The Anti- Amara Pogroms and the Genocidal Politics of the TPLF in Ethiopia
By Michael Wossen (PhD)
August 3, 2016
"Now they have won our brothers, and our clan can no longer act like one. They have put a knife on the things that held us together and we have fallen apart." Chinua Achebe.
In A Problem From Hell, Power chastises the international community for its timidity and failure to stop genocides, especially in Africa. This indifference is occurring long after this appalling crime has been named and proscribed by international law, and genocidal elements worldwide are seeking absolution just as victims are seeking justice. Yet, the crime continues to consume its victims in Africa. Somalia, Gambella, Ogaden , Afar, Wolkayit are all sites of crimes against humanity. This international indifference is characterized in the callous words of the late Boutros Boutros Ghali, spoken at the beginning of the Rwandan genocide:’ What is happening in Rwanda is first Hutus killing Tutsi and Tutsis killing Hutu, and this is the usual order of thing.’ Also, the book most borrowed from the UN library is a doctoral thesis that inquires into how to escape prosecution for war crimes. Genocide Watch has contemplated a possible genocide against the Tigreans of Ethiopia, as a backlash to their segregationist and cruel policies of ‘internal colonialism’ (Stanton). A similar note of warning was issued to Ethiopians more recently by Dawit Woldegiorgis, who was a prominent UN witness to the genocide in Rwanda. He recognizes the gradual slide of Ethiopia into the genocidal abyss. A prominent TPLF General, and former Ethiopian chief of staff Gen. Tsadkan has concluded that the undemocratic status quo is unsustainable.
In this article, we are more concerned about the prevailing genocide against the ‘Amharas’ unfolding in Ethiopia. This particular form of organized violence against a specific group of people in Ethiopia, has been ongoing, officially at least since the TPLF’s conquest of state power in 1991. During the insurgency years, fighters were encouraged to mercilessly shoot the donkeys, as the Amaras were referred to. The dehumanizing terminology of genocide implies something specific, and those intellectuals who avoid it or choose to euphemize it today risk undermining the needless death and destruction it is causing. A silent genocide is unfolding in Ethiopia, in full view of the international community and the humanitarian organizations. Western silence on Ethiopian atrocities is deafening. I use the term genocide here to refer to the intended systemic and deliberate eradication or destruction of an entire people, a nation, an ethnic group etc. This is precisely what Lemkin mean when he coined the phrase in 1944. In 2016, the TPLF’s hands are soaked in Amhara blood.
As the Berlin Wall came down in Europe, other walls emerged between African communities. New African countries like Eritrea and South Sudan emerged as well. It is also no longer a secret that the Tigrean founders of the TPLF had in the 1970s openly contemplated the destruction of the Amara ethnic group in Ethiopia. Gebre-Medhin Araya, the former financial officer of the Tigrean ethnic movement, has been lately talking about this devilish intention of the party’s inner group. It was first discussed by Meles-Sibhat & Co. during the early years of the Tigrean ethnic-nationalist movement. Meles thought the matter was rather simple. The Amara serve us (the TPLF) nothing, he reasoned. The Chauvinist Amara and Tigrean people were deemed totally incompatible enemies, so the colonizing Amaras, their real name, must be subjugated, dispossessed and eradicated as oppressors, so that Tigreans may live peacefully ever after. The class struggle had been replaced by an ethnic struggle for supremacy. In this zero-sum struggle, a people were set against a people.
Besides, the blueprint for this crime had already been designed by the fascist occupiers of Ethiopia. In 1937, General (Chemical) Graziani had declared triumphantly that henceforth “Amharas presently residing in non-Amhara regions” would be resettled in “their land of origin.” This encapsulates the Melesian logic as well. The strategy of displacing the Amaras from across Ethiopia and containing them in a designated homeland or Killil, is a planned and deliberate policy of Amarophobia long held by the TPLF elite. This is a bid to re-engineer and wipe away centuries of population movement, intermarriages and admixture of the Ethiopian people. Meles’ fear of Amaras was legendary. This so called ‘ethnic federation’ it is run by a like-minded group of Eritrean-Tigrian born Askari-banda clique, assembled around the Issaias recruited Meles-Sebhat & Co. in Ethiopia.
Just as Fascism was born from Italian nationalism, Woyanne fascism was incubated in the development of modern Tigrean ethnic nationalism by the descendants of Askaris, who were native (Hamasien-Agame) Italian troops. Most TPLF’s leader’s heritage goes back to the Askaris. Prof. Mesfin rightly points out that the present generation cannot even distinguish between the offspring of Askaris and those of the Arbegna. This is what has allowed the former success. The movement’s ideological details have been defined by the manifestations of Italian colonialism and British intervention in the region. British intelligence supported Mussolini’s rise to power, as it did Meles’. The official transition of power from the Derg to the Woyannes was executed in London.
