(Updated) Amhara a willow-o-the-wisp: ደቂ ሕድርትና: A friar’s lantern!


In the middle of the night, it is possible to see in the most inaccessible coppiced with foliage a hillside or on a top of a mountain. The flickering light now on, now off, displayed, making one wonder whether the fairies are having fun around a campfire; otherwise who in his right mind would sit in such a place around a campfire, exposing themselves to jackals and hyenas, and asking for trouble at the time of a night!

No sooner do you turn round, the flame is extinguished or has moved to other place. Now you see a flame, now you do not. Hard to believe, it appears a flame-game the fairies are having fun playing with. I say fairies, because we were told by elders.

The Amhara elite too are like the frairs’ lantern. Now you see them, now you don’t. Now they are here, everywhere, now they are nowhere.
They think the entire Wollo, Shewa, Gojjam, Begemeder, Raya, Western Tigray, Metekel, Welega, Harrier is Amhara land and of Amhara people.

But in reality Amharas, if there is such a thing, are a small tribal clan concentrated in the pocket of Shewa called Ankobor, nothing more, a stiver.

The rest is a fiction, a friars lantern, designed to help perputate their superiority over other nationalities who are kept tight under their thumb.

The ‘friar’s lantern’ is in fact an ignis fatuus, a spontaneous combustion of gas from decomposed organic material, a flitting phosphorescent light seen at night, chiefly over marshy ground. It is there at once, it isn’t there when you turn round.

The Amhara elite’s version of their self image is that they are here and everywhere at the same time. That is one thing and the other like a fairy they project themselves and represent all people who live in the wider surrounds. But they have monopolised and controlled the state apparatus so only their version of history is written and told to subliminally manage to unfortunately gaslight a portion of the population to doubt its own identity and metastasise to believing they are Amharas indeed.

No other historian or chronicler would dare to write and challenge the Amhara version of demography unless that person were out of his mind. For a start, her or his research and documentation would not be published and taught in schools and higher institutes.

Why then would risk and want to expose himself only to receive the bitter end of retributions?
That was why intellectuals as well as material progress froze in the country for the last 700 years, with nothing to show off to the rest of the world as indeed the Aksumites and the Agew did in prehistoric periods.

From Yekuno Amlak starting 1275 the county saw nothing but plots, war, chaos and destructions. The Amhara leaders mindset is dictated by solipsism, rivalry, internecine and epicaricacy. Nothing to show off by way of progress.

In this article I will concentrate only on one aspect. I will leave aside battles, winners and losers and other aspects.

Bear with me and follow the discourse. For lack of time I will focus on the period from 1700 – 1974.

I have already covered the period 1886 -1974 in the previous article: “Royal and Pharonic Pontifications and fabrications laid bare”.

But as a prelude the theme of this article is to prove that no all-round, pure Amhara has ruled Ethiopia as claimed, and we were led to believe.
All Ethiopian kings and emperors in the time period discussed, were either Oromos, half-Oromos, Agews and with two Tigrayans, namely Emperor Yohannes and Sabagadis of Agame/Irob.

This will demonstrate that the Amhara projection as leaders whom the country couldn’t live without was nothing but a deliberate fabrication and fantasy.

And if Oromos or half-Oromos were then leaders and/or king-makers as was the case during the Era of Princes, logic implied they needed to have own clan and loyal followers for battles and other footwork the leaders required to maintain their holding on power. So most of the people in Gojjam, Wollo, Metekel, Begemeder,Benshagulb Gumuz, Welega, Shewa, Metema, Wegerat, western and Southern Tigray were and still are others but Not Amharas. They were and still are mistly Oromos, Agews, Tigrians, Kemants, Senanashed and/or Benshanguls.

No leader, be it a Ras/ራስ a prince, a king or an emperor or king maker and buster, could survive and hold on to power relying on alien often hostile tribes Nat other than their own.

Now I endeavour to purvey the proofs of who were the Ras, kings and emperors who ruled Ethiopia with their power base in Showa, Wello, Gojjam and Begemeder mostly with slight reference to Tigray at times.

To start of with Menen Lebin Amede was an Oromo who married Alula of Yejju, governor of Damot.

