Wolqait: How Achamyaleh Tamiru killed Geography.
Kalayu Abrha 01-31-21
Undisciplined armed hordes, commanded by the Amhara right wing nationalists, have violated every article in the Constitution and occupied Western and Southern Tigray, with tacit permission from the Central Government which was expected to protect the Constitution. The Amhara politicians have a strange claim to Wolqait, Tsegede, Kafta Humera, Tselemti and Raya, which are inhabited by a majority Tigrigna speaking population. The claimants would sometimes try to make a bewildering "sense" by saying: "Even if the people speak Tigrigna they are Amhara”! Well! Well! If you are engaged in an arguement with someone who evades logic you have to distance yourself from it because the gun starts at the point where logic ends.
This is what the Amhara did in November 2020. When they knew that their points of arguement are not going to hold water in the House of Federation they used a golden opportunity they themselves woven around TPLF and sent a human wave to invade the claimed territories. They have gone to the extent of establishing Amhara administration in the occupied Tigrayan lands as if newly appointed zone and wereda administrators can hold their offices permanently without any trouble. This is again another expression of Amhara arrogance without any legal or logical backing. The claim of territories in Tigray by the Amhara is out of synchrony. The 14 provinces, the Amhara would love to see back on the map of Ethiopia, belong to the Monarchy in which Amhara Region was four separate provinces. In those years the criterion for administrative regionalization was river valley not human beings. This was chosen because crossing river valleys was the most difficult part of the job of regional administrators. River valleys were also unsafe because rebels hide in them. If there are Tegaru on two sides of a major river valley they will have different administrators. So, during the Monarchy what mattered was administrative convenience not public convenience and social cohesion. The same holds true for other people elsewhere in Ethiopia as well. Separating Wolqait from Shire by Tekeze was a case in point. For Wolqait to be returned to Gondar the current Constitution must be abolished and the Monarchy restored. The four former regions that constitute Amhara will be separated from each other, and Amhara region will cease to exist.
It is funny that this is not what the Amhara want. They want the old map to be restored but Amhara to remain as it is! Oromia will break into seven former regions, Somali into three, Benishangul into two, Tigray into three, etc. This is wishful thinking because the Constitution is not going to change. Everyone protects the constitution except the Amhara. Any new constitutional change that ends the Ethno-linguistic regionalization is a declaration of war on the hard-won self-determination. Oromia will split into seven provinces only on the graves of the Oromos. The Amhara will not dare to do this on the Oromos. That will be the end of them. The Amhara are demanding change of the constitution mainly to target Tigray Region to surrender Wolkait. This kind of constitutional change must be a kinder garden game.
The claim of Wolqait, Tsegede, Kafta Humera, and Tselemti by the Amhara is one expression of the terra-manic culture that never fades. This is not what is surprising. Grabbing land from others and claiming it as one’s own is located deep in the Amhara cultural values. What is worth a post here is the historical "evidence" used by the angry and gun-toting claimants of Wolkait for the Amhara. People can easily be misled by evidence particularly when they come from "fellow scholars". It is understandable that ordinary people trust scholars. Some abuse the trust by feeding their viewers or audience or readers intentionally fabricated falsehoods. This is what happened to Achamyeleh Tamiru, the self-proclaimed authority on Wolqait issues. He has written a 430-page book in Amharic on Wolqait. It is Ok to write any book on anywhere. Unfortunately, the book is intended to provide historical justification for the claim by murdering geography. I am sure it was not intentional because as a gentleman he can guess that there are thousands of people who know the geography of the region under consideration. There is no doubt that he was so obsessed with the claim that he did not realize what conventional knowledge he was stepping on and crushing. I am not polite to him because he is not polite to Tigray. His ethnic slurs are irritating; not expected even from a man in the streets. It is ok to have a point of argument. That is healthy; but when irrational hate accompanies the points of argument, they become sour and not worth respect. He is a bigot!
At the center of Achamyeleh Tamiru's justification is the "confession" of Tegaru kings and other noblemen of Tigray origin. Like bad police investigator he is confident that self-confession is the best evidence. Achamyeleh's confessions are not derived from torturing the suspects. He quotes the messages and public speeches of Tigaru kings and noblemen from the 17th to the 19th Centuries. I am not going to question the veracity of the quotes. It doesn't matter whether they are convenient fabrications put on the lips of the quoted or the words are truly theirs. The issue I am discussing here is not about whether they have really uttered the words. The subject here is the wrong geography that is connected with the words used to justify the claim.
There are four wrong geographies that are unprofessionally linked to the words of proof. The following is taken from the interview Achamyeleh had with Emiwedew tube November 19, 2020 (note the date. He is trying to provide a "scholarly" justification for the invasion of Western Tigray by the Amhara militia! By the way there was no need for an invasion if the claim is based on truth. Since it was not, I repeat "the gun starts as logic ends").
