The Massacre of Benishangul-Gumuz People - The Ugly Face and Deed of ‘Amhara Supremacists’

Published on 7th May 2019

It is Massacre, Stupid

The heinous, organised and indiscriminate mass killings of the Gumuz  people,  a minority nationality from the Benishangule-Gumuz Region of Ethiopia,  orchestrated and co-ordinated  by the  openly and unashamedly supremacist and irredentist  Amhara National Movement (and condoned by the Amhara Regional Government  and the ruling party, the ANDM/ADP, as well as incited and actively encouraged by the Amhara social media activists) is nothing  but a  massacre of  innocent citizens, which is tantamount to a crime against humanity. The criminal acts are deliberately committed as part of a widespread and systematic attack directed against an identifiable part of a civilian population, the Gumuz people. As such it must be referred to either the highest domestic courts, or the International Court of Justice. This ethnic targeted mass killing is consistent with and a further culmination of similar attacks against minority nationalities in the Region, such as the Kimant and Agew people, and Tigrayan people who reside in the Amhara region.

What started as an unfortunate and fateful business and service transaction dispute between mere nationals and residents in the Benishangul-Gumuz Region - which resulted in localised group conflict and senseless and brutal deaths of Gumuz, Amahra and other nationals - was politically ethnicised and whipped up by Amhara supremacists as a dent to Amhara pride and as a transgression of the Amhara people, leading to vengeful and indiscriminate pogroms of the Gumuz people who live in the Amhara Region (in area known as Jawi) with death counts to date  exceeding several hundred according to credible multiple sources.

With a population of 1.23 million (2014-17 projection)  and known as  Region 6 in present day Ethiopian federal administrative structure, the Benishangul-Gumuz is one of the least developed  regions in the country in terms of economic and infrastructure development, education and health outcomes. Historically, the region was subjected to the worst form of the ruling class Amhara Nefetegna political economic order (a Mode of Production and Relation based on Feudal-Military Settler Occupation), which was characterised by the worst features of serfdom and slavery where many Gumuz people were sold into slavery. Up to the present the Gumuz people are referred to (insulted) by Ethiopian supremacists, in particular the Amhara ultranationalists, as “Shanquellas,” which literally means in Amharic “Slaves” or “Niggers.” It is ironic that when the topic of Menelik’s genocidal wars against the Oromos is a hot and current topic amongst revisionist Amhara politicians and fellow apologists, the standard bearers of Menelikian supremacist nationalists are engaged in a senseless massacre of innocent Gumuz people.

The Political and Ideological Anatomy of ANM Amhara Supremacists

A recent phenomenon of Amhara nationalism is the emergence of the Amhara National Movement (ANM), which is openly, and unashamedly supremacist, expansionist, irredentist, chauvinist, and latently Islamophobic and sexist.  Similarly, many would strongly argue that there are pertinent features of the Movement which point out to the emergence of a fascistic party given the following fundamental political and ideological traits:

•Right-wing, authoritarian, ultra-nationalism that is profoundly antidemocratic and with a disdain for the recognition of human rights, whether group, or individual rights.

•A conception of Ethiopia and “Ethiopianism” based on ahistorical and mystical foundations, but defined and refined over centuries to serve the hegemonic rule Amhara elites and ruling classes.

•A supremacist view that Ethiopia is made up in the image of the Amharas, and that the other nations and nationalities must respect and bow to the Amhara as the “creators” (according to the recent remark of the Chairperson of ANM) of Ethiopia. Hence, their aggressive nationalism and their visceral hatred of the notion of equal and sovereign nations and nationalities in Ethiopia with equal rights and stakes. This is politically manifested by their vehement rejection of democratic federalism and their espousing of a Unitarian state under the hegemony of the Amhara ruling classes and elites.

•Expansionist and irredentist in essence (of Menelikian proportion), claiming the lands and peoples of other Ethiopian nationalities, including the Metekel region in Benishangul-Gumuz,  Welqait and Raya  in  Tigray,  Addis Ababa (the so-called Berera in lieu of Finfine), Shoa, Adama and other cities in Oromia, and Dire-Dawa and Harrar, to  mention but a few.

•The persecution of minority nationalities, including the Kimant and Agew nationalities and peoples, and the “Wollo Oromos” (i.e. in the Kemisie Zone of the Amhara Region).

•The ideology and mind set of identifying enemies and using scapegoats as unifying cause. Defining Amhara nationalism not in terms of its inherent positive values and attributes but in contradiction against perceived external enemies.

•The cult and culture of the coercive force (the cult of the gun) and the prevalence of armed mobs and paramilitary forces, fuelled and driven by alienated and disaffected youth, the urban petty-bourgeois and lumpen proletariats.

• Latent but increasingly manifested Islamophobia (the burning of Mosques), religious intolerance (e.g. against the Pentecostals) and highly politicised sexism and misogyny.

The legitimate and democratic nationalism of the Amhara nation and people is a force for progress and is undoubtly a major pillar of the Ethiopian state and for the viability of the democratic federal order.  Yet, the supremacist and aggressive nationalism of the ANM is fast becoming a force for disintegration of the country as well working against the interest of the broad masses of the Amhara people, and a such  must be fought and be faced to account for its heinous acts perpetrated against the Gumuz people.

Whither the ANDM/ADP?

