Ethiopia’s Anatomical Perspectives: A Procrastination for Head over Nose

Time and again, Ethiopia has confronted invasion and betrayal by neighbors—and others beyond. It has witnessed provocation and outright wars when they felt that the country is at its most vulnerable—as in now.

by The Queen of Sheba

Egypt, Sudan and Ethiopia tensions

The Sudanese army has made major incursions in the Ethiopian territory, as deep as 40 kms. It has killed several farmers, displaced over two hundred, and burnt crops, tractors and equipment estimated at one billion birr. And more. The cowardly—and disgraceful—betrayal took place just a week after Ethiopia got fully preoccupied in the conflict triggered by the Tigrayan cabal.

In my earlier piece “Somalia’s Miscalculation: A Reading for the Sudan” I lamented that “It is with deep regret—and wrath—that we are witnessing the invasion of Ethiopian territories by curiously aggressive Sudanese army at a time when Ethiopia has been preoccupied in a major endeavor to bring the rebellious TPLF cabal to justice—an effort hailed by many, including the African Union Commission.”

Now that the Tigray operation is effectively over, one would expect the Sudan to de-escalate the situation. But to the contrary, it is pushing with a new offensive while declaring a propaganda war play-acting as a victim of the Ethiopian army and air forces.

Earlier on a Sudanese army general bombastically pronounced that “We have re-taken 80 percent of our land that was occupied by Ethiopia 26 years ago…”. It appeared that the renewed offensive is to complete the remaining 20 percent. What is however perplexing is that the Sudanese incursion is happening far and beyond the disputed borders.

When one examines another debacle on the current GERD negotiations, where the Sudan is dangerously wobbling, it shows a country with multiple—and powerful—players in the region—and within the country. The struggle within the two power structures—of the civilian and the military—in the country is manifested in these incoherent pronouncements—and actions. It makes it all the more difficult for Ethiopia to deal with these provocations—and thus any action requires extreme care, a big dose of wisdom—and immense patience.

It is, of course, imperative that Ethiopia pushes on multiple diplomatic fronts—primarily with IGAD and the African Union to resolve this matter amicably—and peacefully. In doing so, it should not also overlook friendly Arab countries, though the Arab League, as a body, has been historically hostile.

The Nose Versus the Head

In a press conference on 12 January 2021, the spokesperson of the Ethiopian Foreign Ministry, Ambassador Dina Mufti, in reaction to the aggressive attack stated that the  Sudanese “force is seizing more lands in violation of the agreement reached between the two countries. Ethiopia has been working patiently to resolve the issue peacefully and through dialogue, realizing that war will not be an option for the problem. Any type of unilateral exercise is not helpful in finding a lasting solution and what Sudan is doing at the moment is unprecedented and it did not reflect the interest of its people.”

In a charming and simple, but powerful, analogy using key body parts, he underscored the virtue of patience. He proclaimed: “You may not promptly opt to punch back someone on the nose in a self-defence, as you may chop off his head later.” (Author’s translation from Amharic.)

One would remain hopeful that neither the nose nor the head would be a victim of this miscalculated provocation. If, however the nose or the head is to be appropriately dealt with, it should be executed methodically, patiently and vigorously.

I wonder why Ethiopia should go for the head when the Sudan has gone for the nose. While the chopping of the head may remain as a last resort, Ethiopia could go for arms, fingers or other critical body parts. For instance, Ethiopia should leave all its options on the table including a measured incursion to any part of the Sudanese territory along the long stretch of their common borders. Who said, it should be an eye for an eye? A head for an eye is equally, if not more, mortal as an effective deterrent.

Ethiopia may consider bringing the conflict to a different level by overstretching the Sudanese army to defend its long borders. This would be a colossal task for the Sudan as the UN peacekeeping forces are leaving its troubled regions.

Well, many vulnerable spots in the Sudan are public secret.

Consolidating the National Forces

Time and again, Ethiopia has confronted invasion and betrayal by neighbors—and others beyond. It has witnessed provocation and outright wars when they felt that the country is at its most vulnerable—as in now. This leaves the country with no option but to defend itself by all means necessary—regardless of the cost.

The first important action should be rallying the country behind the government similar to the operation in Tigray. And more so, when the invader is a foreign force, galvanizing the country, history shows, may not be that difficult a task. Victory is inevitable when an army is fully endorsed and supported by its people.

The second critical action should be consolidating all the national and regional forces under one central command. In this case, all the special forces of the regions—whose constitutionality has been a subject of conversation for a while now—could be strategically and systematically integrated into the force—in the process building a massive, well-organized and formidable force.

