The Amara People’s Future: Leaving the Ethiopian Federation!!
In 1989, the Tigrayan Liberation Front (TPLF) created a party known as the Ethiopian Peoples’ Revolutionary Democratic Party (EPRDF). In 1991, it seized power and imposed ethnic federalism in Ethiopia after defeating a military group known as the Derg. In spite of this, pan-Ethiopianism remained a popular concept within the Ethiopian political landscape up until 2005. This can be easily proved from past political records, including that of the CUD. The CUD party, led by the late Hailu Shawel, received much more votes in Oromiya during the 2005 national election than the much-touted Oromo People’s Congress, led by Marera Gudina.
Following a decisive defeat in the 2005 election, the TPLF-dominated EPRDF reversed election results by force, jailed opposition leaders, and promulgated repressive laws that suffocated political space for opposition parties to function. Soon after, development became the slogan of the ruling party instead of democracy and good governance. The EPRDF continued to claim it received 99% of the votes in the 2010 and 2015 national elections. TPLF managed to keep its supremacy within EPRDF under the guise of democratic centralism principles, where Tigrayan elites hold the party’s leadership apparatus.
Notwithstanding the TPLF’s success, circumstances were not in favor of a minority ethnic group remaining in power forever. The Ethiopian constitutional order was more like a confederal arrangement, and it gained unprecedented ideological strength over time. Elites within the various regions of the confederation saw themselves as the sole players in the political landscapes of their regions. The TPLF’s decision-making authority, which glued Ethiopia together from 1991 to 2017 by force, through democratic centralism, gradually got eroded and started to crumble by the end of 2017.
Two critical phenomena happened that changed the Ethiopian political landscape. In 2016, the TPLF-led EPRDF faced eminent armed resistance in Gondar when the Tigray government sent its police and militia to arrest Cornel Demeke Zewdu, who was the leader of the Wolkayit Amara movement. In this incident, the EPRDF, which was once seen as a strong and feared party, was no longer seen as an impossible organization that could not be defeated. That incident became the cause for critical supporters of the TPLF to leave the city of Gondar in thousands for fear of their lives and believing that they have no future in the Amara region despite assurances from their neighboring Amaras. The second facet of the resistance came from the Oromos, who were inspired by the Gonder episode. In towns and cities, Oromo rights activists and their foot soldiers became increasingly organized and provided furious opposition to the Ethiopian government led by Hailemariam Desalegn by torching factories, blocking roadways, and interrupting supply lines. Tigrayans inside the EPRDF were perplexed and unsure what to do, and Hailemariam Desalegn finally decided to resign as Prime Minister in March 2018, and he was replaced by Abiy Ahmed.
The 2018 political change that brought Abiy Ahmed to the helm of power in Ethiopia, which was much admired and got the support of all Ethiopians, not only lost its trail within a few months, but it completely changed its direction by 180 degrees. Today, let alone to aspire for a fair and free election, it is practically impossible for Pan-Ethiopian political parties to make an election campaign in Tigray and Oromiya. Neither democracy nor good governance is possible in today’s Ethiopia. Oromiya, Benishangul, and some parts of the South Ethiopian localities have become meat grinding machines against Amaras.
There is no doubt that the continuation of Ethiopia (with a population of 120 million people) as one entity is advantageous to every citizen or ethnic group in Ethiopia. Ethiopia’s political prominence and economic competitiveness will grow, and its position as Africa’s gateway and mediator will undoubtedly be recounted by every major force on the planet. However, that role for Ethiopia has started to become a thing of the past because of tribalism. Ethiopia’s future is to fragment into ethnic enclaves and create a coalition of the willing. While all ethnic groups are motivated to be masters of their respective ethnic groups, Amaras political elites are detached from reality. The reasons behind this continued narration of Ethiopianism by the Amaras are many, some of which are the following:
Amara’s wishful thinking
Amara elites think that all Ethiopians believe that all Ethiopians love Ethiopia and each other, including Amaras. As a result of this imaginative and unrealistic wishful thinking, ordinary Amaras are paying a high price, including their lives. If one makes a quick scan of the social media Ethiopians participate in, the general consensus among the various ethnic group elites is that they are only concerned about their own respective ethnic enclaves. They are highly motivated to be the sole owners of their villages, zones, and regions without other ethnic groups coming to them. As a result of three decades of institutionalized propaganda by the TPLF, unfortunately, the Amaras are seen as people who believe in one centralized country, one language, and one religion. This has taken deep root in the minds of many of the elites of various ethnic groups in Ethiopia and is particularly a common talking point among the Oromos and Tigrayan elites. As we know, political order in society is ultimately decided by the elites and die-hard fringe elements, and more so in the Ethiopian governing experience.