That the ANDM/ADP is usurped by the ultra-nationalist wing is by now clear beyond reproach. The impact of the rise of ANM on the ANDM is proving devastating, resulting in the defeat and ousting of the democratic federalist Amhara nationalists by the ultra-nationalist wing within the ANDM. The rise of ANM has in effect made the distinction between ANDM and ANM paper-thin on the crucial issues of constitutional order and the territorial legality and integrity of the current nationality boundaries in Ethiopia. Moreover, it has become under extreme pressure from ANM on the question of the standard-bearer of Amhara Nationalism. Being weak and opportunist, the ANDM/ADM is seeking by all means possible to appear more Amhara nationalistic than the ANM, yet to no avail.

As the ruling party of the Amhara Region, the ANDM/ADP is culpable of the massacre of the resident Gumuz people in its Region and beyond and has the principal responsibility for the safety of citizens as well as for combating lawlessness and mob rule. To the contrary, there is documented evidence that the ANDM/ADP has fuelled ethnic hatred and targeting as well as using the Amhara “Luyu” force to subjugate nationality minorities (e.g. Kimants and Agews), non-Amhara residents (Tigrayans) and the Oromo people in its Region.

The Role of Social Media Amhara Activists

The role of the social media and the contribution of social media driven hate politics in fuelling social strife, ethnic cleansing and targeting as well as a preferred platform for populist politics, in particular supremacists and extreme right-wing politics, is well documented and evidenced globally. A clear  example (well  documented by now), is the direct link between the massacre of the innocent Gumuz people and the  frenzied activities of Amhara social media activists who whipped up Amhara national sentiment and nationalism and actively incited  violence against the Gumuz people. These propagators of massacres and ethnic cleansing must be stopped and held to account, and it is the duty of peace-loving and patriotic people to refer these people (the evidence is there/retrievable even if deleted) to Facebook and YouTube as well as to appropriate national and international judiciary authorities.

What is the Federal Government Doing?

Perhaps the most depressing episode of the current Ethiopian political order is the utter incompetence and lack of strategic direction of the EPRDF/Abiy (PhD) Government. The latest episode of the heinous massacre of the Gumuz people is nothing but the continuation of the ongoing lawlessness, ethnic targeting and cleansing and internal dislocation of millions of Ethiopian people. The barbaric Gumuz massacre even did not deserve an official statement from the Abiy Government. The PM appears to be oblivious to what is happening under his watch. Moreover, he must be ultimately held responsible for crime being committed against millions of innocent Ethiopians and the disintegration of civic society, which are to a large extent the outcomes of his sectarian and divisive politics.

The Role of the Domestic and Foreign Media

Despite the claim that one of the purported benefits of the Abiy reforms was the expansion of the free media, the domestic media has never been more sectarian, or destructive. Moreover, there is a clear duopoly of information and the mass media in general where news agencies work hands in gloves with the ruling OPDO/ODP and ANDM/ADP. The domestic media, instead of becoming   a force for consensus building and unity, have largely become mouth pieces of the ruling parties and often have acted as a vehicle for propagating hate and sectarian politics. ESAT is a prime example of a mass media that is dedicated to hate politics and the promotion of ethnic cleansing and targeting for the purpose of restoring the old, hegemonic Amhara ruling class political power.

As for the foreign media, it has never been more apparent of their hypocrisy, criminal silence and their disdain of the country. When Ethiopia was doing much better the largely neoliberal global press unpicked every small and big failings of the Government, reporting negatively on Ethiopia and its progress. The Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International, tools of neoliberal imperialism, are prime examples.  Not surprisingly, with the Abiy Government, the foreign media has given scant attention to the massive internal dislocation of millions, ethnic cleansing and targeting politics, or the heinous massacre of hundreds of minority ethnic people. This is consistent with their ideology and geo-politics of supporting dependent and subservient states in the developing countries. To add insult to injury, condescending white neoliberal journalists, such as Fergal Keane, the BBC Africa Editor, even suggested the nomination of the Ethiopian PM for the Nobel Peace Prize. After Aung Sau Suu Kyi, who said that history repeating first time a tragedy and a second time a farce?

What Next?

The brutal massacre of hundreds of Gumuz people by Amhara supremacists is a dark episode in the annals of Ethiopian history, and as such must be condemned by all Ethiopian peoples and by the Federal and Regional Governments. Moreover, the perpetrators must be held accountable and brought to face justice.   It is no exaggerating that Ethiopia is on a trajectory of slow-motion Rwanda style genocide. The massacre of hundreds of innocent citizens, the dislocation of millions, the spread of hate politics are becoming common and defining events.  The PM warned Ethiopians that this is expected and that he could not alter the trajectory of a downward slide to barbarism. One wonders where his fatalism comes from. He is bound by party power politics and scheming and appears powerless, or unwilling to provide a strategic leadership that is above narrow sectarian politics and personal vanities.  What is crucially important is that peace loving and democratic forces must not wait for the Abiy Government to determine the peace and future of the Ethiopian state, or democratic federalism, and they must therefore take the initiative at forging strategic alliances of all democratic federalists in all the Regions as a matter of existential priority. May the dead rest in peace, the truth be told and justice is done irrespective of colour, ethnicity, or faith.

By Makonnen Tesfaye

Principal Director, MTec.

Courtesy: Aigaforum


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