Ras Alula was the son of Ras Ali I. His grandfather was Abba Seru Gwangul (died 1778).

Abba Seru was a Son of Aba Getiye. Aba Getiye was a descendant of Sheikh Omar, most commonly referred to as a Wara Sheh, which means “Sons of the Sheikh”.

Aba Gwangul married Weyzero Gelebu, the daughter of Ras Faris of the Lasts district.

Abba Seru Gwangul had numerous children including Dejazmach Welle, Dejazmach Kormi, Abeto Yimer, and Woizero Aster. With his wife Woizero Gelebu, daughter of Ras Faris of Lasta and Salawa, Abba Seru Gwangul had Ras Ali I, Ras Aligaz and Woizero Kefey.

Menen Lebin Amede gave birth to Ras Ali II. in 1819 Ras Ali I, His father Aula of Yejju, himself, an Oromo who died when his son, Ras Ali Il was a minor.

Following the death, first Yimam of Yejju, the child’s cousin, in December 1825 defeated Hailemariam Gebre at Walbeba.

Yimam Gugesa of Yejju restored the throne to king Gigar who was replaced by Baede Maryam favoured by Hailemariam.

Later in a twist of fate, Wube Hailemariam joined forces with Yimam against Goshu Birru and Maru of Dembeya and in October 1827 at the battle of Kossober Marue was killed whilst Goshu fled to Gojjam.

In 1828 Yimam died. Yimam showed an inclination to Islam but was buried in the church of Iyasus in Debre Tabor, despite his tendencies.

After the death of Yimam of Yejju, his brothers Dori and Marye Gugsa, albeit rivals to the throne of Begemeder, fought Sebagadis of Agame at the Battle of Debre Abbay, known as Mai Islami in 14 February 1831. Wube Hailemariam joined the pact despite married to Sebagadis daughter, Dinqinesh in 1830, as well as Sabagadis married Yeweb-dar Hailemariam, Wube’s half sister. But Wube was such a monster, all his half brothers, Merso. Betul and Yeweb-dar had fled Begemeder and sought refuge in Tigray under the auspices of Sabagadis.

To come to point of discussion Sabagadis defeated the pact and Marye was killed, Wube fled the battlefield.Then Morso was appointed as governor of Begemder by Sebagadis.

Dori and Wube came back for another round and Sebagadis was defeated by the combined forces of the two brothers and Wube Hailemariam. Sebagadis was captured and executed, his son died at the battlefield.

Tigray fell under Dori and Wube who ravaged and looted Aksum and other places extending to Bahere Negash.
Marye proclaimed himself as emperor of Ethiopia before his death, taking the mantle from his brother Yimam.

All brothers, were of Oromo descent so was their sister Hirut Gugesa who married Hailemariam Gebre.

Going back in history, Menen Lebin Amede was appointed as a regent in 1831 in placed of her son Ras Ali II who was 12 years old when his father Alula of Yejju died.

But once appointed, she became domineering and obsessive with power.

After the death of Ras Kinfu at the Battle of Chenti Ber October 1839, she defeated and captured Kinfu’s relative Walda Tekle.

Not long afterwards, she deposed Sahle Dengel on 29 August 1840 as an emperor of Ethiopia in favor of her second husband Yohannes III married in (1840 -1842) and remarried (1850. -1851)after she divorced him a few years back.

In 1840 Yohannes offended her son Ras Ali by favoring his rival Wube Haile Maryam as the governor of Begemeder. Clearly Yohannes was a textbook an Amhara and favoured Wube as favoured as Begemeder governor instead of his son-in-law and his wife’s choice. It did not work, the king makers were Oromos and Ras Ali took command, secured the post and went on and resored Sahle Dengel as emperor in October 1841.

Ras Ali II and his mother replaced Gigar as the emperor and put in place Sahle Dengel, even though initially Menen had her own choice outside Gigar and Sahle Dengel. She favoured her husband to the throne but once she sensed Yohannes III was hand-in-glove with Wube , she sided with Sahle Dengel as emperor in 1832.

Eventually Ras Ali II who married Hirut Wube but found himself at loggerheads with Wube and both men fought at the battle of Debre Tabor on 7 February 1847.

