Kassahun Debalke Gebremariam*
This article tries to give an overview of some of the myths fabricated by Tigrean fascism to justify its hatred towards the Amhara people and the various forms of evil it is perpetrating on the Amhara. It is the first among a series of articles that will expound the different aspects of the Tigrean fascist ideology that is creating havoc on the Amhara People. In this series we will try to analyze the origins, development and impacts of this Satanic ideology. The historical relationship between the Amhara and the Tigreans within the parameters of the Historic Ethiopian state, as well as the implications of this relationship on the evolution of a uniquely Tigrean fascist ideology aimed at exterminating the Amhara, will be examined at some depth. However, the present article aims at providing a cursory description of three outstanding myths that give a general introduction to the Tigrean mindset.
Tigrean fascism, which is a unique form of African-born fascist ideology, blends some elements of perfunctory “Stalinism” with unadulterated naked fascist perversions bordering on Nazism. In its truest form, as is being exercised by the Tigrean Peoples’ Liberation Front, it aims at the complete extermination of the Amhara people and the subjugation of the other peoples of Ethiopia under Tigrean hegemony. From its inception in the arid wilderness known as Tigray, it had vowed to destroy the Amhara, dismantle Ethiopia and build the uncontested hegemony of “Greater Tigray” on the ashes of the Ethiopian state. This mission of Tigrean fascism has been consistently implemented by the TPLF for well over a quarter century. The Tigrean fascists have waged a campaign of genocide, economic oppression and other forms of inhuman maltreatment on the Amhara people. Tigrean fascism is the Nazism of the 21st century being implemented by the Tigreans on the Amhara.
Tigrean fascism has all the elements exhibited by the fascist systems that created havoc anywhere else in the world. One of these features of Tigrean fascism is fabricating myths and distorting history. As we learn from the theories of Antonio Gramsci and Hannah Arendt, the creation of myths and unfounded fabrications and non-histories is the outstanding feature of hegemonic systems. The Tigrean fascists are no exception in this regard. In their bid to impose their ill-conceived version of the hegemony of the “Nation” of Tigray on Ethiopians, Tigrean fascists resorted to a deliberate distortion of the historical reality of the Ethiopian state, both in the near and distant past. There has been a myriad of falsehoods that have been disseminated by the Tigrean fascists in this regard. The following major fabrications tell the story of Tigrean’s obsession with historical distortion.
Prominent among these falsehoods is the myth of a one-hundred years old history of the Ethiopian State which gave rise to an enormous cycle of multiple lies, denials and creation of non-existent, phantasmagoria of “states” and identities (including the myth of a pre-colonial Eritrean statehood). This Tigrean myth tries to give the impression that Ethiopia as a state was created by Emperor Menelik II at the end of the 19th century. In this regard, Tigrean fascists claim that all the constituent peoples of Ethiopia had a separate existence before their incorporation to the Ethiopian Empire by the Amhara rulers roughly a hundred years ago. This falsehood is a clear indication of the perversion that pervades Tigrean fascism. They deny the history of independent Ethiopian statehood that spanned Millennia. In their urge to advance their own agenda of dismembering the Historical Ethiopian State that stands out as the beacon of freedom for the Black race, the Tigreans fabricated this myth to accuse the Amhara people of subjugating the non-Amhara peoples by incorporating them into the “alien” Empire. Given the magnitude of its impact on our current situation, this distortion merits its own separate analysis and treatment in a separate article. For my present purposes, I just want to mention that the above distortion played well into the hands of racist western scholarship that always antagonized the Amhara as a fiercely independent unbreakable people and desired the destruction of the defiant black nation that humiliated European colonialism.
