Ethnic Cleansing against Kemant People: Genesis of Agaw People Suffering

By Mizigena A

From the start of Christianity introduction to Ethiopia, the North Western Cushitic Agaw people was suffering from multidimensional socio-economic prospective (such as religion, politics, social, economic, culture and language) for over 1600 years. With the rising and expansion of Christianity in the fourth century, the majority of Agaw were forced to accept Christianity following the conversion of the two Agaw king brothers, Aezana and saezana and received Christian name as Aberha and Atsibeha. Those who resisted and adhered to their original and former belief (Judaism and paganism) fled from North to South and South-East direction along Tekeze River and settled in Gondar and around Gondar and Lasta and gradually to North Shewa, Jemma and Abay rivers and beyond.
The Agaw population who resisted for centuries long the state religion after conversion of majority had been divided into smaller enclaves (Awi, Kementy, Himita, Blen, Alien/Falasha and more others). As a result, they got exposed for further religious and, economic and social oppression as Christianity chased them behind. In between, however, the Agaw people were enjoying their golden time during Zagwe Dynasty for about 400 years, until 1270. But after the pseudo Solomonid dynasty took power from Zagwe, the fate of Agaw people changed from bad to worse.
The first incidence in this process was forcefully receiving religiously constructed identity by abandoning their true Agawness. This process (forceful conversion from Agaw identity to Amharization continued until the late 20th century and even continues to this day. Those who resisted not to become Christian (Amhara) were denied of property rights. As a result, basic assets such as land and other resources that measure the wealth status of rural households in particular were concentrated in the hands of royal family members, provincial governors, Orthodox Church, military officials, and their respective descendants in the form ownership system called of rist and gult. Land was used as one of main instruments to convert traditional and Old Testament (Oriet) religion followers to Orthodox Christian. The fate for non adherents was to be evacuated from their land and exercise their original religion by emigrating far beyond the conquerors’ territorial jurisdiction. The Agaw people in general and the Kemant and Felasha (black-Jewish ) in particular were suppressed by the then King Yishak (who ruled from 1413-1444) and ordered either to be converted to Christianity or persecuted. This state and religion combined conspiracy made most people to remain poor and finally leading them to move to mountainous and rugged geographic areas as a last resort. The existing settlement of Himita and Kemant people is the live example of the past injustice to these people. The worst was what had happened to Bete-Israel tribes. They were totally evacuated from their land and made to be dispersed to different directions within Gondar and Tigray provinces. In the end, their exodus from their homeland to State of Israel was the result of deep rooted religious and tribal marginalization persecution and suffering induced by their neighbor and the then local government.

Continuation of Past Injustice Legacy upon Kemant

Though Ethiopia is home to more than 80 different ethnic, linguistic and religious communities, Ethiopians were categorized unofficially into first and second level citizens until the so called Solomonid dynasty was avoided by the Military Dergue in 1974. Until this time, the larger segments of Ethiopians were scarcely visible both nationally and internationally. One people, one language one culture and one religion were the main manifestations of feudal regime. People were not officially allowed to exercise their religion and speak their language; different derogatory terms affixed to each ethnic’s name; and their languages were substituted by Amharic. Kemant people were the main target for conversion in the North-Western part of Ethiopia next to Falasha and were prosecuted to abandon their religion, language and identity. Of, course majority of them had accepted Christianity and abandoned their language forcibly and called themselves Amhara in order to retain their land holding.
The paradox, however, was that to become Christian and speaking the same language (Amharic) had not protected the people from receiving unfair treatment from those who were converted earlier and other ethnics who took the governorship position. Even central government sponsor wars were declared against Kemant by local warlords and province governors in different time during emperor H/Selesie.
Even today, the anguishes of Kemants never have halted in the federalism system where every nation, nationality and people in Ethiopia:
• Has the right to speak, to write and develop, its own language, to develop and promote its culture and to preserve its history;
• Has the right to a full measure self government which includes the right to establish institution of governments in the territory it inhabits and to equitable representation in state and federal government.
Though the larger parts of ethnics in Ethiopia have been recognized as a unique people, Kemant is still annexed with Amharic speaking people against the spirit of the constitution.
The quest for identity recognition and internal self administration has been pending for unnecessary over lengthy period. The Amhara Regional State Parliament has decided against the quest nullifying the constitution endorsed by the regional parliament itself in 2014.
Currently unofficial war has been declared against Kemant people. This war is being organized by violent groups who secretly serving the anti peace political organizations. This unofficial political group in the name of Amhara People Unity whose objective is to overthrow the constitution and to change the federal system by all means and reinstate the past oppressive regime upon Ethiopians. They claim, their veiled agenda is unity, but the bottom line is a group who preaches for the entire nation unity never organize itself under the name of “Amhara people Unity.”
This kind of illegal movement started after the federation council accepted the appeal of Kemant and recommended the regional government to reconsider Kemant’s identity and self administration quest. Following this decision, with the technical and financial support from the Diasporas have been organized in different woredas of North Gondar Zone to displace Kemant people including government employees and farmers living in and adjacent to Amharic speaking people.
The gangs considered their action as a means to frustrate Kemant and thereby quit up the quest and shift to decide to live annexed until the dooms day. However, their attempt is only for vain. Of course, the gangs themselves and their master know that very well kemant never flinch until the independence is declared.
Let me support with the actual figure what the gangs did to Kemant:
The following people farmers and government employees (teachers, health workers, development agents and other residents) have been displaced in three districts (Woredas)
* Chilga ———150 people from all groups
* Quara———-100 people from all groups
* Lay armachiho———- 270 (200 residents, 70 government employees)
* Total ————— 420 people
If we include the property damages sustained by the gang group, estimated about 1 million birr properties were stolen and destructed in the three woredas.
300 heads of light armed gang group were tried to intrude and invade Tikl Dingay Town by around Jan 19/2015 but the gang was easily encircled and their attempt was aborted before fulfilling their evil mission. This gang group confessed that they received direction from zonal and woreda official.