Ali had by his side , his uncle Dejazmach Birru Aligaz and Wube’s half brother Merrso whilst Wube obtained the support of Birru Goshu of Begemeder.

Both Wube and Birru were eventually defeated but because of the church’s hostility towards Ras Ali II as an Oromo and Islamic tendencies of his belief, the church declined to accept Sahle Dengel as emperor, equally the church disinclined for emperor would be Sahle Dengel was seen as a leader with loose Christian convictions.

Ras Ali II of Yejju then recalled rusticated Gebre Kistos from Mithara in Lake Tana and appointed him as emperor but unfortunately after three months he died a natural death and Sahle Dengel was reappointed.

Occupation of the imperial throne alternated between Yohannes and Sahle Dengel, Gigar. Gebre Kistos and others before them. The warlords of the time were emperor and king makers as they pleased, The emperors and the seat were games of throne for the war lords to play with.

Future events were foreshadowed in October, 1846, when Kassa Hailu defeated detachments of Empress Menen’s army at two separate battles in Dembiya; at the time, Ras Ali was away in Gojjam attempting to subdue the province’s warlord, Birru Goshu, and unable to assist his mother. Kassa defeated the army of Empress Menen the following year on 18 June at Iloha, and took both Menen and her husband the former Emperor Yohannes III captive, forcing Ras Ali to negotiate their release. After three months, in return for making Kassa dejazmach over Dembiya, north of Lake Tana, the Empress and her powerless husband were released. Dejazmach Kassa later reconciled himself to Ras Ali in 1849, and Kassa remained loyal to Ali for the next three years.
However, the relationship between the two eventually deteriorated. Following a series of stunning victories by Kassa, Ali II was decisively defeated by his son-in-law Dejazmach Kassa (who later assumed the throne name of Tewodros II) in the Battle of Ayshal on 29 June 1853, and he lost both the regentship and his territories. At first, Ali fled to safety in a local church, then a few days later fled to the territories of his kinsmen in Wollo province, where he disappeared from history.

In order to have influence , Kassa Menen Amede offered her granddaughter Tewabech Ali as a bride to him. Nevertheless, Kassa came to love her and was faithful to her until her death in 1858.
Kassa had also defeated Wube and kept him in prison even after he married his daughter Truwork Wube.

Kassa, later Tewodros II was born in 1828, his reign lasted from 11 February 1855 – 13 April 1868.

Kassa’s parental father was Grebe Georis from Tembien, Tigray and his mother Woizero Atitegeb Wondbewossen was Kemant who was in the local business of selling the traditional herb Kosso ኮሶ, that treats the removal of Tapeworms.
It was indicative of mal-du-pays that Tewodros showed no hostility and aggression towards Tigray and its leaders when he was as war lord and emperor.

He has another wife blood-related to his first wife Tewabech Ali who again was the grandaughter of Wube.

The second wife of Twedrows was the daughter of Wube himself. Her name was Tiruwork Wube. He mother was Woizero Lakiyaye, the daughter of King Welde Selassie of Tigray. She bore a child from Tewdrows named Alemayohu. He was taken to the United Kingdom and taken care by Queen Victoria’s household after Tewodros committed suicide, when he thought he wouldn’t avoid a humiliating defeat at the hands of Napier.

Upon the death of Tewdrows soon she fell ill and died while she was in her way to the United Kingdom as a war prisoner. She was buried Chalacot in Tigray

Much has been said about the Amharas’ chastity and purity in their tribal blood, belief and nobility.
A case in point: Wube and his family, Hailemariam Gebre were regarded as nobility from the Semien mountains, governors of Semien province, conquerors of hated Tigray, and Orthodox Christians, my foot!

Hailemariam mother, Mintaye of Jan Amora wad a ‘side marriage’, outside wedlock, if you like a concubine of his father.

Unlike what we are led to believe, that the family of nobility and faith, but Hailemariam was married to a Moslem, Hirut Gugsa, the sister of Yimam, Marye, Dori Gugsa, of the Oromo tribe. That means his sons and daughters from Hurit Gugsa were Oromos and Moslems as well from their mother’s lineage.

