In Defense of Woyane Tigrai

Woyane: a People’s Revolution

In our modern Tigrai society, Woyane is a very important Tigrigna word. It is playing a pivotal role of social transformation. Without going into an analysis of the sociological and psychological intricacies, its simplest translation is people’s revolution. Hence, woyanai means a revolutionary, while woyenti is its plural form (i.e., revolutionaries). Then, woyin!, with a strong commanding voice (exclamation), means stand up and rebel (resist).

The root causes of Woyane Tigrai are very obvious. Generally, exploitative production relations, class-based socioeconomic structures (i.e., social and economic strata of the privileged and the down trodden); and repressive political institutions create an excellent breeding ground for a successful social revolution. In pre-Woyane Tigrai, i.e., during the era of Emperor Haile Selassiethe, the peasantry was the backbone of the socioeconomic landscape. The feudo-bourgeois, aristocratic system was characterized by crucial objective contradictions. Although peasants were the primary producers, they had to bear varying combinations of: taxes, rents, corvee, tribute, usurious interest rates, cash, and share-cropping. Keep in mind, according to the strategic policies of both governments of Emperor Haile Selassie and Mengistu Hailemariam, establishing any type of industrial infrastructure and higher education institutions in Tigrai was not allowed.

In short, the social, economic, and political realities that prevailed in the 1970s determined the strategic directions of Woyane Tigrai. Under the slogan, “Our struggle is long and bitter”, the revolution had to be a social revolution of the peasantry. The founding fathers of the struggle went to the people (the peasants), lived with them, and learned from them. They also shared (discussed) with them the objective contractions that subjected Tigrai to backwardness, with an abject poverty and all other evils of mankind. In effect, they (the founding fathers) put into use the indigenous (local) knowledge. Through this strategy of mobilization of the masses, a highly charged national consciousness developed throughout Tigrai. A spirit of strong bondage, trust, and comaraderie were forged among all involved in the struggle. These conditions led Woyane to be the only successful social revolution in Ethiopia. Today, the people of Tigrai highly value the achievements of their bitter struggle. They are determined to stand steadfastly on guard of their Woyane for eternity. The founding fathers and all the rest of us will die. But, Woyane is eternal. Its torch will be passed on to generation from generation to generation… continue! By Asghedom Ghebremicael

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