The Decline of Amhara Elites: A Three-Decade Fall from Grace Accelerated in the Last Five Years

Published Aug. 15, 2023, 11:29 p.m. by FNN


Over the past few decades, the Ethiopian political landscape has undergone a significant transformation, marked by the rise and fall of various nations and political groups. Among these shifts, the Amhara political forces, once prominent players in Ethiopian politics, have experienced a notable decline in influence and significance. This decline, which has been accelerated in the last five years, represents a complex interplay of historical factors, shifting power dynamics, and evolving social and economic contexts.

Historical Context and Changing Power Dynamics

For much of Ethiopia's history, the Amhara elite group held a central role in the country's political and cultural spheres. Their dominance was exemplified by their role in the imperial court and the Ethiopian Orthodox Church, as well as their historical influence in governance structures. However, the dawn of the 21st century brought with it a growing demand for natioonal representation and a move away from Amhara-centric politics.

Rise of Oromo Influence and Tigrayan Decline

In the wake of Ethiopia's political transformation, historical narratives have been rewritten as power dynamics shift and previously marginalized nations rise to prominence. The fall of the Tigrayan People's Liberation Front (TPLF) in 2018 marked the end of the Tigrayans' 27-year dominance in Ethiopian politics. This power shift, in part, allowed Oromo political forces to ascend to a prominent position, overshadowing the Amhara elites. The ascendancy of  forces of Oromo roots with the subsequent decline of the Tigrayans' TPLF, and more recently the decline of the Amhara forces' influence, reflect the profound reshaping of the Ethiopian political landscape. This transformative process has been accelerated in recent years, as the Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed regime and his party strive to consolidate power and dominance. The Oromo's long-standing struggle for recognition and representation, and self-determination though still pending has forced transformation in the Ethiopian political landscape and ushered Ethiopian government dominated by people of Oromo origin led by Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed. However, the Oromo people continue to be targeted by the regime forces and the ultimate emancipation of the nation will only be through the victory of the Oromo Liberation Army - the force for the people by the people.

Oromo Empowerment and Shifting Political Paradigms

The rise of the Oromo people, historically underrepresented and marginalized, marks a significant departure from the historical dominance of other nations within Ethiopian politics. The Oromo's aspiration for recognition, equality, and representation gained momentum over the years, culminating in the Oromo protests that rocked the Ethiopian empire to its core. These protests catalyzed a broader movement for political reform, echoing the voices of many nations who had long felt excluded from the corridors of power.

Transition and Abiy Ahmed's Leadership

At the helm of this transformation emerged Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, who came to power amidst high hopes for democratic reform and national self-determination. While he is often depicted as a force for change and represents the Oromo people, it's important to note that his leadership and legitimacy have been subject to scrutiny. Unlike leaders who emerged from democratic processes, Abiy's ascent was driven by political dynamics within the ruling coalition, and not through a specifically Oromo democratic mandate despite his ascensy was as an immediate result of the Oromo Revolution.

Challenges to Oromo Empowerment

The Oromo's newfound prominence is not without challenges. The rapid shift in power dynamics has stirred tensions and generated resistance from the Amhara elites. The rise of the Oromo people as a political force has not been embraced by the Amhara elites, raising concerns among the Amhara people in general and Amhara elites in particular who felt their influence is wanning while that of their prceived arch-enemy, the Oromo people's influnce is becoming more and more prominent and unfavorable new reality to the Amhara elites.

Amhara Elites' Diminished Status

As the Oromo political forces gained prominence, the Amhara elites found themselves relegated to a third-tier status in Ethiopian politics. The decline in their political influence was further compounded by the emergence of other national groups, such as the Somali, whose impact on the political landscape was growing steadily. The Amhara elites' once-held position of power faced challenges not only from within but also from the diversification of voices and interests across the Ethiopian empire.

Recent Rebellion and Swift Repression

A recent rebellion in the Amhara region, aimed at challenging the existing political order, was swiftly overwhelmed by regime forces. In response to the rebellion, the Ethiopian government declared a state of emergency, which received approval from both the council of ministers and the House of People's Representatives. Gadu Andargachew, the former Amhara regional president and a member of the Prosperity Party, strongly objected to the state of emergency declaration. However, his plea was overruled by his colleagues and the vice speaker of the house, Lomi Badho.

Diaspora Amhara Elite Mobilization and Implications

The diaspora Amhara elite's mobilization, symbolized by the Fano movement, sought to regain political influence and challenge the declining status of the Amhara elites. However, this movement appears to have been quickly suppressed, raising questions about whether the Amhara dominance will ever be restored in the foreseeable future. The interconnectedness of Amhara cultural and economic dominance with their political influence poses challenges to them, as their former dominance and power structures undergo a rapid decline.

The trajectory of the Amhara elites' fall from grace over the last three decades, exacerbated by the rapid shifts of the last five years, underscores the dynamic nature of Ethiopian politics. The decline reflects the evolving demands for national representation and a reconfiguration of power dynamics. The Amhara elites' struggle to regain their previous status and influence speaks to the broader challenge of balancing nations interests in a diverse and rapidly changing Ethiopian landscape. Should the Amhara elites and the general Amhara people keep striving to regain political and cultural dominance over the currently stronger nations in Ethiopia or get themselves habituated to the reality of the 21st century? We leave the answer to that question to the Amhara people and our readers.   

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