In Europe, Anti-Ethiopianism has existed at least since the end of the 17tCentury, if not much earlier. Ultimately however, the paternity of this criminal system of ethnic killils or ethnic federalism goes back to Mussolini’s fascists. As a wise Ethiopian observed during the post-liberation era of the monarchy, “although Italy’s army was driven out, its politics was not.”
The Woyanne leadership’s commitment to rob and uproot the peaceful Amara population from its ancestral lands, and homes across Ethiopia has been inherited from the fascist occupiers of Ethiopia 1936-41. This crime is being accomplished under the false pretext that the Amara are colonizers. As they say, incitement is as bad as committing the crime. Such genocidal intent constitutes’ a crime against humanity’ by its very nature. The pain and suffering visited upon Amaras in EPRDF’s Ethiopia since 1991 is enormous and still expanding. The humanity and dignity of Amaras is transgressed daily, and the so called donor world has decided to tolerate and laugh off these crimes of the TPLF, as long as the rulers pay respect to the rhetoric of democracy and protect the Euro-American military footprints and economic interests in the region. To be a fairly well-informed Amara these days, is to rage at this collective hypocrisy in the face of recurring anti-Amara pogroms.
Take the current dilemma of the people of Wolkayit and Tsegede. In fascist manner, the geographic space has been identified as Tigrean. The people who inhabit the region had formed a committee, insisting that they are Amaras in identity as opposed to being Tigreans, as they have been misidentified by the TPLF state 25 years ago. This is not just an honest ‘mistake’ but a serious case of politically motivated misrecognition of a people’s identity, to better claim the territory as part of greater Tigrai. This is victor’s justice and those who question it are subversives. You see, the place has been designated as part of an expanding lebensraum for Tigreans, and the indigenous Amaras have been deemed expendable. Hence a criminal scheme of identity deformation and what the experts refer to as ‘psychosomatic disenfranchisement’ has been imposed on the Amharic-speaking population of this region. This atrocity combined with evictions and has been ongoing for the past quarter of a century. The Amara people finally said ‘enough’ in Gondar recently. As a resident of the region complains, he did not fight the Derg to become a Tigrean, but to live freely. Members of this minority ethnic group (6% of the total population) have set themselves up as the privileged first ‘golden’ citizens in an ethically reconfigured Ethiopia. Their population is moved to populate and farm the Tigrean designated territories.
This identity deformation and population shift, warn the experts, exists throughout the Tigrean-coveted Amara regions of Ethiopia. As one of the protest slogans in Gondar read ‘the demand of the Wolkayit people is the demand of the Amara people.’ The TPLF’s operation has the ability to severely damage the victim’s ‘ontologies and existentialities’ and result in diminished self-worth and self- esteem. A form of dehumanization As Sibhat Nega of the TPLF’s leadership constantly remind us, like their Askari forefathers, the TPLF has vowed to break the backbone of the Amaras. This, I believe, is the perfect overture to committing the ‘crime of crimes’ or what is known as genocide.
In as far as a person is a product of his/her thought, the real roots of the crime of genocide lie deep within our ideology. People are motivated by ideas from books or other like-minded people. Meles used to think that talking to the anti-Ethiopian Isaias for one hour was worth reading 10 books. Later on, he preferred talking to Stiglitz. The insidious animalization and hate propaganda against Amaras is ever present, combined with the implied moral superiority and heroism of Tigraians. Since 1967, according to Gebre-Medhin Araya “the TPLF incorporated its core belief that ‘Amharas are irreconcilable arch enemies of Tigrian people.” Although Woyanne-Tigreyans are in control of the state and land, the accusative sermons of Amhara domination and “Amhara colonialism” still persists. What is more, this racist Italian propaganda was internalized among the majority of Eritrean and Tigrean population and elite living in Ethiopia. In the sincere words of the Eritrean Semere “I too was a product of my upbringing who did not feign any qualms of expressing hatred towards the Amara. (S. T. Habtemariam, on Awate, Sept 22/1913).
