Now the rebellious and wanton TPLF is dead but the deep fracture and wound it created within the Ethiopian society is here to stay not because Ethiopians are unable to heal it and move forward, but at this critical juncture, the people in the helm of power are resentful against poor Amaras for no cause. They are good at inventing and disseminating false stories making a cause out of it. They have gone to great length to teach young children about these stories to make them a baseline for any policy on Amara people.
If Ethiopia is on a real path of reform, any sensible leader will convene with the elderly and political elites and quickly insert in the constitution very useful rights any human being should get. The right to be elected and elect where once call it home including the right to be represented in the local police and militia. Failure to address this issue has led to the displacement of millions and the massacre of thousands of Ethiopians, particularly Amaras. Under such circumstances, I want to appeal to Amara regional government and stakeholders to think of extraordinary measures in these extraordinary times.
My intention here is not writing an eye-catching thesis but simply remind the Amara region officials, regional parties and diaspora Amaras who care about ordinary Amara farmers that live under hard condition, having a standard of living lower than any farmers in Ethiopia. Screenshots of Amara farmers are telling the level of poverty these proud Ethiopian are immersed in, and yet they are misidentified as being oppressors by non-Amara political elites, and even by misguided foreign journalists and diplomats. Amaras are the readiest people to embrace democracy and the rule of law but have not gotten partners to move Ethiopia forward together. If Ethiopia does not bring the unity of its people by amending the constitution, no doubt we cannot stand as one people and defend the GERD let alone bring prosperity. If Ethiopia continues this path, in 20 to 30 years it is going to cease to exist in the current form. In the light of this situation, I will attempt to highlight here some of the urgent matters Amara stakeholders should consider and discuss amongst one another.
A Railway and Metropolitan City at Woldiya-Hara Gebeya.
One of the ways of economic empowerment of the Amara people begins from a well thought planning of cities that promotes urbanization, logistical facilities and ease of access to most parts of the Amara region. In this regard, I propose to urgently start an assessment of land use planning and water resources study in the said location. Woldiya-Hara Gebeya is only 350 km from the Eritrean port of Asseb (Fig. 1). A metropolitan city, a dry port and the railway line from Hara Gebeya to Asseb for the said location is vital to Amara region. The implementation of these projects serves Dessie, Bahir Dar Gonder, Mekelle and Samara. The existing plan to construct a railway line to Mekelle must be cancelled and be reconfigured to Woldiya-Asseb railway project because this project serves only Mekelle. Moreover, Amara region should not be tied to its hand in time of qerro disturbances. There were numerous instances where roads linking Amara region with Addis Ababa were blocked. Amara region largely gets its supply through Addis Ababa, when qerro disrupts roads and the only railway line in Ethiopia, Amara region suffers a lot. The Hara Gebeya – Asseb route is the way forward for Amara region, Tigray, Afar and, as an alternative, Addis Ababa,
Recovering the lost territories:
When TPLF came to power the first thing it did was creating weak Amara region by snatching fertile Amara territories like Wolkayit, Setit-Humera, Tegede, Telemt, Raya, Metekel and Dera. Even fascist Italy did not do that to Amara. Ethnic map was formulated for the first time in Ethiopia by fascist Italy. In that map these localities were under Amara. The legal return of these territories is vital and first priority to Amara region.
Wolkayit: This comprises Setit-Humera, Wolkayit, Tegede and Telemt (Fig. 1). The name Wolkayit has been used here because of the symbolic famous uprising of the people of Wolkayit against the TPLF. Wolkayit has an area of 1.6 million hectares of land. Much of it is arable and agriculturally fertile, with abundant rivers, and mineral resources. When TPLF made borders with Amara all economic factors were considered for the annexation of this beautiful Amara lands. For instance, the TPLF annexed traditional Agew dwellings north of Sekota or north of Tekeze dam; places like Yechila(y) (TPLF added Y to it), Samre, Gijet Della were made part of Tigray because these localities are bestowed in rich mineral resources like marble, gold silver and copper (Fig.1). TPLF marble industry entirely relies on this resource.
Raya: People that identify themselves as Amara live in Raya in an area of 400, 000 hectares (Fig 1). The land is fertile and rich in groundwater. Close to the red sea, it is quite easy to export agricultural produce. Setit-Humera, Wolkayit, Tegede, Telemt and Raya in aggregate have 2 million hectares. This land along can feed the whole of Amara.