The other fabrication pertains to the “inspiration” that preceded, and led to, the formation of the Tigrean Peoples’ Liberation Front or “Weyane” as it is commonly called. February being the month in which the TPLF was purportedly founded, it is timely to raise this issue. The distortion relates to a narrower scoped, but equally disruptive, characterization of the so-called Qedamay Weyane as the pseudo-historical foundation for the “Weyane Tigray” or the Tigrean Revolution. It appears to me that a number of Amhara intellectuals are victims of this distortion, as are many an enlightened scholar in Ethiopia today (including such willfully blinded western scholars such as John Young). Tigrean fascists created this myth to justify their version of ethnic liberation as a longstanding quest of the people of Tigray. They tried to give the impression that separatist ideology, or at least the tendency to dominate other Ethiopians, had been a persistent aspiration emblazoned on the historical psyche of the Tigray people. In so doing TPLF succeeded cultivating fascism in the people of Tigray by instilling in them a false consciousness of “valorous freedom lovingness”, and the idea of “Abay Tigray” or “Greater Tigray” as a people destined to exterminate their foe, the Amhara, and impose their hegemony on the other peoples of Ethiopia. TPLF has immensely succeeded in this regard. The totality of the Tigrean people have become loyal and ardent adherents, implementers of, and advocates for, Tigrean fascism. As things now stand, TPLF and the People of Tigray are synonymous. Therefore, the terms TPLF, Tigrean fascism and Tigreans are used interchangeably in this article.
Second, this myth of Qedamay Weyane served to justify Tigrean’s role as the “vanguards” and apostles of the overly orchestrated anti-Ethiopian separatism and “liberation struggle” fabricated by the elites of the non-Amhara peoples of Ethiopia. Coming from a people historically integral with the “Abyssinian Empire” as some daydreamers call Ethiopia, TPLF had to justify itself as the leader of the anti-Ethiopian group by fabricating an alien identity and history for its own people. The third and more malignant intended outcome of the Qedamay Weyane myth was the ex post facto redefinition of the state-formation process of historic Ethiopia as an imposition of a “politicized ethnic identity” by the mythical ruling group known as “Amhara”. This gives the false impression that even such a fundamental constituent element of historic Ethiopia as Tigray has been incorporated into the Empire in the same way as the later incorporated “nations, nationalities and peoples”. Only that Tigray preceded the latter oppressed nations by some centuries or “millennia” in being forced to join the union. This widespread distortion supports the unfounded belief that Ethiopian Emperors imposed Amhara hegemony over other peoples, including, and even more ruefully so, on Tigray. It is true that Amhara emperors created, united and ruled Ethiopia from the very beginning of her history as a state. But in doing so they respected the diversity of her peoples and the uniqueness of her component units. The Amhara emperors and rulers of Ethiopia were renowned for their tolerance and inclusiveness as attested by the Prophet Mohammed’s act of sending their followers to Ethiopia for asylum during their persecution in Arabia.
But what was Qedamay Weyane? It was a mere regional feudal uprising having nothing to do with the national identity or self-determination of the people of Tigray. The causes of the rebellion, the structure and process of the uprising were in no way different from the feudal wars of preceding decades. Of course, it is true that Tigray has for long been a hotbed of betrayal and pro-colonial sentiments. As early as the 16th century, Bahr Negash Yeshaq, who was appointed by the Emperor of Ethiopia as the ruler of present-day Tigray and Eritrea, betrayed the then Emperor Zedingil and sided with Turkish invaders on the Red Sea Cost. Such acts of subterfuge and betrayal have been the unique characteristic of the people and officials of Tigray for a long time. This fact was even more accentuated during the Italian invasions during the end of the 19th century that led to the Battle of Adwa. In 1896. The traitors from Tigray were captured by the Great Emperor Menelik and duly punished. During the second Italian invasion in 1935, Tigreans, as is their character and custom, betrayed their Country, Emperor and Flag and sided with the Italians. They assisted the invaders in all possible ways. Prominent among the traitors was Dejazmach Hailesellassie Gugsa who was married to a daughter of the Emperor.