The imperialist propaganda went as follows. Ethiopia is not really a nation, but made up of dozens of disparate nationalities under ‘Amhara-Tigrean supremacists’ and ruled by Amhara colonialists. To be sure the Amaras were indigenous to Ethiopia and not colonialists at all, and the political economy of Ethiopia does not fit the ‘colonial power matrix’ that came to dominate the world after the Berlin Conference of 1884-85. Yet, the propaganda against these disembodied colonialists continued. I use propaganda in Adorno’s sense. Adorno thought propaganda consisted in the “rational manipulation of what is irrational” (1998) It is above all “the prerogative of the totalitarians” and their collaborators. This gross misinformation and overall imperial irrationality about Ethiopia and the Amara people became normalized and widely taught in imperial books and academies. These myths were further elaborated and popularized in the newly acquired Italian colonies of Eritrea and Somalia. Shabiya and Woyanne are their native progeny.
According to the famous Ethiopian-Eritrean author Gebre-Ab, the strategy of displacing or de-Ethiopianizing of the Amaras is a long planned, deliberate activity of the Woyanne elite. Conversely, the Amara people feel particularly targeted by the TPLF’s Fascist-Stalinist structures and centralized party-state apparatus. After 1991, the Amara ethnic group had become what the great educator Paulo Freire calls “those whose humanity has been stolen.”
In terms of political doctrine, the Tigrean Woyanne-TPLF called, amongst other things, for the restoration of “Tigray irrendenta” i.e., the incorporation of unredeemed Tegrean populated territories in the rest of Ethiopia, as claimed by the founders of the TPLF in the 1976 Manifesto. In other words, it is militarist, ethnicist and expansionist. It has already achieved this idea by extensively dispossessing the neighboring Amara ethnic group of its lands in Wollo, Afla//korem and Begemder. The crimes of misrecognition and ethnic cleansing have been proceeding for decades in these areas too. Consequently, the designated “Amhara” Killil is progressively diminishing, as is the size of sovereign Ethiopia. Land of the Amara is being ceded to Sudan and newly arrived Tigreans and chunks of it (the size of Belgium) is leased out to foreign powers and corporations. Land-grabbers alone are said to have displaced about one quarter of a million Ethiopians under the euphemism of resettlement. Over 40.000 Amaras are believed to have been kicked out of Oromia. Where will this vicious pogrom end? There are close to 9 million Amaras living in Oromia.
Woyanne’s long term objective is finally to form an expanded and independent Tigrean state (Abay Tigrai) including the highland parts of Eritrea and secede from Ethiopia. In simple terms, Woyanne is an ethnically exclusivist, territorially expansionist and secessionist anti-Amara/Ethiopian movement that had decided to act “by force of arms” to regain the lore and glory of Greater Tigrai for Tigreans. When the 1990s arrived, it framed its demands in terms of the general ethnic interest of all oppressed minorities in the Ethiopian empire to decolonize. Throughout, it held high the Leninist banner of “the rights of nations to self-determination…up to secession.” This line of thinking was amplified by Wallelign Mekonnen, a fellow Amara student radical in the National or Addis Ababa University of the late 1960s, and included in the Woyanne-framed Ethiopian Constitution, Article 39. Misdiagnosing and condemning this Cushitic sub-strata and free Ethiopian population as colonial is at the root of the present crimes being committed against the Amara. The Amara constitute some 27% of the country’s population, they are indigenous and have lived for centuries across Ethiopia. They are Ethiopian by nationality.
To get to the original misdiagnosis problem or the ‘original sin,’ certain analytical distinctions are in order here. As the CIA psych op. and prominent “Ethiopianist.” the late Paul Henze appropriately pointed out “Shoan predominance and Amhara domination” are different matters or “not the same thing…” They need to be decoupled from each other. This is crucial. Shoan-Amara domination was effectively crushed by the Mengistu regime in 1974. An ardent TPLF supporter, Henze also concedes that “in actuality, the core Amhara regions –Gojjam, Begemeder and Wollo…were at least as neglected as Tigray in allocation of developmental resources during the entire period” (198). The “entire period” refers to the century misleadingly characterized as a period of “Amhara dominance,” and even ‘colonialism’. Yet, in, the past or during the period of Shoan-Solomonic predominance, the Amara population of Ethiopia had no preferential privileges whatsoever, and it fared no better materially or politically than the Tigrean one. During the pre-revolutionary days of Shoan supremacy the great majority of the Amara population has always been as deprived and as poor, if not poorer than its Tigreyan compatriots. Condemning these impoverished farmers as ‘colonial’ is part of a long-standing foreign doctrine to dissolve Ethiopians and rule them as colonials. Ethiopians were demonized for having defeated a European colonialist.