Metekel with an area of 2.7 million hectares is rich in minerals resources and has suitable climate and soil for agriculture (Fig. 1). The famous Pawe agricultural development centre Mengistu established, and the TPLF later dismantled, robed and wiped out is the land of Gojam Amara protected by the kings of Gojam and king of kings of Ethiopia. It has not been part of Sudan or any other country because Amara forefathers died for it; it is appropriate right for Amara to demand that. However, the way forward for Amara Government is to sit down with Oromia prosperity party since Benishangel was curved out of Wollega and Gojam. It is time to discuss and agree on this issue to bring the Assosa region and Metekel areas to their original owners. One cannot claim a land it never defended and cannot defend it. If the Sudanese and Egyptians come to invade Benishangul, the first to die are the Oromos and Amaras. Without the cooperation and sacrifice of these two people, Benishangule cannot survive and consequently, the Nile dam cannot be defended and be made to the use of Ethiopians.
Dera. The area has about 300,000 hectares land coverage (Fig. 1). The highland part is occupied by the Oromos, and the lowlands by Amaras. Dera was originally within the Merhabete Awraja, a traditional Amara region. Yet there are a lot of Oromos in the area as there are a large group of people who want to be part of Shewa Amara. The best way to address the peoples’ grievances is to take the matter to the federation and hold a referendum. Conjugate areas to Amara and Oromo people will choose their destination.
War has consequences. When Germany was defeated during world war 1 and 2, it lost one-third of its territories to France, Poland, Austria and other countries. Ten million citizens of Germany were gone with these territories. Furthermore, East Germany was made to cede and stay under the Influence of Russia. Factories were dismantled and Germany was made to pay war reparation. Germany was not allowed to build its defence force like other countries. Tigray is no exception to this. The once egoistic and self inflated Tigray has been decisively defeated and Tigray must face the consequences of the war TPLF ignited much the same way Germany faced due to Hitler’s war.
Now the war with TPLF and its defeat has created the condition to gain temporary freedom for the people of, Wolkayit and Raya. This newly found freedom should be upheld by any means. People in these localities cannot be governed by the killers and live in constant fear. Historically these localities were under traditional Amara territories and they should be returned to the original owners because they were taken away by force under the barrel of a gun. That Tigres live in the so-called “Western Tigray” does not entitle Tigray to own this land. Tigres, Kunamas and Irob people live in Eritrea but Tigray was not made to claim these territories. Oromos live in Kenya, but Oromia is not entitled to own the land these people inhabit. If the government of Abiy Ahmed allows referendum in “Western Tigray” it will have far-reaching consequences. It will bring the case of Debrezeit, Nazret, Ziway and Shashemene and other places in Oromia to be put for a referendum. Therefore, Wolkayit and Raya should be part of Amara region with a political decision like TPLF did it.
Security reasons: It will be a great debacle for the government of Abiy Ahmed to allow Tigray to have a an international border with Sudan. Tigray will remain a national treat to Ethiopia no matter which government seizes power in Tigray. History in the last 300 years has shown that Tigray elites do anything for power. They are a danger to Amara region; they are a danger to the federal government as well as to the GERD.
Tekezie Dam: There is a misconception among Amaras that Tekezie dam is in Tigray and it is a Tigrean property because Tigray Region and Meles Zenawi initiated the project. 90% of the dam reservoir is within Amara region even with the current TPLF designed border map. The remaining 10% is shared equally between the two regions (see Fig. 1) Understanding this ownership is important because there are rights that comes with it. Recreational and fishing right are frw that can be mentioned.
Addis Ababa is a city all Ethiopians built. It is the third diplomatic city in the world. It was preserved because our ancestors worked hard and died for it to reach to the level where it is now. Addis Ababa does not belong to any one ethnic group as long as Ethiopia continues as one entity. Even the TPLF government recognizes that. Yet nowadays it is becoming a contending issue for the Oromo elites. Regardless of what Addis Ababa people say, the Oromos are motivated to control it. For this reason, they are building their offices massively and bolstering their defence forces in the city. The ambition has no limit. In such situations, Amara region must increase its presence in Addis Ababa.
Invasion of Amara land by Sudan and Abiy’s Silence
One of the careless leadership of PM Abiy is explained by his disregard for the annexation of Amara land by Sudan’s army. When Somalia invaded Ethiopia in 1977, Mengistu informed his people, appealed to them to defend Ethiopia and quickly organized over 300,000 militia. He quickly reversed the balance of power by decisively defeating Somalia forces. He further succeeded in making Somalia stateless.
