Zelalem Attlee (MD, MHCM, DrPH)
Attestations of the Amhara Genocide and Ethnic cleansing in Ethiopia The 20th and the 21st centuries have been marked by extreme violence and genocides globally. While the causes can be attributed to multiple factors, several subpopulations have been victims of these atrocious activities. The term genocide was first coined by Raphael Lemkin in 1944. He defines it as follows:
By “genocide” we mean the destruction of a nation or of an ethnic group.…Generally speaking, genocide does not necessarily mean the immediate destruction of a nation, except when accomplished by mass killings of all members of a nation. It is intended rather to signify a coordinated plan of different actions aiming at the destruction of essential foundations of the life of national groups, with the aim of annihilating the groups themselves. The objectives of such a plan would be disintegration of the political and social institutions, of culture, language, national feelings, religion, and the economic existence of national groups, and the destruction of the personal security, liberty, health, dignity, and even the lives of the individuals belonging to such groups. Genocide is directed against the national group as an entity, and the actions involved are directed against individuals, not in their individual capacity, but as members of the national group.… Genocide has two phases: one, destruction of the national pattern of the oppressed group; the other, the imposition of the national pattern of the oppressor. This imposition, in turn, may be made upon the oppressed population which is allowed to remain, or upon the territory alone, after removal of the population and the colonization of the area by the oppressor’s own nationals.pp.79.
World War I saw the genocide of the Ottoman Armenians which subsequently led to the Treaty of Lausanne in 1923 by the push of the Entente Powers. While the perpetrators dodged prosecution, serial efforts by the UN in 1951 led to Artcle 2 regarding genocide and its legal applicability. According to the UN, Genocide as defined in Article 2 of the UN Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide is stated as follows:
In the present Convention, genocide means any of the following acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group, as such: (a) Killing members of the group; (b) Causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group; (c) Deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part; (d) Imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group; (e) Forcibly transferring children of the group to another group.pp.277.
Because, the UN definition of genocide excludes political groups and social classes as potential victims of genocide (“Genocide.” Europe Since 1914, 2006), acts of genocide in many occasions fall between the cracks definition wise either as crimes against humanity or mass killings. However, for example Pol Pot’s Khmer Rouge’s killings were against ethnic and religious groups as well as the Khmers themselves. Nevertheless, some of the notable genocides of the past include the Armenian genocide by the Ottoman Turks, the genocide of the European Jews by the Nazis, The Rwandan genocide by the Hutus, the colonial genocides by the colonial powers in Africa, America and Australia, and the genocide of the Herero and Nama in German south-west Africa by the German general Lothar von Trotha (1848–1920). (Rothenberg, 2005) states the following:
In the present convention, genocide means any of the following acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnic, racial or religious group, as such: killing members of the group; causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group; deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part; imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group; and forcibly transferring children of the group to another group.pp.395-397.
In the twentieth century, however, genocides became more systematic, more extensive, and more deadly. They also became far more thoroughly imbued with an ideological character, with the claim, by perpetrators, that the utter destruction of an enemy group would pave the way toward a future of unlimited prosperity, uncontested power, and cultural efflorescence for the dominant group. In short, regimes that practiced genocide promised utopia to their followers (Weitz,2005). Through this utopianistic ideal of ethnocentrism, its advocates have imagined a homogeneous society of one sort or another. It is underscored through research the most genocidal perpetrators of the 20th century were revolutionary regimes of either fascist or communist commitments (Nazi Germany, the Stalinist Soviet Union, Cambodia under the Khmer Rouge) or states in the throes of some kind of uneasy revolutionary transformation (the late Ottoman Empire under the Young Turks, the former Yugoslavia under Slobodan Milosevic, Rwanda under the Hutu). Each of these regimes promised their followers a brilliant future once the enemy was destroyed (Weitz,2005).