Merso Haile Maryam was the oldest half-brother and early rival of Wube.

Betul Haile Mayan was the second half brother. He was the father of the Taytu Betul future Empress of Ethiopia and wife of Emperor Menelik. Wube was thus an uncle of Taytu.

Yewub-Dar Hailemariam was Wube’s older half sister. One of the wives of Sabagadis Wolde: an Irob warlord that ruled Tigray province from 1822 until 1831.

They had one daughter, Yeshimebet Sabagadis, the spouse of Ras Welde Giyorgis Aboye, a cousin of Emperor Menelik II and grandson of Sahle Selassie.

In a twist Wube had also married the daughter of Sabagadis named Dinqinesh to reciprocate. in a world women are treated as cattle. This shows Itege Taytu Butel was at least an Oromo by her agnate/father’s side.

But it is shocking to learn that the Amhara historians and/or chroniclers failed to mention itage Taytu mother for the record. An important lady in the hearts and minds of the Amhara people, no record of her mother is to found in any website and books.

Perhaps fearing that would expose her Oromo lineage by her mother as well as her father. That would be embarrassing for the Amhara elite who pretend she was an Amhara heroine, some time displayed mounting and saddling a lion, other times a horse galloping tantivy fighting Italians at the Battle if Adewa which again is a fiction. As Taytu was obese, couldn’t even walk short distance let alone to mount a tantivy galloping holding with an arrow and shield, the Amhara display with pride! Shame!

Fairs Lantern, the Amhara elite like hootenanny, listening their own voices to gorgonize and gloat over a phantom self-image.

Tekle Giyorgis (1836-21 June 1873). He rule from (11 June 1868 -July 17 1871). His other name was Wagshum Gobeze (ዋግሹም ጎበዜ) He proclaimed his kingship from Soqota as governor of Begemeder.
There is no doubt he was an Agew from Lasta. His father’s title was Wagshum Gebremedhin of Lasta.

His mother Princess Ayichesh Tedla Hailu from Begemeder. There is this irony, people who knew well who they were but pretending instead to be someone else. To a certain extent, not only were they fooling themselves, the likes of Tekle Giyorgis, but fooling others. But one would argue you can only fool those who dispose themselves at will to be fooled and be satisfied. As the quote goes, “ I am an Amhara, you all are also Amhara, la-di- da, brouhaha cantata, what the heck, we are great!”

His brother Hailu Weldo Kistos who married to Tisseme Darge.

Darge’s mother Wezero Wurige was Hadiya/Silte, but pass as an Showan Amhara.

Father of Hailu, weldo Kiros too was also Wagshum of Lasta.

Tekle Giyorgis II himself married Dinqinshe Marcha, sister Emperor Yohannes of Tigray but all these did not help resolve the bitter fight between the two,

On 11 of July 1871 at the battle of Mereb he was defeated and together with his brother and mother taken prisoner blinded in Endaba Girma near Adua, despite he had 60000 strong army against Yohannes’s 12000.

There was this exchange of braggadocio between the two. It was told Tekle Giyorgis despatched a sack full sesame, implying the size of his army. Upon receiving the despatch Yohannes returned it the same bag full of roasted seseame grains. And critics argued that was what happened in the end.
Finally, to end this article it is the turn of Tekle Haymanot Tessema Gishu Birru, otherwise known Adal Tessema, king of Gojjam.

Finally we come to Tekle Haymanot Tessema of Gojjam otherwise named Adal Tessema. He was king of Gojjam.

He was born in 1847, died on 10 January 1901. He ruled from 20 January 1881 to 10 January 1901.

Tessema Goshu died when he was a minor, so power in Gojjam was trsdffered to another an Amhara warlord, Desta Tedla.

There is no record of his mother’s name or her lineage, indicating she couldn’t have been from Amhara parents, the Amhara chroniclers wouldn’t wish to publize.

Desta imprisoned Adal but Adal managed to escape and vanished to his Afar parental area where he felt safe. There he regrouped his army and summoned the resources and courage to return to fight and defeated Desta in Gojjam. He then submitted himself to King Tekle Giyorgis who confirmed him as Dejazmach Shum of Gojjam. The king also blessed his sister, Laqeche Gebremedhin as his wife. Thereafter, he attempted to takeover Keffa but was rebuffed and captured by Menelik.