It is important to recall the history of the Ethio-Somalia war of the 1970s, when the country trained and equipped 300,000 militias in three months to defend the territorial integrity and sovereignty of the country. With an already trained, equipped and armed special forces, the task this time should be much easier, notwithstanding the political wind that this may cause. But, this could be successfully defended in the interest of the country’s territorial integrity and sovereignty.

Third, all political parties, specially the more prominent ones, should speak in one loud voice—and send unequivocal message denouncing the invasion and mobilizing citizens to stand behind the government. Squabbling over zonal infractions and internal political matters must give way to national sovereignty and territorial integrity.

In Conclusion

Countries which are feeding, drinking and living off of Ethiopia continue to be aggressive, deceitful, ungrateful—and greedy towards it. Ethiopians should stand shoulder-to-shoulder to thwart the Sudanese aggression—backed by known historical enemies whose undying wish has been a weak—and divided—Ethiopia.

No amount of resources and energy is big enough to defend the invasion of the country.

But patience is a virtue. And yes, a head is more rewarding than a nose—and thus worth the wait.


  1. Great article, great commentaries! Thank you all.

    I was particularly delighted to read Mekonen’s long piece. It just concurs perfectly with what I had in mind. Hats off, compatriot!

    While I agree with every sentence of Mekonen’s commentary, I also say that the alias / adjectives often used to qualify both TPLF (cabal, junta) and OLF (shane) are inappropriate. We should take them for what they are – terrorists!

    Plus, Mekonen’s advice for Abiy is also spot on. Abiy’s soft stance with the Oromo extremists in particular is getting alarming by the day. (I’ve also been asking where the decent, moderate Oromo intellectuals are whom I know are in their hundreds of thousands, letting the extremists to dominate the narrative).

    I pinned my hopes for the future of our country on this young leader, but …. I’ve started asking myself, “could it be true?”; that is, the often leveled allegations on him by his detractors on this particular issue. I still hope not.

    • @Habte Selassie,

      Thank you for your comment. We must all do all whatever we can to help our country.

      You were saying: “I pinned my hopes for the future of our country on this young leader. . .”

      Well, so did I. However, almost all what Abiy Ahmed did and did not do so far shows our hope is misplaced.

      In any case, hope is not a plan!

      As such, Ethiopia needs a real plan, Abiy Ahmed is selling the country short, undermining it continually.

      If Abiy Ahmed and his radical ethno nationalist cohorts start doing the right thing, it will be because they are forced to, not because it is in them.

      It is interesting, Abiy Ahmed and his government have been radicalizing the Oromo population instead of moderating, pacifying them.

      All moderate forces – be they Oromo or anyone else – are hammered mercilessly in Abiy Ahmed’s Ethiopia.

      He lets the dogs out on them – loyal and vicious dogs such as Taye Dendea, Shimeles Abdisa and others.

  2. Ethiopians must come together and support Dr. Abiy as much as they support the brave selfless Ethiopian Defensive Force. Ethiopians must not flinch over their unity because that is the only option to say I have a country to live with my family and dignity!!!

    Egypt has been loosing sleep for decades over the Nile River. Egypt is prospering by making billions over billions from the Nile river while working on destroying Ethiopia and Sudan. If OLF, TPLF or Gumuz or Sudan think Egypt cares for them they must be totally out of their minds.
    It does not want Ethiopia or Sudan to get the same benefit as it is making. Egypt’s chosen strategy is extending its long hand to continuously create chaos and violence in Ethiopia and Sudan. Letting Ethiopian and Sudanese kill each other away from Egypt!! It is behind every coup d’etat in Sudan and even now splitting the government by backing the military over the civilian administration.

  3. There is concern now with the affairs between the old country and Sudan. Sudan has made a sudden about a face and instigated border issues/incidences. I know many of you mask ask questions why Sudan which PM Abiy did play a deciding role in the formation of the current administration in Khartoum would try to provoke war with the old country. The reason, in my opinion, rests with the military there. I don’t think Sudanese people will support any war with their next door neighbors. The top brass in the military may be holding grudges since the formation of the current administration there. You all remember how the military brass dug its heels refusing to accept any power share with the civilians. Then there is its benefactor in Cairo. The rulers there will never accept any government in Sudan where civilians have roles in the decision making. That would a ‘bad example’ for the people of Egypt. So the top brass in Sudan has to create a situation for a pretext to take what it lost in Khartoum. I admire the officials of our old country by the wisdom they have shown the world in this respect. I bet you these bigots among us, these university campus orphans are planning a trip to Khartoum as we speak if they haven’t done it already. These are lowest form of humanity will be willing to sell part of the country that produced them in exchange for some bread crumbs. What is new with them, right? They had done that in the past. These filths from the bottom of the barrel would kill their mother to extract the golden teeth from her mouth for a few bucks. I did not make this up. It is in their history of the 1970’s and 80’s. Let’s hope South Sudan’s efforts will bear fruit in its effort to diffuse the tension. I am sure Djibouti, Somalia, and Kenya and off course our brothers and sisters of Eritrea may not take comfort with this sudden hoopla in Khartoum. Those Arab wannabe blacks in Khartoum may be playing with fire that will burn their own hands.