Competent mass defence system: Amara people have suffered a lot since PM Abiy came to power. There was so much displacement in western and central Gonder, eastern Wello and Shewa and in Metema environs from invasion by Sudan. Amaras are hunted like animals in Oromia and Benishangul. everyday; The federal government has not been an honest ally of Amara people. It is this very unwillingness of the central government, to keep law and order that led General Asamnew to be frustrated. We know what happened in the end. We lost him. We lost people like Ambachew, Migbaru and Ezezew.
Metamorphose Amaras: These are Amara die-hard Ethiopians who have lost their Amaraness and aspire a lot for big Ethiopia against reality on the ground. These type of Amaras collude with other ethnic groups who they think stand for a pan Ethiopian ideology. But these other ethnic groups in one way or another do not shy away from justifying the TPLF constitution. The metamorphose Amara are misguided, illusive in their thinking even seeing the practical phenomenon Amaras are subjected to. They are the greatest treat for Amara unity. In a country where one has no right to be elected and get represented in local police force and local administration outside their “ethnic homeland”, they talk of a united Ethiopia. These type of Amaras has take PM Abiy as the savoir of Ethiopia even him telling them the constitution is obtained through blood and will not be changed. They tell you that Abiy Ahmed is to abolish ethnic federalism and create a western style democracy even when we see he is ruling in the styles of TPLF by justifying ethnic federalism, controlling the police forces, ground force, air defence forces, the judiciary, the capital city exclusively. These metamorphose Amaras do not bring any value for an Amara living in Menz, Dessie, Woldiya, Gayint, Armacho, Debrework to mention a few. People in these localities are suffering from malnutrition, lack of transportation, education, electricity, water and other facilities.
Diplomacy: Tigreans are good at cooperating and making their voice heard. No ethnic people have been attacked like Amara by such proportion in Ethiopia since the so-called reform PM Abiy Ahmed embarked. Yet the suffering of Amaras in Oromia, Benishangul and other parts of the country is not understood by the international community. One of the obstacles for this is the deep division of diaspora. Metamorphose Amaras and their pan Ethiopianists allies from other ethnic groups have taken the frontal stage in support of the prime minister. These metamorphose Amaras are busy knocking the doors of American senators and congressmen and women to improve the image of PM Abiy who cares very little for the poor Amara farmers slaughtered like a sheep everyday everywhere. Traditional Amara Diasporas are not yet well organized although now it is in the making. Amara region government or NAMA should establish an English media desk that will inform the international community from time to time about the suffering of Amara people. It should appeal for support in time of need be it for security or livelihood in time of crisis such as forced displacement. Amara region must create outspoken public speakers that explain to the world that Amaras are descent people who are ready for democracy and have similar dreams and aspirations like any civilized world.
Use Parliament as a venue to promote justice: one of the avenues for maintaining the rule of law in the country is by setting agenda in parliament. Be it security, mismanagement, embezzlement and other forms of bad governance manifestations it should be discussed in parliament. Laws must be strictly followed and new laws promulgated. It is possible to fight injustice this way by rallying the parliament. That is the best way to fight corruption in Addis Ababa and elsewhere.
Retain Article 39: The circumstances we are in necessitate that article 39 must be upheld. If the right of minorities to elect, be elected and be represented in the police and militia is not granted, Amara region government should not agree to the eradication of Article 39. If injustice continues to prevail in Oromia, Benishangule and South Ethiopia like what we see now; Amara people should opt for article 39 and stand on their own. Amaras should not care about the misguided metamorphose Amaras who hardly understand the plight of poor Amara farmers.
Federal Goernment: As long as Ethiopia remains an ethnically federated country, a national unity government should be the guiding principle, not the winner takes all. Power should be shared according to population proportions. This should be applied to cabinet ministers, police, defence forces, judiciary, etc. One does not have to be a member of the prosperity party (PP) to share power. In this regard, call for amending the constitution is key question. Amara regional government and stakeholders must consider this.
Increase political consciousness. In the last 30 years, Amara youth were not taught about their history, what their kings and forefathers achieved and contributed to Ethiopia. They were not educated about their borders and the role they can play to defend it. The Amara history must be explained based on archaeological findings and the right history. Today millions of Amaras do not know that their forefathers once built a great city in a location that coincides with present day Addis Ababa. They are not told their forefathers once lived in the highlands of Bale, Harar, Wolega and Arsi. That is the main reason why Amara region did produce non-motivated youth. That made it easy for metamorphose Amaras and their pan Ethiopia allies to create a rift among Amara elite.