The utopianistic rhetoric pattern followed by the EPLF-TPLF-OLF axis was similar to the Soviets, or the Nazis, which stated that the Amharas , where they were considered the extreme threats, should be eliminated by any means necessary. After the cessation of Eritrea, the TPLF-led EPRDF and OLF followed the same ideals and started the genocidal activities against Amharas all over Ethiopia. Amharas were considered outcasts: traitors, blood-suckers, parasites, neftegnas etc….Just like Soviet socialism , the TPLF-EPRDF republic , can only be saved by purging the Amharas which ranged from forced sterilization to horrifying mass genocides and displacements.
What we are witnessing today in Ethiopia is a continuation of the galla (Oromo) invasion that started in the mid 16th century. Before the mid 16th centuries the Gallas never lived in Ethiopia. They migrated from the lower east coast of Africa upwards north and resided in the current Mombasa area and sprung from there. The original Gallas are the Borenas which started expanding up north using a gangster culture called the Geda. Geda which means invasion is a criminal organization’s looting and killing strategy. According to Pankhurst (1997) the Oromos/Gallas started invading Ethiopia starting from 1521 by the first luba called Melbah. Every Luba rules for 8 years and is replaced by a new one. In order for a galla individual to become a luba he has to kill as many people as possible especially men and boys and become aba geda first and then luba. Haile G(1995) states the following in the Ye Abba Bahrey dirsetoch:
The Galla appeared from the west and crossed the river of their country, which they call gelena, to the frontier of Bali, in the time of the Hatse Wenag Segged. They are the two tribes who are called Bereytuma11 and Boren. They have neither king nor master like other peoples; rather they obey a luba for eight years. And after eight years another luba is appointed, and the first is relieved. They do so at every period. The meaning of luba is “those who are circumcised at the same time.” And the order of their circumcision is like this: when a luba steps down, the Bertuma and Boren each gives itself a name, just as the nigus’s regiments are called Sillus Hayle, Bedil Tsehay, and Giyorgis Hayle. Pp.198-201 So essentially the Aba Geda who is the head of the clan and his military wing Aba Dula are murderers who essentially killed hundreds and thousands of people. Because of the Galla invasion within 80 years 28 tribes and languages were completely wiped out due to mass genocide and mass enslavement called gerba. The Geda, which is fundamentally a murder incorporated like militaristic organization thrives by the killing of other non Galla(Oromo) tribes, confiscating and/or destroying their properties and enslaving the survivors.The mogassa system of Geda enslaved many Ethiopians of amhara, guraghe, hadiya, kembata, wolayita tribes starting from the late 16th century.
The enslavement included raping the women, killing them at will, forbidding to speak their language, changing their name and identity. This led to a massive number of slaves more than the borena and barentu galas which became a 9:1 ratio of slave to Gallas. So today those people who claim to be Oromos 90% of them have no Galla heritage, they are descendants of the enslaved non Galla (Oromo) tribes (Reyot panel discussion, 2020) . Because the Geda looting and killing strategy stayed so long it eventually became a culture that perpetuated physical and cultural genocide in Ethiopia, destroying the country’s development and civilization. In the 20th century, the rise of communism opened a new window to modify this ethnicidal culture by reducing history, killing more non Oromos and displacing millions through different maneuvers.
The Oromos came up with fabricating and reducing history by falsifying it and distorting it for propaganda purposes. They claimed they are the first human beings on earth and in Ethiopia, while they were not originally present in the horn of Africa region. They came and occupied Ethiopian provinces through mass genocides in the 16th century following the invasion of Ahmed Gragn. In the OLF rhetoric the Amharas are “culture-destroying race” and should be destroyed ultimately. According to the speeches of fanatic Oromo and Tigrian leaders , such as Ezkiel Gabissa, Jawar Mohammed, Bekele Gerba, Shimelis Abdissa and Meles Zenawi , the Amharas should be eliminated through a war of annihilation in which one side would triumph and the other would be utterly destroyed. According to these Oromo fanatics, Oromos health and prosperity would be restored and become even greater through the victorious struggle against the Amharas. With final victory Oromia as a nation would be powerful, its rule uncontested, its domination feared. As a people, Oromos would be productive and prosperous, with freely flowing water, freshly flowering plants, and smiling people. Everyone would be joined in a racially homogeneous grouping, with healthy members and the elderly well cared for.