His son, Hailu Tekle Haymanot had a daughter from his wife named, Woyzero Askale Mariam. The daughter was Seble Wongel Hailu . She was married to Lij Iyasu Mikel Ali of Wollo, again with Oromo lineage.

It is to be recalled Menelik’s mother Ejigayohu Adeyamoh was also an Oromo.

Seble Wongel bore a daughter from Lij Iyasus. She was named Alem Tsahai Iyasu. She was his only daughter, though renowned to have several wives, including Romane Worke Mengesha Yohannes of Tigray.

Emperor Yohannes intervened demand he be released in exchange Menelik was confirmed as governor of Keffa. The matter was settled.
In January 1887 Telkle Giyorgis attacked the invading army of Mahdists at Metema. One year later
In turn in January 18, 1888 the Mahdists under Abu Anga defeated Tekle Giyorgis at Sar Weha and moved towards Gondor. Many civilians were captured and turned into slaves by the Mahdists.

Yohannes ordered Menelik to march to Gojjam and Gondor. As ordered Menelik moved in. Upon completion of the task he was ordered to move back to Showa, customarily not to instigate another dispute and civil war between Gojjam and Showa.

However, In September 1888 the Mahdists move in again. Tekele Giyorgis now felt the need to side with Menelik as Menelik had demonstrated his resolve and power force. So Tekle Haymanot refused to enforce efforts of Yohannes against the Mahdist who had re-entered western Gojjam. Yohannes suspected Tekle Haymanot and Menelik of plotting against him. To destroy the power of Tekle Haymanot, the army of Yohannes laid waste to much of Gojjam. As a result of the destruction, Tekle Haymanot submitted to Yohannes.

But in the process of clearing the Mahdists and Tekle Giyorgis’s forces, Yohannes was shot and killed from a bullet fired from behind, suspected as a plot accomplished by Menelik and Tekle Giyorgis to claim the throne.

Such is the history of the country the Amharas cause and mayhem, believing they have the divine rights to rule the country and compelling others to believing in Amhara identity, an identity that does not exist or if any a minuscule in its contributions. A willow-o-the-wisp, a frairs lantern, a phantom no one can grasp or grip!

Belay Ambelay


1. E. A. Wallis Budge, A History of Ethiopia: Nubia and Abyssinia, 1928 (Oosterhout, the Netherlands: Anthropological Publications, 1970), p. 483. He also states that Yohannes died in 1851 “during an attack of acute indigestion”; it may be that, in one of his frequent act of carelessness, Budge confused Yohannes with his relative Sahle Dengel and these vices properly belong to Sahle Dengel.
2. Donald Crummey, Priests and Politicians, 1972 (Hollywood: Tsehai, 2007), p. 79
3. Mordechai Abir, Ethiopia: The Era of the princes (London: Longmans, 1968), p. 128f
4. Crummey, Priests and Politicians, p. 100.
5. Hormuzd Rassam, In Narrative of the British Mission to Theodroes, king of Abyssinia n(London, 1869), vol. 2 p. 94
6. Sven Rubenson, King of Kings: Tewodros of Ethiopia (Addis Ababa: Haile Selassie I University, 1966), p. 22
7. Richard P.K Pankhurst, History of Ethiopian Towns (Wiesbaden: Franz Steiner Verlag, 1982), pp. 271ff.
8. H. Weld Blundell, The Royal chronicle of Abyssinia, 1769-1840 (Cambridge: University Press, 1922), p. 491f
9. Abir, Ethiopia: The Era of the princes, p. 128f
10. Harold G. Marcus, The Life and Times of Menelik II: Ethiopia 1844-1913, 1975 (Lawrenceville: Red Sea Press, 1995), pp. 43f
11. Shinn, David Hamilton, Ofcansky, Thomas P., and Prouty, Chris (2004). Historical dictionary of Ethiopia. Lanham, Maryland: Scarecrow Press.
12. Tareke, Gebru (1996). Ethiopia, Power and Protest: Peasant Revolts in the Twentieth Century. Lawrenceville: Red Sea Press.

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