A Quest for Identity and Geographic Restoration of Wolkait-Tegede, Gondar, Amhara, Ethiopia

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Forceful Annexation, Violation of Human Rights and Silent genocide: A Quest for Identity and Geographic Restoration of Wolkait-Tegede, Gondar, Amhara, Ethiopia

( By: Achamyeleh Tamiru )

welkait-tsegede1. Introduction

Ethiopian history has been studied and written by both foreign and local scholars for many centuries. Some of the writers were purely scholars while others were travelers documenting their trip experiences. These writers have extensively defined the boundaries of the many administrations, languages, cultures, traditions, faiths and other characteristics of Ethiopia. These factual documentations were especially true of Northern Ethiopia. It’s also essential to note that these historical documentations were done in several European languages as well as Amharic and Geez.

One of the many areas described by writers ever since the 14th century is the area surrounding the Tekeze River and the people of Ethiopia on both sides of the 4th largest river in Ethiopia. One of the notable regions and the interest of this article is the locality and the people of Wolkait-Tegede in historical Gondar, Ethiopia. Historical documents and maps dated from about 1434 to 1991 show that Wolkait-Tegede were pars of the Gondar province of Amhara. Despite the availability of a mountain of evidence to support this fact however, the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) has annexed the Wolkait-Tegede region into historical Tigray region in 1991. In fact during its bush days, it was in 1979 when TPLF entered Wolkait-Tegede and declared the land as part of its newly coming “Greater Republic of Tigray”.

In other words, to bring it to today’s Ethiopian reality, a region in Amhara Federal State is transferred to Tigray Federal State by force. In the process of annexation, the identity, history and cultural make up of Wolkait-Tegede has been taken away, re-written and utterly decimated by TPLF and its state machine. This historical atrocity has been perpetuated against Wolkait-Tegede for nearly four decades as the grand scheme of TPLF to control the area dates back to its early days of the armed struggle.

2. Historical Background and Where We Are Now

Modern Ethiopia had fourteen provinces including Eritrea until 1991. One of the provinces is Gondar—which is located in northwest Ethiopia. Tigray and Wollo to the east, Eritrea to the North, Gojjam province to the south and the country of Sudan in the west border Gondar.

Wolkait-Tegede are the indigenous people in the province of Gondar owning a rich culture, language, history, land and other societal values of the larger Amhara people in Ethiopia. In 1975, TPLF has begun its armed struggle in Tigray against the military Derg government. As a Communist separatist movement, TPLF’s main objective was the liberation and creation of a country of the Great Republic Tigray. It clearly states in its 1976 manifesto that TPLF is struggling against the Amhara people. Due to its remoteness and proximity to the province of Tigray, it was inevitable for TPLF to venture into Wolkait-Tegede for supplies, access to the Sudan and refuge from Derg’s military forays. During the armed struggle, TPLF had benefited a great deal from the region and was cognizant of the importance of the region for all the natural resources nature bestowed upon it. Thus, the design to annex the area to the future “Greater Republic of Tigray” was conceived early on and for numerous reasons. In 1991, TPLF-led government took state power in Ethiopia.

It immediately introduced new administrative regions of the country by doing away the pre-1991 set up. When the new Federal State arrangement was unveiled, Tigray Federal State has grown exponentially taking away areas from Gondar and Wollo provinces. Tigray now has boundary with Sudan and Eritrea—a new country since 1993. Gondar was incorporated with Amhara Federal State and was buffered from international boundaries with neither Sudan nor Eritrea. Therefore, by denying Gondar international boundary with Eritrea, the Amhara Federal State is denied direct access with Eritrea. It’s unclear whether or not the Government of Eritrea is acquiesced to this arrangement with TPLF at the time of the liberation struggle or during the hay-days before the 1998 Ethio-Eritrea war.

TPLF has never ceased its attack against the Amhara people; in fact, with the national resources at its disposal, it systematically and unashamedly continued its Anti-Amhara agenda in the entire country. Many instances could be presented. However, on a regional focus, the Amharic speaking areas contiguous to Tigray State have been recipients of the brunt of the atrocities. One of the methods used by TPLF to erode away Amhara identities is the dislocation of Amharas from the area and settling thousands of former TPLF fighters from arid and infertile lands of Tigray to the more fertile land of Wolkait-Tegede region. It took steps to change the administrative language of the area, started producing documents and stories to inculcate the “Tigrayness” of Wolkait.     ……. ( Read more, pdf )( PDF Optimized )