The other element that has been used by the TPLF-led EPRDF and the Oromo fanatics on Amharas and other non Oromo tribes is disenfranchisement. West’s Encyclopedia of American Law, (2005) defines disenfranchisement as the removal of the rights and privileges inherent in an association with a group; the taking away of the rights of a free citizen, especially the right to vote, sometimes called disenfranchisement. The relinquishment of a person’s right to membership in a corporation is distinguishable from a motion, which is the act of removing an officer from an office without depriving him or her of membership in the corporate body. Most conspicuously, the Jim Crow Laws passed by Southern states effectively disfranchised African-Americans from the late nineteenth century until well into the 20th century.
There are many experiences of disenfranchisement in world history. (Golfo, 2004) states the following: … during the time of Joseph Stalin, also described as lishentsy, the disenfranchised were not only denied the ability to vote and to be elected to the local governing bodies or soviets: Under Josef Stalin the disenfranchised lost myriad rights and became effective outcasts of the Soviet state. They lost the right to work in state institutions or factories or to serve in the Red Army. They could not obtain a ration card or passport. The disenfranchised could not join a trade union or adopt a child, and they were denied all forms of public assistance, such as a state pension, aid, social insurance, medical care, and housing. Many lishentsy were deported to forced labor camps in the far north and Siberia. Rates of disenfranchisement were higher in those areas with large non-Russian populations. Although portrayed as bourgeois elements, the disenfranchised actually included a wide variety of people, such as gamblers, tax evaders, embezzlers, and ethnic minorities. The poor, the weak, and the elderly were especially vulnerable to disenfranchisement.pp.397-398
The disenfranchisement experience of Amharas was subtle. It is embedded in an ethnic cleansing strategy. The disenfranchisement experience of Amharas is aligned to party membership and loyalty in the Amhara region to non participation in any kind of political activity in other regions. Not only were the Amharas were peripheral in the political arena of the ethnic states, they were sidelined in economic activities or getting organized in associations for their rights outside of Amhara and Addis Ababa areas. This has resulted in massive exodus from the ethnic regions due to social, political and economic reasons.
The TPLF-led EPRDF motto of ethnic federalism is based on language and randomly assigning populations in to ethnic lines. (Ethnic Cleansing: Since 1914: Encyclopedia of the Age of War and Reconstruction, 2006) states the following :
These two views (language, family origin) taken together, are usually referred to as ethnic nationalism. Ethnic cleansing is a practical reconciliation of these two ideas of the nation and power. If political legitimacy rests with the nation, and the nation is defined in ethnic terms, minority groups have a poor claim to political right. The popular explanation of ethnic cleansing, which also became current in the 1990s, can be summarized as “ancient hatred.” Yet the very idea that the groups who cleanse and are cleansed are ancient is itself an artifact of modern nationalism. At the level of society, ethnic cleansing, once it has been started, tends to self-perpetuate. Perpetrators initiated into murder and rape acquire the habit. Victims who respond with armed force, and even victims who flee, can be presented as evidence that the initial action of cleansing was justified. Since some kind of self-defense or revenge can be expected, ethnic cleansers consciously or unconsciously are targeting their own group when they attack another. Once attacks on civilians of different groups are underway, the question of blame becomes a matter of propaganda. In general, populations that are attacked will believe that they are the victims, even when organizations acting in their name initiated the violence. A situation can quickly emerge in which rival organizations kill civilians in the name of the self-defense of their own civilians. In some cases of ethnic cleansing, this moment of general violence seems to destroy older social norms of cohabitation and create fertile ground for the spread and reception of nationalist propaganda. In a situation that seems senseless, nationalism seems to provide an explanation for what is happening and a program for collective survival. In the proper conditions, an armed attack on a small number of civilians can become a war of nation against nation. PP.989-993.