Why Kemant People Never have Tried to Give Response to this Act?

It is very simple. The objective of this gang and their sponsors are doing this to deflect the direction of the legal quest of Kemant and become beneficiaries of this civil conflict. But here everyone should be aware that if the regional and federal government remains silent, equivalent response will be given to the gang group in time.
What the gang groups have not realized is that the two peoples (Amhara and Qemant) never will go into civil conflict with the trash conspiracy of self interested gang group. We know that Amhara and Kemant co-exist for time immemorial and will continue to leave peacefully.
Kemant people strongly believe that unity with diversity where all nation, nationality and people enjoy equal rights. It is only when this happen Ethiopian unity will be ensured. Otherwise, if we preach pseudo-unity, it won’t last long and will not be effective. Those who love the unity of Ethiopia, I beg you to love Ethiopians, to respect their culture, religion and language without any discrimination.

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6 Responses to Ethnic Cleansing against Kemant People: Genesis of Agaw People Suffering

  1. Kamazana says:

    I agree fully with Mizegana, and I bow to you with mesgana. The federal government should really protect Kemants and other groups who are constitutionally and correctly presenting their cases to the legitimate authorities. The naming of the “Amhara Regional Administration” was the reason that caused all this mismanagement and misunderstanding. The Amhara think they own the people under this administration, like the age-old systems of slave ownership. When confronted with their own history, they claim that there is no Amhara nation or people as such, but when it comes to administering under that name, they accept and try to administer the people under the administration in abusive manner to the point of using gang groups to hoodwink the people. This system of rule by force is lingering in our part of the world to the point it shadows all the gains of the revolutionary period of the near past. So many lives have been sacrificed to do away with such form of oppressive and repressive system of governance. The federal government is aware of this but it is short of guarding the interests of those parties that paid their lives dearly to the cause of human freedom. The oppressors should not go free, but must be restricted from harming the citizens. Eventually the importance of the individual citizen must be safeguarded and must not be sacrificed for the interest of gangsters. Each citizen must be guaranteed of safety and prosperity under the law no matter where they are in the nation. Special focus should also be given to those who advocate the interests of their individual ethnic/national enclaves. These groups that aspire to self rule are only saying give us a chance to do our share of national development in promoting the bigger interest of the nation as a whole. When the Amhara administration comes to terms with this understanding, then voluntary grouping of different sorts will emerge with new energy and vigor. If this regional administration turns deaf ears and refuses to understand the aspiration of its citizens, it will fail the fundamental objective it is charged with. It is not to govern or rule that the regional administration is formed, but to administer to the interests of those who aspire to do things their own way. Initiatives should come from the grassroots to the administration and the task of the administration is to facilitate their interest and encourage them to show results. If the Amhara regional administration becomes obstinate and arrests the development and aspiration of the peoples under it, it better think twice. This will boomerang against itself for the genuine elements within the Amhara will even oppose its mismanagement and put it out of office. The arrangement of regional administration is not an arrangement of regional oppression and repression. It is rather an arrangement of self understanding and the promotion of the interests of the various groupings of people within its administration. If the demand is to be free from it, it has to show its willingness to allow so, and that is the only way it can show its genuineness. Forcefully controlling peoples’ aspirations for better life is not even in their listing of duties. Finally the regional administration has to be God-fearing. This comes first in the list of priorities. God cannot be partial and discriminatory. Whatever the administration does to the kemants and the Agaw populace will come unto itself some day.
    God Bless All of Us. AMEN!!!

  2. tese says:

    I am from Awi zone I call all Agaws in Diaspora to unite and to claim more political and economical right for Agaw people in general up to independent from being a part of Amhara by establishing our own state or Regional government.

  3. Kamazana says:

    I second this move. I think that is the only way to success. Unity of Agaws from all corners of Ethiopia is very important to come as a force. There is a looming, unexplored energy that has been handed down from posterity within the Agaw people. Do you know that Qine poetry was the creation of the Agaws? There are so many innovations that are attributed to the Agaws that remain silenced by thousands of years of oppression and suppression. That energy needs to be renewed to be useful for the general well being of the greater Ethiopia. Ethiopia’s poverty is due to the unused potential of its citizens. This great potential was unable to come out to the fore due to oppressive backward elements within the country who happen to dominate the political scene. Now is the time to forge this energy and make it useful. I agree Tese, Agaws need to unite. For us to unite we need to shade away the fear of our oppressors and rely on the Eternal Force. We can only unite and unity would benefit ourselves if it is based on the will of our Creator. Nothing earthly will redeem Agaws from the age old predicament. I salute all of you in love and peace.

  4. Why some folcks are so afraid of the “Unity of Agaw Peoples”. I don’t know the reason why?????????

    • Birtu says:

      Because people to people integration (publicity) is not yet done. Even Some enclaves of Agaw do not know they are from one root.

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