The Emperor who made a valiant last-ditch attempt to curb the invasion was significantly overwhelmed by the immensely superior fire power and fighting jets of the Italians. Despite His heroic move to thwart the Italian march at the Battle of Maichew in Tigray, he was forced to retreat. However, the most important cause for His defeat was not the staggering fire power of the Italians. The main reason was the betrayal by the Tigreans. The Tigreans betrayed their Emperor and attacked His soldiers who were already weakened by Italian bombing. The Tigreans especially attacked the Army of the Minister of War, Ras Mulugeta, whose fighting capability was immensely crippled by the attack from “his own” Tigreans. This betrayal assumed huge proportions in parts of Southern Tigray at which Tigreans even poisoned water wells which were used by the Ethiopian Army.
Despite all these betrayals and shortcomings, the Emperor HIM Hailesellassie I and His loyal Amhara patriots, defeated the Italians after five years of fierce struggle. Upon His return to Ethiopia as the Victorious Emperor He meted out just and proper punishment on the people of Southern Tigray for their collaboration with the Italian fascist invaders. Even the term “Weyane” was never used by Blatta Hailemariam Redda or his fellow rebels during the time of the rebellion. It was fabricated by Tigrean fascists and ex post ante rechristened as Qedamay Weyane. This is a typical fabrication of gigantic proportion to which a whole generation of feudal malcontents from Tigray were erroneously characterized as vanguards of a national liberation movement. We can see the damning effect of this falsification even in enlightened discursive analysis by some Ethiopian scholars. Many of them cite Qedamay Weyane as evidence of the longstanding ethnicized politics of the Ethiopian state. TPLF exploited this vulnerability of the intelligentsia to buy any fabricated argument it advances as long as it is couched in flowery distortions about rights of the “oppressed nations and nationalities”. The so-called “oppressed nations and nationalities” are themselves artificial creations of the Tigrean fascists who appointed themselves as the gun-toting liberators of the non-Amhara peoples of Ethiopia. Qedamay Weyane was portrayed as a component of the “eternal” struggle between Tigray and Amhara. This perversion is unfounded in facts of Ethiopian and Amhara history. Qedamay Weyane was another act of bigoted Tigrean insurrection by a ragtag of aspiring feudals and discontented parvenus frustrated by the liberation of Ethiopia from Italian invasion. The Tigreans wanted to use the opportunity created by the weak capacity of the Emperor who just returned from His exile to promote their sinister agenda of disrupting His efforts to rebuild the country out of the ashes of fascist destruction.
The other myth of a more recent phenomenon is related to the creation of an apocalyptic scenario just preceding the installation of ethnic federalism in Ethiopia. This pertains to the flawed characterization of the situation of Ethiopia at the time TPLF came to power. Tigrean fascists created those scenarios, tries to force us to believe that it didn’t create them and arrived on the scene after the situation had already worsened. TPLF says Ethiopia was at the brink of being torn apart. But there is no historical truth in this; and the truth is the threat itself was created by TPLF. It is true that there was a vacuum when the Derg fell. But it is also true that the future of the country was open to be shaped by the ideology of whoever came to fill that vacuum. If TPLF opted to fill that void by deciding to further strengthen the solidification of the Ethiopian state, it would have an even more great prospect of realizing that ideal. Instead TPLF opted to create a non-existent problem of national oppression. Some people tend to assert that the proliferation of ethnic based organizations forced the TPLF to make this issue its priority.
This tends to forget the fact that all of the ethnic based organizations in Ethiopia with the exception of OLF, Sidama Liberation Movement and a couple of Afar fronts, were created by the TPLF. All of them were created by TPLF on the wake of the fall of Derg; and they were given separatist agendas by TPLF. It suffices to note that despite TPLF’s professed championing of ethnic rights, its sole partner for a long time with which it created the EPRDF, was the multi-ethnic EPDM. This shows even EPRDF was unable to articulate any legitimate ethnic agenda of liberation within itself. But, once it assumed state power, TPLF used its privileged position to tirelessly work for the proliferation of myriads of ethnic based political organization. For the uninformed observer this may appear as if it were there before TPLF created it. But the truth is otherwise, TPLF deliberately and consciously chose the road of ethnic fragmentation as a policy of dismantling the fabric of Historic Ethiopia, and imposing Tigrean hegemony over ethnically fractured Ethiopia composed of putatively sovereign groups scattered over the landscape where a Nation was being born out of their medley.
