Yesterday, Abiy Ahmed gave a carefully rehearsed lecture to his parliament. On the surface he preached about the need for peace. But still, he gave enough signs and messages to keep stoking the Tigray-Amhara enmity that he and several of the Oromo Prosperity Party members think is key to weaken what they call Abyssinia (Tigray and Amhara) and for Oromos to consolidate power in Addis Ababa and dominate Ethiopia. He also repeated his previous accusations of the Tigray people attacking the ENDF and having desire for war.
The key he used to keep Tigray-Amhara enmity alive is Western Tigray. While on the surface, meant for diplomatic audience, he said the “Welkait” and other issues will be resolved according to the law, he gave enough message to the Amharas that he supports their nomenclature, occupation, framing, claim and ethnic cleansing of Western Tigray.
Speaking about the Amhara discussions about Western Tigray going to be returned to Tigray following the agreements in Pretoria and Nairobi, he said “his government is not part of the conspiracy being talked about”. This is meant to convey two things: at best to signal to the Amharas that Western Tigray is not to be returned to Tigray, and at worst to suggest nothing like that has been decided.
Aligning with Amhara nomenclature, he calls Western Tigray by the new Amhara label of “Welkait”. Note that Welkait is an area of Western Tigray which includes mostly the highland areas close to the Amhara border. But the Amharas want to call the entire Western Tigray by Welkait and Abiy used the term to refer to Western Tigray, clearly aligning himself with the Amhara claim and nomenclature.
Going further, Abiy repeated the Amhara bogus claim over Western Tigray, that is that TPLF annexed it to Tigray by force in 1991. The truth is that Western Tigray has never been part of Amhara for Amhara is a creation of the 1991 constitution. All states in Ethiopia are creations of the 1991 constitution and none of them can claim existence before 1991. You can’t annex from something that didn’t exist. Secondly, Western Tigray, which was almost always part of Tigray before it was taken away from Tigray by Emperor Haileselassie, became part of Tigray in 1991 not on the basis of historical claim, but following the constitutional organization principle of linguistic and cultural affinity.
In a clear attempt to distance Western Tigray from Tigray and place it closer to Amhara, Abiy tried to create a separate Welkait identity that is closer to Amhara than to Tigray. He said “Welkaitie [an Amharic name he gave to the new identity] speaks a confused Amharic and a confused Tigrinya”. Placing it further away from Tigray and closer to Amhara, he said “the people of Welkait didn’t say they don’t want to talk with Tigray or have any relation with Tigray”. First about which people is he talking? The people have been cleansed from the area either by massacres or by massive displacement. Is he speaking about the newly resetled Amharas?
The people of Western Tigray speak perfect Tigrinya, not a confused one as he says. The people from the Welkait area of Western Tigray call themselves by the Tigrinya name of “Welketai” when they want to speak about their local identity, just like a person from Shire says “Shiretai” and a person from Raya says “Rayetai”.
But the most dangerous message Abiy passed to the Amharas is to continue to do the ethnic cleansing and demographic engineering on the ground. Addressing the fears of the Amhara that Western Tigray will be returned to Tigray, he said “do the work on the ground”. And the Amharas have understood what that means: continue to cleanse Tigrayans and change the demography.
Here is a prominent Amhara activist with half a million followers showing how he understood Abiy Ahmed’s message:
“If you understand politics, you don’t expect the Prime Minister to say Welkait is Amhara’s. Understand what it means when he says ‘Do the work on the ground, and the rest is a walk in the park'”.
One never almost speaks directly in the Amharic language. One speaks in double entendre, dog whistle and doublespeak. Abiy used it excellently in his yesterday’s parliament lecture to say different things to different audiences. The Amharas heard and understood what is meant for them.
Links and Resources relevant to Western Tigray:
- List of place names in Welkait (Tigray, Ethiopia), as recorded in 1939
- Western Tigray in 109 historical and 31 ethno-linguistic maps (1607-2014)
- “We Will Erase You from This Land” Crimes Against Humanity and Ethnic Cleansing in Ethiopia’s Western Tigray Zone
- Survivors Recount the Mai Kadra Massacre
- Tigray Government Statement on OCHA’s Inclusion of Western Tigray as Amhara Territory
- The Ethnic Cleansing in Western Tigray: A Letter scaring Tigrayans to leave Western Tigray
- Massacring Tigrayans and blaming them for it: Remembering the Mai Kadra Massacre
- Ethnic Cleansing in Western Tigray
- A short Story of Kahsay from Humera, Western Tigray
- The war on Tigray: massacres of Tigrayans in western Tigray that is under Amhara occupation
- After ethnic cleansing of Tigrayans from Western Tigray, Amhara State proceeds to lease and distribute their farmlands to Amhara investors
- Amhara to Adebay Tigrayans: Go to Eritrea, or We Throw You into a Concentration Camp
- New Atrocity Feared in Western Tigray: About 3000 Tigrayan Men Moved out of Concentration Camps to Unknown Destination
- Unearthed evidence maps out Western Tigray dispute
- Nubia and Abyssinia: Comprehending Their Civil History, Antiquities, Arts, By Michael Russell
- Some maps of Tigray from Manoel Barradas book
- Rediscovering Ethiopian History and African Wisdom, Ghelawdewos Araia, Ph.D
- A Tigrinya interview on the extent of Tigray territory with Ghelawdewos Araia, Ph.D
- Reality-check: Tigray annexed Amhara lands? by Daniel Berhane
- Beyond Ethnocentric Ideology and Paradigm Shift for a Greater Ethiopian Unity, Ghelawdewos Araia, Ph.D
- There is No Alternative to National Reconciliation and Dialogue in Ethiopian Politics, Ghelawdewos Araia, Ph.D
- Handtke’s (1849) map of the Horn of Africa uncovered, Nyssen, Jan
- Amhara nationalist claims over Western Tigray are a smokescreen for ethnic cleansing
- Interview on Contemporary Ethiopia: Lessons Learned, Ghelawdewos Araia, Ph.D
- Interview on contemporary Ethiopia , Ghelawdewos Araia, Ph.D
- Penny Cyclopaedia of the Society for the Diffusion of Useful …, Volume 1 (See entry for Abyssinia. See also this and this )
- የወሰን እና የማንነት ጥያቄ ጉዳይ፥ ገብረ ሥላሴ ኣርኣያ (An Amharic article on the Western Tigray Issue)
- ወልቃይት እና ራያ ከትግራይ ወደሌላ ግዛቶች የተቀላቀሉት በአፄ ኃይለ ስላሴ ነው፥ አቶ ህዝቂያስ በላይ በአፄ ዮሓንስ ዘመነ መንግስት
- Who Is the Rightful Owner of Western Tigray?
- ወልቃይትና አካባቢዉ፦ ጥያቄዉ የማን ነዉ? አፈታቱስ?, ብርሃነ በርሀ
- ‹‹ወልቃይት እንደ ባድመ›› የልብ ለልብ መራራቅ፤ድንበር/ወሰን እንደ ‹‹ምክንያት››፤ ጦርነት፤ የድንበር/ወሰን የኮሚሽን
- እውነት ትግራይ መሬት ቆርሳ ወስዳለችን? (part1, part2, part3)
- ውራይና ኣብ ጕዳይ ወልቃዪት
- የትግራይ ታሪካዊ ድንበር ቆቦን አካቶ እስከ አልውሃ ምላሽ ነው።” ፊተውራሪ ሙዑዝ
- ወልቃዪት ከድሮው ጀምሮ ትግርኛ ተናጋሪ ነበር