As a grand strategy of ethnic federalism in Ethiopia, the strategic implementations of ethnic policies have taken turn to the worst in many regional states in the past 30 years. Ethnic cleansing and genocide on Amharas have been major problems in Ethiopia, wherever hate-filled gangster groups such as TPLF, and OLF reside. These gangster groups front themselves with a political posturing to execute their business agenda. (Naimark, 2005) states the following:
Genocide and ethnic cleansing occupy adjacent positions on a spectrum of attacks on national, religious, and ethnic groups. At one extreme, ethnic cleansing is close to forced deportation or what has been called “population transfer;” the idea is to get people to move, and the means are meant to be legal and semi-legal. At the other extreme, ethnic cleansing and genocide are distinguishable only by the ultimate intent. Here, both literally and figuratively, ethnic cleansing bleeds into genocide, as mass murder is committed in order to rid the land of a people. Further complicating the distinctions between ethnic cleansing and genocide is the fact that forced deportation often takes place in the violent context of war, civil war, or aggression. At the same time, people do not leave their homes peacefully. They often have deep roots in the locales; their families are buried in local graveyards. The result is that forced deportation, even in times of peace, quickly turns to violence, as local peoples are forcibly evicted from their native towns and villages and killed when they try to stay. Ethnic cleansing takes on genocidal overtones not only at the initial point of violence. Victims often die in transit or in refugee camps at their destinations.pp301-304.
Since PM Abiy Ahmed came to power, there is a widespread genocide and Amharas and other non Oromo groups like Guraghes, Gamos and other tribes by the Oromo fanatics in the Oromia region. The genocide has the following characteristics:
- Tribal (general): Hunting Amharas predominantly and prominent non-oromos (especially guraghes, gamos, gedios, etc…). The group or the authority that perpetrates genocide can either follow a pattern or act indiscriminately. For example in Armenia the local authorities ordered Armenian men and older boys to be executed outside the villages and towns.
- – Primary targets: Adult men, Prominent elders, celebrities, educated elites
- – Secondary Targets: Women and children
- Tribal-Religious: Amharas are primary targets because of their ethinicity and their religious stance. Most of them were orthodox Christians but other Christians like Pentecostals were included. Christian Oromos are considered either as traitors or they have been “amharized” by marriage or religion. In this mix other Christian non-Oromos like Guraghes, Gamos and gedios are included
- Identity and institutional eradication
a. In the education sector: burning down schools and colleges owned by amharas primarily and guraghes. In Universities directly killing amhara students, kidanapping –raping and killing non Oromo primarily amhara girls.
- – Destroying amhara businesses by burning and looting them down
- – Destroying amhara businesses by racketeering
- – Destroying amhara businesses by putting up high taxes through the government structure
c. Churches: burning and looting churches (30 Orthodox churches) so far and killing priests and attendees
d. Wiping out Ethiopian identity through
- – Fabricating false fictional history and brain washing Oromo youth
- – Wiping out Ethiopian history from school curricula at all levels
- – Burning historical documents
- – Editing the bible and eliminating the word “Ethiopia” from the scripts
- – Destroying heritage sites like statues e. Ethnic cleansing
- – By forcefully displacing (through violence) primarily amhara and non oromo populations by destroying their homes
- – By designing a demographic shift strategy of pushing out amharas from towns and replacing them by oromos in their place by mobilizing rural Oromo population in to towns and cities
- – By disenfranchising amharas and pushing them economically through tax, confiscation tactics, theft, ethnic preferencing and kleptocracy f. Massive propaganda on amharas
- – By establishing mass media that propagate hate and encourage killings
- – Brainwashing Oromo Youth with untruthful hate propaganda in print, mass and social media plat forms
The use of the governance structure to eliminate Amharas was one of the key strategies in the architecture of amhara genocide. The Oromia regional state, Sidamo zone, Benshangul Gumuz regional state are good examples. Especially in Oromia region, the president of the region, Shimelis Abdissa, has clearly stated in many occasions in public and in conferences that the ultimate goal of the Oromos is to cripple amharas and disenfranchise and eliminate them. Through the Oromia regional state governance structure and Through TPLF-EPRDF they implemented the following:
- Positioning the party strategies to disenfranchise amharas
- Positioning and concentrating “amharas’ in one region and use their own people who are party members to displace, economically suppress, and kill their own kind
- Designing to eliminate amharas who live outside the Amhara region by designing multiple rural and urban genocides in the first 27 years and escalating it in the last three years
- The use of police and special regional force to kill amharas and destroy their institutions
- The use of qero youth to perpetrate genocide in both urban and rural parts of Oromia mainly but also using local youth in sidama, Somali, benshangul, Amahara and Tigray regions.