In modern Ethiopia, during the 1960s the beginning (1970s), the TPLF ethnic identity/politics arose among students who began a struggle for the rights of disinherited and impoverished peasants of Tigrai. ‘Land to the tiller’ was the leading slogan of Ethiopian students. From its humble rural start, the TPLF movement metamorphosed into a demand for self-determination. This was born among disgruntled Tigrean students, and it identified the Amharas as the oppressor and colonial nationality or simply “the enemy.” Once the TPLF Woyanne got the upper hand in 1991, it set out to implement its ethnic creed in terms of precise policies. Their leader Meles’ fear of Amaras was very strong, as Cohen confirmed recently. Henceforth, the minority Tigraians were to enjoy a commanding and economically privileged position in the state of Ethiopian Republic of Nations/Nationalities. The matrix for ’ethnic apartheid’ and internal colonialism was set. The greatest transfer of wealth from the rest of Ethiopia to Tigrai had begun.
What Wallelign achieved was to re-articulate Marxistically what the Fascists wrote in Wilsonian idiom. Prochazka wrote falsely that"The numerous peoples and tribes who inhabit the territory of the Ethiopian State and which differ in race, language , culture and religion from the ruling minority of Abyssinia proper, would long ago have thrown off the Abyssinian yoke if they had been given the right of self determination. Instead they are being forcibly kept from European influences and from the advantages that progressive colonisation could confer upon the country” Aleme Eshete (June 2008). Instead, Ethiopians at Adwa united and militarily threw off the European yoke. White supremacist like Prochazka, wrote that Japan and Ethiopia were entities that prevented white supremacy from reigning supreme in Asia and Africa respectively
The legations continued their anti-Ethiopian and anti-Amara propaganda along these lines. All this was internalized by the so called national liberation movements and their leadership. The final objective of the TPLF-Woyanne’s “Brotherhood,” directed by the deceased Meles & Co. at its crucial moments, is to expropriate “other” Ethiopians, especially the arrogant Amara colonialists, of their land and wealth, and to secede from Ethiopia (self-determination). The aim was to resurrect the historically independent “Republic of Greater Tigray” a state that embraces the Tigrai-Tigrign population of Ethiopia and Eritrea. This was to be achieved by way of first liberating the lands and peoples of Tigray allegedly imprisoned in Ethiopia (a prison of nationalities).
The Ethnic Re-Engineering of Ethiopia
For the last twenty five years we have witnessed a process of economic political transformation, based on molding or “engineering” Ethiopia into a Fascist-Stalinist state of “ethnic federalism.” This political process involves ethnically re-molding the geographic and administrative landscape of Ethiopia in the interest of the Woyanne and its homeland. It involves containing and persecuting the Amaras and taking their land and possessions. The process started in 1991, under the presidency of the puppet Amara and lately Pentacostal pastor Tamrat. He literally incited the Oromo to avenge the historic death and oppression of their people by the Amara. Bedeno witnessed the death of many innocent Amaras. They were killed because they were Amaras. Women and children were thrown alive down the Dengogo gorge. Amaras have been similarly targeted for dispossession and expulsion in Gerda Ferda, Gumuz, Bale, Arsi, Jijjiga, Arba Gugu, Assosa and so on. The information is in the public domain. If any more reminder is necessary, the recent (2013) mass evictions of so called “Amhras” from their ancestral lands across Ethiopia, is the starkest evidence of Woyanne fascism in progress today. While committing this heinous crime, the TPLF falsely insists that it is threatened by Intrahamwe forces.
More recently, 12 sacks full of bodies were found in Benishangul, Gumuz. They belonged to Amaras hacked to death on orders of the region’s leader. After a recent extirpation of the Amara population from Benji Maji (BM) zone [in Southern Ethiopia], Mr. Zenawi justified the whole exercise as a “resettlement” project, while accusing the evicted Amaras of menacing the Southern region’s pristine environment and forestry. In Meles analysis, they were not uprooted for being “Amhara” but rather for causing environmental degradation. This ‘man of vision’ accuses “Amhara” citizens for not being capable of managing and conserving their own land and natural resources. This is disingenuous at best, or a cruel mockery for which the late Woyanne leader had gained worldwide reputation. “Doublespeak” on the problem of “Amaras” and double dealing on the vital national interests of Ethiopia have become the rhetorical hallmarks of Melesism.
We may ask again, why are Amaras uprooted from the so called “non-Amhara regions” of Ethiopia, while other Ethiopians and even Eritreans, are allowed to live peacefully and own businesses outside their “land of origin,” or anywhere they wish in Ethiopia, for that matter?