Reality Amaras do not want to accept
The concept of Ethiopianism before being an Amara has caused tremendous damage to Amaras, and Amara elites do not seem to grasp this reality; Ordinary Amaras with little or no political understanding are being dispossessed of their properties and, dearest of all, their lives. This is done by none other than their own non-Amara Ethiopians as a result of political agitation and misguided political beliefs. The reality is that Ethiopia does not exist in the minds and hearts of non-Amara Ethiopians. Amaras should understand and realize that their dear Ethiopia is a figment of their imagination, and they are left hanging in the clouds with no country or land to call their own. The Ethiopian case is closed, and if it needs to be saved from death, it is up to the non-Amaras to put up all the necessary efforts.
Democracy had been the burning question for Amaras for six decades. They were at the forefront of activism against any form of suppression or injustice. Amara teachers and students have gone to the extent of supporting the confiscation of the properties of their own parents for the sake of equality and justice Despite all of Amaras’ sacrifices for the good of all Ethiopians, Amaras should recognize that the rest of Ethiopia does not treat them fairly.
What Amaras need to focus on
Democracy and justice can only happen when there is a common understanding in society. There must be consensus to remove bad leaders from power in the event of corruption, mismanagement, and political suppression. Ethnic federalism and democracy are mutually exclusive. Under such governance, political leaders are not accountable. Rather, ethnic profiling, attacks, and dictatorship are the norm rather than the exception. That said, there is, however, a way for Amaras to escape one of the problems they suffer from: ethnic suppression. Who wants to be forever marginalized and attacked by ethnically based bad governance? Amaras should learn very valuable lessons from the sacrifices they have made for over 30 years. By clinging to the idea of Ethiopianism, Amara elites have failed ordinary Amaras, who carry the burden of mass displacements and killings.
It is time for Amaras to think for themselves, reject wishful thinking, and accept reality. When they accept reality, the solution is clear: claim their ancestral and historical territory, as indicated in Figure 1 and start their own state, either within Ethiopia or as an independent country. If non-Amaras honestly want Ethiopia to survive and put effort into it, Amaras will accept their invitations with unconditional acceptance of Article 39 of the current Ethiopian constitution, which allows Amaras to declare independence from Ethiopia.
Democracy in Ethiopia is a lost cause. The Amaras can build a prosperous Amara land without having to be part of Ethiopia. Its hard-working farmers, strategic location, vast water resources, attractive scenery and historical resources for tourism, and fertile agricultural land give Amara a competitive advantage to do that. In 2022, the Netherlands, with one-quarter the size of Amara land and half the population of Amara, generated 49.6 billion euros from agricultural exports alone. Amara State, with its hardworking farmers, can make hunger and malnutrition history in just two years if they opt to build their own state. What Amaras need to focus on is making alliances with countries such as Russia, Eritrea, Somalia, and Djibouti and regions such as Somali, Afar, and selected ethnic groups in South Ethiopia for normalized relations, security, and trade.
Time to move on
Now is the perfect time for Amaras to claim their territory and establish an Amara state (Fig. 1), at a time when they are aware of the intentions of non-Amaras and state actors whose main objective is to wipe out all Amaras from the face of the earth. The choices for Amaras are either to get wiped out or fight back for survival. It is also time for Amaras to stop being the guardian of Ethiopia; they sacrificed too much, and that should be enough. Amaras must understand that their failure to think ethnically is the primary cause for the defeat of the Derg by the TPLF and for Abiy Ahmed to come to power.
We call on all Amara intellectuals to start the discussion on how to realize a prosperous Amara nation, if not democracy. We encourage Amara experts to put up a plan of action that is required to lay out the framework towards that goal. We encourage engineers of all disciplines, resource specialists, economists, and financial officers to start organizing a policy document that will help experts compile a master document to lay the foundation for a free Amara state.
God Bless Amara!!!