- Using the governance structure they cover up murders /genocide and propagating false rumors and denials stating the atrocities never happened at all
- Allowing insurgent Oromo guerrilla groups such as OLF-shanne and others to further perpetuate the cleansing and abstain from taking measures on them.
Throughout the past 30 years and counting 90% of the killings of amhara happened in the Oromia region. However, the amharas were and still are hunted in Benshangul-Gumuz, Tigray, Wolkait-Tegede, Raya, North shoa, Sidamo, Bench-maji, Somali, and the outskirts of Addis Ababa. In Oromia all urban, peri-urban and rural towns have been the centers of mass killings in the past 30 years. However, the killings escalated in the past 2 years to a higher level resulting in the mortality of thousands and displacement of non-Oromos in the millions. PM Abiy himself came out of the Oromo wing of EPRDF and all the current officials at the top level in the Oromia Region were assigned by him. He continuously either denies the amhara genocide and states that Oromos were killed in order to save the day of blame on his Oromo compadres or he attempts to wash his hands off of the sin by stating that it is not his responsibility to stop the atrocities because he is at the federal level. One way or the other Abiy cannot escape the respondeat superior conviction, because everything happened under his government, ideology and by his party comrades. Abiy’s weak leadership and his lack of capacity to take measures have cost thousands of lives and billions of dollars of economic loss. Recently he has arrested some of the leaders of the genocide along with thousands of foot soldiers. From what it seems, the trial is going to end up as a political exercise instead of criminal court. The perpetrators who are in jail and the thousands who are at large are still wrecking havoc in Oromia in the past 2 weeks alone. This shows the loop holes in Abiy’s leadership and his measures to solve the problem. If he releases Jawar and Bekele Gerba through political negotiation, then it will further embolden the qero and the other enemies of the state and a lot of civilians will die due to the continuing genocide and ethnic cleansing. Abiy or the next leader whoever he/she might be should be swift in handling crimes against humanity in Ethiopia.
The Amahara genocide by TPLF, Oromo fanatics, Benshangul and Sidama needs a special attention by the international community. It is the culmination of a serious fracture in the ideology and structure of the EPRDF as a whole, and the Ethiopian constitution which based on ethnic fragmentation and governance and the policies that are the byproduct of it. Thousands have been killed and millions have been internally displaced by this regime in the past 30 years. A complete overhaul of the system starting from the ideology is highly imperative. The financial sources of this staggering terror should be uncovered and responsible parties should be accountable to the law. Regional foes such as Egypt and other Arab countries have been funding these terror groups to push their own regional agenda at the expense of a genocide. The perpetrators have to be accountable by law for committing genocide, crimes against humanity and mass killings of the Amharas, Orthodox Christians and Non Oromo speaking tribes such as Guraghes, Gedios, and Gamos. If justice is not served swiftly on those who led and who
ATTESTATIONS OF THE AMHARA GENOCIDE AND ETHNIC 16 committed such horrendous crimes, Ethiopia will be going into a prolonged civil war in the near future.
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