  4. @The Queen of Sheba,

    Thank you for the very thoughtful article of yours. Certainly, your suggestions are immensely sensible and therefore they are something the Abiy Ahmed government should follow and apply if it has the interest of the country as a whole – as opposed to that of a small group of ethnic agitators and profiteers – in its heart.

    Unfortunately, the Abiy Ahmed government has almost always acted to advance the interests of the ethno radicals and profiteers at the expense of the whole country – employing empty rhetoric to confuse the rest, continuously concocting and spreading potpourris to cover up the stench of tribalism which is at the heart of his administration.

    It is interesting, Abiy Ahmed has never come across an ethno radical agitator and profiteer that he would not empower and give a stage to and protect – e.g., Shimelis Abdisa, Taye Dendea, Addisu Arega, Lencho Leta and so on and so forth. Well, that is, unless anyone of them get it into their heads to threaten his hold on to power – e.g., Jawar Ahmed – in which case they are off to jail, indefinitely.

    One wonders if there are any moderate Oromo politicians who are intellectually respectable, pragmatic, sensible, generous as opposed to the narrow minded, greedy, radical ethno nationalists we are being subjected to everywhere we turn ourselves to.

    Well, I am certain there would be many, many such individuals, there has to be – though none of them would ever be empowered or given any stage to present an alternative direction and/or vision for the Oromo and the country as a whole than that currently being dictated by the radical ethno nationalists whom Abiy Ahmed greatly favors – because, among other things, they are all corrupt and corruptible, and hence, very easy to control.

    Anyway, why do they have to have a vision of one group being more equal than equal, what about all being simply equal, at least working towards that, is the only model that they could think of is the one that passed down to them from that moronic group -TPLF? Well, to call TPLF moron or moronic is to do a great injustice to that term, a great injustice!

    In any case, a minor point of disagreement with the article, in regard to terminology, specifically, the use of TPLF cabal and so on. I am sorry but it is a bit of nonsense, cabal, junta, and so on, that is. TPLF is TPLF – a criminal, a terrorist group through and through, a group which should have be designated as such long time ago.

    So too OLF – calling them OLF Shane or some such is an empty political theatrics. OLF is OLF – another criminal, terrorist group through and through, which must also be designated as terrorist group – just like the TPLF. By the way, the war with TPLP is not over, at least, not completely, there seems to be a fair amount of fighting is still going on, various reports suggest. . .

    And that will continue to make it difficult to deal with the current threat and the invasion of Sudan – as such, it is not only Sudan, it is also the remnants of the TPLF – as well as Egypt – that the country has to deal with. . . Well, the only way forward now is for Ethiopian government is to start acting with some degree of honesty, work to bring the country together, put a stop to the genocide and the ethnic cleansing that is being perpetuated by the forces that it seems it has been tacitly supporting. . .

    Abiy Ahmed’s government need to be very, very careful now – in many ways than one – lest it will bring not only its own doom but also that of the county’s as a whole.

    Let’s remember that one of the very significant reasons that the TPLF was able to get a free ride to Addis Ababa was because the Mengistu Haile Mariam’s government was so hated and abandoned by the people of Ethiopia, they thought nothing worse than it could come – as it happened, TPLF proved itself to be worse, but that was the feeling of the people at the time. Granted that this time we are facing a foreign enemy, Sudan, that might change that type of calculus somehow. . .

    Still, once in power, TPLF ruled Ethiopia as a foreign occupying force, corrupting and sabotaging everything, including unilaterally imposing the cursed thing that they called ‘Constitution’ and the education system that they downgraded to almost nothing. As such, most of the Ethiopian youth was subjected to university education not even equivalent to a high school education in a better country.

    Moreover, they almost destroyed the moral fabric of the entire country – some of the narrow minded, greedy, corrupt ethno radical agitators and profiteers we have to contend with now are direct results of the TPLF’s sabotaging of the country.

  5. The Sudan has always engaged in provocative acts against Ethiopia directly and indirectly using internal forces such as the TPLF. The former Ethiopian military government leader Colonel Mengistu Hailemariam had reportedly warned the former Sudanese military leader that Ethiopian forces will have their lunch in Khartoum if war breaks out between the two countries.The current leaders of Sudan should take note of this and stop their provocations.

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