The other myth fabricated by the fascist TPLF to justify its assertion of Amhara hegemony is related to discriminatory language policy. They claim that Amharic was imposed upon the “nations, nationalities and peoples” of Ethiopia with the intention of destroying the cultures and identities of other nationalities. Based on a naïve conception of national identity as a linguistic identity, Tigrean’s argument in this regard falsifies the process of state-formation in Ethiopia and the role of language in this regard. It is true that Amharic as a language belongs to the Amhara Nation. It is an indissoluble part and parcel of the Ancient literary and cultural civilization of the Khamite Amhara Civilization. Geez and Amharic are the twin Crowns of the greatness of Amhara civilization. The Geez/Amharic civilization of the Amhara people forms the bedrock of the spiritual and material achievements of the Amhara as the founders and developers of the Ethiopian state. These facts are undeniable.
It is also true that, especially after the restoration of the Solomonic dynasty by Emperor Yekuno-Amlak in the 13th Century, Amharic served as the main unifying instrument of the Ethiopian state. The Amhara people were generous enough to share their advanced and well-structured language, Amharic and the literary heritage it begat with the other peoples of Ethiopia. This became even more true during the resolidification of the empire in the late 19th century and the 20th century. It served as the official language of the empire. The language has its own script and well-developed grammar. This made Ethiopia as the only state in Africa with its own indigenous, purely African language and script. But Amharic was imposed not as the language of the Amhara, but as the unifying language of all Ethiopians. There may be abuses and scales of perversion by particular interest groups, but a close study of the dynamic of Amharic’s growth as an Ethiopian language shows that the Emperors never attempted to use it as means of imposing one ethnic group on the other. It was used as a common language of all Ethiopians. Language unification is one indispensable aspect of state formation. The case of Amharic is no different.
The above points were not raised for the sake of providing a full-fledged description of Tigrean fascism. Rather my intention is to point out some apparently minor points that would seriously affect the integrity of any quest to understand the nature of Tigrean fascism and find rational answers to our fundamental problems. I just tried to give a caricature of the falsehoods that are not seriously scrutinized by Amhara intellectuals who take some of these falsehoods for granted. Such points which are usually taken for granted without much inquiry, end up upsetting the whole edifice of arguments built on their implicit foundation. This was a major hurdle of the ill-conceived Ethiopian Students’ Movement that sired all these destabilizing ideologies of our times. This piece is not intended as embodying a complete thesis on its own. It was just an attempt at introducing some basic features of Tigrean fascism. It is part of an ongoing effort to create a theoretical framework to understand and conceptualize Tigrean fascism as a structural and ideological system of oppression that is designed to exterminate the Amhara people and dismantle, for good, the Historical Ethiopian State whose destiny is closely tied to the destiny of the Amhara people. Amhara intellectuals are required to come up with a fully functional ideological framework that explains the true features and manifestations of Tigrean fascism and its impact on the existence of the Amhara people and the Ethiopian State. The distortions and the lies created and used by Tigreans to break the spirit of the Amhara people and ensure our destruction should be properly understood, exposed and tackled. The struggle of the Amhara for liberation from Tigrean fascism should be based on a sound theoretical understanding and framework. The author welcomes any comments or criticisms on the issues raised in this article.
*LLM, JD Candidate, Martin Luther King Jr. School of Law, University of California Davis. Please send your comments or suggestions at the following email: firstname.lastname@example.org.