Policy on Eritrea and Eritrea. Amara region must have a good relationship with Eritrea and Eritreans. It should encourage investment to Eritreans and create cultural ties. In these unpredictable times where everyone is hostile to Amaras, Eritreans should be taken as good allies. The Eritrean political system is non-ethnic; Esayas is more predictable and open on his intentions. That Eritrea is not a democratic state is none of Amara Regional Government business. The Amara Government should not base its policy based on skin-depth analysts and social media activists. It should focus on what this relationship can bring to the people of Eritrea and Ethiopia in general and in particular to Amara people.
Policy on Tigray. The region of Tigray should always be handled with caution. They should not be allowed to meddle in Amara affairs as the likes of Bereket did. They should not get priority in business better than any other Ethiopia. Tigray elites have been bashing Amara people day in and day out in collusion with Oromo extremist. They curse Demeke Mekonnen and Gedu Andargachew for losing the power they had once controlled in the federal government. The hate Tigray elite have towards Amara is unlimited calling them Minilik nafakis, neftegnas and all sorts of names. Tigrays’s elites policy is based on hate for Amara. When Meles Zenawi totally gave up the Red sea coast without negotiation, it was not because it is not useful to Tigray; rather it was decided based on hate to Amara as if Amara alone is the beneficiary from the negotiation. Therefore Tigrean elites should always be checked although there are some sensible elites who are friendly to Amara.
- The establishment of a metropolitan city at Woldiya – Hara Gebeya and a railway line to Assab is vital for Amara region. This railway is useful to Afar and Tigray as Mekelle and Samara are close by.
- The reclaimed lost territories (Wolkayit-Raya) should be defended at all costs. What you gained through the blood of Amara forces is not given to Tigray with silver platter. If the boundary commission wants to see the case, it has to do it now while they remain in the hands of Amara regional government because these localities were annexed by force.
- If PM Minster Abiy Ahmed has an iota of respect to his wife First lady Zinash Tayachew, he should facilitate the legal return of Wolkayit- Raya to the rightful owners – Amharas immediately. Wolkayit was defended and preserved from the Sudan and Italian invaders by the grand and great grand parent of the First Lady. Abiy’s political intrigue similar to TPLF is not helpful to advance Ethiopia. Only truth should be the yardstick to advance Ethiopia.
- The case of Benishangul should get answer by discussion with the Oromia regional government. Assosa must be returned to Oromia and Metekel to Amara. The case of Dera should be addressed through the Federation.
- Allowing Tigray to have borders with Sudan is treason. The security of Ethiopia in general and that of Amara region in particular will be in grave danger. No matter who comes to power in Tigray, there will always be temptation to collude with Sudan and Egypt all the times.
- Amara region should not wait for the federal government to defend its territories. The federal government has clearly failed to defend its territory and it has not been the concern of Ethiopia. It seems the Federal Government has resigned legitimate Amara borderland to Sudan. The only option for Amara is to create a mass defence system and fight against the Sudanese invaders.
- A good relationship between Amara and Eritrea is very important. The misguided political outlook by metamorphose Amaras that Eritrea is the enemy of Ethiopia should be discouraged at all costs.
- Metamorphose Amaras remain the biggest obstacles in the fight for the right of traditional Amara areas. The suffering and plight of Amara are not heard to the world stage because of the level of lobbying, media disinformation metamorphose Amaras are doing in Europe and America. These metamorphose Amaras have no contribution for the farmers who live in Shewa, Wello, Gojam and Gonder. They are dreaming an Ethiopia where they could return to and enjoy comfortable life in Addis Ababa not knowing they won’t see it come 20-30 years.
- Increasing political awareness, developing a curriculum to address this, for Amara youth is very important. The defeatist mentality in most Amara elites relative to the Oromos is a result of this complacency by Amara region administrators, and at large by Amara elites.
- Amara forefathers, with other Ethiopians, worked hard to get Addis Ababa to where it is. They gave their life to preserve it. Addis Ababa is a diplomatic city that does not belong to any one particular ethnic group. If an issue of ownership comes in to light, Amaras must be the primary contenders. Amara regional government must increase its presence in Addis Ababa and should not sit idle while Oromia is working day and night to control it.