag (the TPLF).  Demonization of the TPLF and the people of Tigray became the national pastime there by creating an environment for the invasion of Tigray.

What is going to happen to NAMA leadership before the national election? I suspect Abiy will find a way to disqualify (possibly jail) them from participating in the coming election. That is if (big if) the election is going to take place. My main point is the war in Tigray and the illusion of winning the war has bought enough time for the ruling party of the Amhara regional state from public demands for reform and from NAMA’s political challenges.  In addition, the war looming with Sudan might be used to divert the attention of the people of Amhara towards external forces rather than internal problems thereby sparing the political elites some time.

For how long could the Amhara political elites use such diversionary political tactics? That is anybody's guess. But it could not possibly continue forever. There is a high possibility of the NAMA, the Agaw and the Kemant movements would threaten the Amhara ruling party’s election plans. It is also possible people returning from the war fronts might foment significant political demands for reforms if not for a revolution.

Whenever an evidence of heinous crime pops up, a circular finger-pointing still rages over whether the Eritrean army or the Ethiopian military are equally guilty of fostering the genocide in Tigray or Whether the Amhara forces and the Fano; guided by local, regional and federal officials of the Amhara regional state, are uniquely guilty. Neither Isaias Afewerki nor Abiy Ahmed's efforts to invade Tigray would have been possible had the Amhara political elites not mobilized to demand them. In this context, the Amhara political elites have the remarkable ability to rebuild old oppressions from the ashes of social movements.

Unlike the people of Tigray and Eritrea, the people of Amhara relatively hold a romanticised state of understanding of war. Especially the urban elites and diaspora want to win wars in sacrifice-less ways that do not require their own expense nor harm their securities and fortune. Such conceptions of war are leading to the misunderstanding of the true cost of war and the suffering of people unnecessarily.  Whatever truth is coming out from the war crimes in Tigray, it is unlikely to sway hard-core Amhara extremists who still regard Tigrayans as responsible for their alleged persecution of the people of Amhara for the last three decades. In essence, the Amhara political elites joined Isaias Afewerki’s chorus of blame on the TPLF for Eritrea's failure to prosper and to develop democratic institutions.  Hopefully, the blame game is coming to an end.

Tigray will Prevail!

Eternal glory for our martyrs! 

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