An Ethiopian thinker has recently referred to what prevails in Ethiopia today as a “colonially inspired tribal domination” in the sense that the anti-Amara and wider racial ideology and values of Italian Fascism have endured in TPLF’s Ethiopia. Anti-Amaraism or ”Amarophobia” happens to be at the center of Mussolini’s ideological and geographical design for Italian occupied Ethiopia. White supremacists were always ready to convict the Amaras as colonials and evict Ethiopia from the Eurocentric Westpalian world system. This is what they have bequeathed to their internal collaborators. The TPLF operates its vicious tribal dictatorship and ‘killil’ system with Euro- American support and under the euphemisms of democracy and federalism.
Ethnically re-mapped, aid-dependent and landlocked, peripheral Ethiopia is featured as a “developmental state” in the contemporary world of nations. Despite the fact that one in ten Ethiopians requires international food aid, it is considered a fast-growing destination for foreign tourists and capital. Foreign investors and happy tourists are showcased as success stories for the regime’s developmental narrative. Truth is, TPLF’s “ethnic federalism” literally floats and feeds on recurrent international assistance and foreign aid, while the leadership of the Woyanne tyranny accumulates capital by any means necessary. The export of “domestic workers” to the Middle East and the “child adoption” industry and “land grab” bonanza served the same economic purpose for the tyranny, namely primitive accumulation (Adam Smith identifies it as preceding capitalist accumulation) of capital by the Woyanne elite and its accomplices, who control the power. Primitive implies that this form of accumulation is not the result of the capitalist mode but precedes it. It is characterized by conquest, theft and plunder. Dissatisfaction with the Woyanne’s oppression and exploitation is rising and can be felt across the land. Resistance is growing too.
The Tyranny Continues
It is obvious that the present leadership (Meles’ protégé, cadres and name glorifiers) huddled around the chosen Pentacostal heir and Prime Minister Mr. Haile-Mariam.This group is steadfast in maintaining the dead leader’s criminal “vision.” The mantra of the hand-picked Haile-Mariam is that nothing will change. This was embarrassingly evident in the continuing “ethnic cleansing” casually carried out against the “Amhara” on his watch. The decision was eventually blamed on “low level” cadres and reversed, but the “crime of crimes” had already been committed. What is really going on in Ethiopia is a criminal venture orchestrated by the TPLF ethnic supremacists for pillaging and eventually destroying the Ethiopian state, while empowering and enriching the minority Tigreyan ethnic group.
Conscious of the potential power of the united Amara, the Marxist-Leninist League of Tigray (MLLT), the hard core of the TPLF, since the late 1980s advocated that, the Amharas should never be organized as Amharas and by genuine Amrara leaders. This would be dangerous. Hence, the Meles regime started its tyrannical rule with a program of countrywide “de-Amharization.” This implies ethnic cleansing on a large and continuous scale and downgrading local national script and the erstwhile national language, Amarigna. Speaking Amarigna in certain schools is tantamount to throwing rocks and punishable as such. Institutions which identified themselves as Ethiopian, such as Addis Ababa University, were targets of this ethnic cleansing. The recent eviction of Amaras from allegedly “wrong” living spaces in Ethiopia is not exceptional. It is only the latest phase in two decades of “ethnic cleansing” and expropriation perpetrated against Amaras by the Tigrean-Eritean led TPLF- EPRDF regime and its US trained army.
The TPLF also promptly organized its own “Amhara” dummy organization, the Amhara National Democratic Movement (ANDM) and consolidated it under its ruling party, The Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF). Under the watch and misrepresentation of ANDM, the impoverished Amara population has been declared an enemy and is subjected to horrendous forms of demonization, oppression and marginalization in TPLF’s Ethiopia. The so called Amhararegion is known as one of the poorest on earth, with the highest infant mortality. Doctors are a rarity and education is rudimentary. Moresh has questioned the over 2.4 million Amaras missing from the latest population census. Of late, Ethiopian women identified as Amara were targeted for a vaccination and mass sterilization program in the Gojjam region of Ethiopia, with medication provided by the US. This effort to stop the reproduction of the Amara is genocidal in effect.
The Fascist’s anti-Amara/Ethiopian discourse appears to be enshrined in the TPLF’s ideological DNA. Ethiopians across the world are appealing to the world’s conscience to recognize the multidimensional ethnic cleansing being waged against Amaras. The international community and the UN War Crimes tribunal must not turn a blind eye to these heinous crimes surfacing in Ethiopia. This genocidal turn of events must be stopped in today’s Ethiopia, or resistance will spiral into civil war.
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