One day meeting held on the Kemant issue in Bahir Dar, Regional Government Council building on January 4, 2012. The first official meeting involved three parties: Kemant leadership, Regional Government officials and invited speakers. On Kemant side, the delegate was led by Ambassador Zemene Kasaygn includes influential figures: Prof Yigzaw Kebede, Prof. Malede Marew, Executive Committee members and the Speaker of the Council. The leadership members presented in the delegate are: Kassie Mengistu (Chairperson), Melkamu Sisay (Vice Chairperson), Misganaw Fenkilaw Council’s Speaker and Executive Committee members, Endashew Bogela, Nega Getie and Tesfahun Mulat, Gondar City Representative. The regional government was represented by Ayalew Gobeze, Amhara Regional Governor, Legese Tulu, Head of Sector Bureau, Mulugeta Said, Head of Sector Bureau, North Gondar Deputy Governor and other senior the regional government advisors.
The meeting began after Mr. Merhatsadk senior advisor and the focal person introduced rules of proceedings. Most of the session was led by a senior advisor Ato Asfaw. One of speakers was Dr. Alemarehu G. Hiwot, who tried to explain Kemant language relationships with other Agaw language and Geez. Ato Yaregal the head of the committee called the Kemant Study Committee spoke also regard to his “assessment”. Yaregal stated the language of Kemant was “extinct” and the people he observed were hundred percent Amharic speakers, territorial “adjacency was somewhat mixed.” He said little about psychological make up, but admitted 88% of people declared their identity as Kemants.
The committee members of were somewhat in hot temper on Yaregal’s statemnt. By saying implicitly, he tried to deny the legitimacy of demand. One of audience interpreted Yaregal’s position as if they speak the language of another group’s, they have no right to claim self-rule, in other words, Highland Eritreans who speak Tigrigna, they could not claim neither statehood nor even autonomy because they speak the language of their fellow neighbors; the speakers of French and English of Africans have no right to claim independence or self-determination since they speak the language their colonizers.
The Yaregal’s position was contradicted and dismissed by speakers and Kemant listeners. One listener stated that “how do you said hundred percent of the people speak Amharic, even there are delegate members at this meeting who can speak the Kemant language fluently.” Subsequently, Mr. Ayalew Gobeze was quick to say he wanted to hear it let one of the delegates to speak in the Kemant. Then, one participant spoke three to five minutes on the same issue. Another participant asked Yaregal, you were communicating in some area with a translator, why you didn’t include in your presentation that experiences? He answered, that was informal interaction not part of the package. Despite his denial the existence of the language speakers, Yaregal and his colleagues on December 7, 2010 were challenged by the religious leaders and residents in Chiliga Woreda who spoke in Kemant language on the self-rule issue (the record is found on youtub.com). On the video, a man sitting on right with blue suite and blue cap holding his cheek in surprise is Ato Yaregal. Details of Yaregal led study’s haziness was discussed in the previous report, entitle to … Kemants on Critical Path …On the other hand, his colleague appeared in the middle, on video with white-blue suite, blue cap & sun glass is Mr. Simachew N., who made closing remark in appreciation of the Kemant people’s legitimate struggle for self-determination. Mr. Simachew then Chief of Staff for the regional government, believed to be Gffat nationalist of South Gondar/Motta was not the committee member, but he visited the areas as the government official.
Other participants’ positions were in contrast to Yaregal’s views. They described, Kemants possess strong psychological make up, enjoy adjacent settlement, cultural distinction and still have the language that can be rehabilitated in spite of endangerment. The Kemant leadership members equivocally rejected Ato Yaregal’s views. Finally, both sides agreed to set up the joint committee comprise of Kemant leadership and Regional Government to discuss with the people.
Closing remark was made by Mr. Ayalew. He realized anger and frustration manifested by the Kemant leadership on the presentation called study. The Governor said, “we were careful not make decision on the basis of the study” (meaning Yaregal’s claim). That is why this meeting is arranged to discuss with all stakeholders and then with public to reach a proper decision. He apologized for extra delay incurred for several reasons. Some observers see the Governor wants to find genuine lasting solution to the issue to keep the region united but he is under pressure by chauvinist hardliners within the ANDM.