1. King Yostos was the King of Abyssinia of Tigray origin in the 18th Century. One day, while he was attending church ceremony in GAINT there were people who were singing in Amharic and Tigrigna. The king later expressed his impression about the ceremony as follows: " Those who crossed the Tekeze sung in Tigrigna while those who came from this side of the Tekeze sung in Amharic". This was interpreted by Achamyeleh to mean "Tigre has crossed the Tekeze into Amhara territory. Therefore, Tekeze is the boundary between Tigray and Amhara".
Look at the geographic fatality here. Gaint is in South Gondar Zone close to N.Wello. Gaint shares boundary with Wag-Lasta not with Tigray. Tekeze in its upper most course separates Gaint and Wag-Lasta not Tigray. Tigray is separated from Wag- Lasta by Tselere (Tirarari) River, tributary of Tekeze arising from the Raya Highlands. So Tekeze is meaningless for Tigray as a boundary with Gaint.
2. Ras Woldeselassie, the overlord of Tigray in the later 18th Century sent a letter to Gugsa in Debre Tabor (South Gondar, close to Gaint, see No. 1 above) from his capital in Cheleqot (Close to Mekelle). He warned him " not to cross the Tekeze and advance on Tigray. Achamyeleh interpreted this to mean crossing Tekeze from Debre Tabor gets you to Tigray from Amhara! Again, as described in No.1. If you cross Tekekeze from Debre Tabor you reach Wag not Tigray. From Wag you cross Tselere to reach Cheleqot in Tigray. By the way. Wag and Lasta have never been claimed by Tigray. They were powerful Zagwe dukedoms on their own. This is another geographic death in the hands of Achamyeleh.
3. King of Kings Yohannes IV defeated Wagshum Gobeze (prematurely crowned king immediately after death of Tewodros) in the Battle of Adwa is quoted to have told Gobeze's war prisoners: "Cross the Tekeze and go to your home (Amhara). Achamyeleh interpreted this to mean crossing Tekeze from Tigray gets you to Amhara homeland. Given his knowledge of a country he ruled for two decades I don't think Yohannes IV has confused Tekeze and Tselere. Wag-Seqota was the capital of Wag shum Gobeze. His men normally go back to Seqota. You cross Tselere not Tekeze to reach Wag-Seqota.Upper Tekeze lies between Debretabor-Gaint and Wag-Lasta. No Tigray here!
4. Achamyeleh read a poem which ridicules Tegaru for their alleged warning to King Tewodros. They were allegedly warning Tewodros to face some divine disaster if he "crosses Tekeze to enter Tigray". Achamyeleh interpreted this to mean that Tegaru in Adwa admitted that Crossing the Tekeze for Tewodros gets him into Tigray Territory. If Tewodros was to cross Tekeze it must be from Gondar town or from Debre Tabor. If from Debre Tabor the same holds true as in No.2. If from Gondar town, it is hard to cross the Semien Mountains for an army marching on foot to Adwa. So using the Wag-Seqota route is more convenient. So, Tewodros must cross Tekeze to Wag-Seqota not to Tigray. That the latter is what Achamyeleh is is referring to is proved by the poem he read written by Tewodros' fans: "Tewodros is not going to cross not Tekeze alone but also Weri River to come to you at Adwa". Weri River is crossed only if one comes from the direction of Wag.Seqota crossing Telere.
Achamyeleh has been using the wrong location of Tekeze to make his point from the testimony of Tegaru Kings and noblemen. He was abusing their words in a wrong context. The contested territory of Wolkait is found northwest of Ras Dashen. Tekeze comes between Shire and wolqait after Tekeze makes a turn from south-north direction to a western direction. That is where the "contested" territory is. The location Achamyeleh spent so much time and energy to research is very far away from the "disputed border". I pray for Achamyeleh to get other Tegaru kings to help him substantiate the claim in the right location. Achamyeleh was searching under the streetlights what he lost in a dark corner.
One for the road!
Achamyeleh has also provided one highly unlikely evidence to substantiate the Amhara claim on Wolqait. Here is the story:
Ras Sehul Michael was a king maker in Gondar during the Zemene mesafint (this is work of a high IQ man not to be mocked by Achamyeleh). "When James Bruce was about to leave to Britain Ras Sehul gave him a present. That present was a map of Tigray. The map of Tigray was made during the reign of Zera Yacob (15th century). The map of Tigray does not include Wolqait"! This was a proof for Achamyeleh that a 15th Century map of Tigray did not include Wolqait.
First of all Ras Sehul received James Bruce in his court formally, but he was not his friend to exchange gifts with.
Secondly, Ras Sehul was a de facto king of Abyssinia. Why would he give only the map of Tigray as a present to a foreigner?
Thirdly, I cannot imagine that there were cartographers during the reign of King Zera Yacob compiling regional maps.
We have not been busy writing on the Amhara claim over Wolqait with the sincere belief that it is upto legislative bodies at Federal level to handle. That is why charlatans got the opportunity to proliferate. The volume of their noise increasingly high, with the silence of the voices of truth, they were elevated to the rank of political-geographic analyst extraordinaire.
Back to Front Page