Hyena and His Children: The Backfiring “Intransigence” of Ethiopia

Ahmed at bilateral talks in Addis Ababa in 2018. 

Opinion commentary by Rachel Brooks

June 24, 2021 

This is an opinion political commentary. It is attributed to the author and does not reflect the official editorial policies of Republic Underground. 

There is a folk tale among West Africa’s shared stories. It holds a value of echoing truth to Africa to the east, as the fable unfolds in the current affairs of Horn politics. 

The story goes like this: 

The hyena found a dead donkey and set to eating it, happy to have a prize all to himself. He relished in his prize and set about eating it with joy. 

That was until his children were coming. The hyena told a white lie then. The hyena told his children, “If you run on to that village ahead, there are plenty of donkeys. Only run.” 

The hyena’s children could not contain their excitement and shouted their news at the top of their voices. Starving animals came out of the bush at the news. They were ready to enjoy what the hyena’s children had found. 

Hyena watched all the animals go by. Watching them go, he began to be worried. Perhaps his lie was true, and the village was full of dead donkeys. He thus left the carcass he had all to himself to join them. 

Hyena’s plight shows, with exaggeration, the greed, and emptiness of vain promise policies and fake news.

Africa is no stranger to the false promises of its leaders and false narratives. Democracy in Africasharing a story initially written by The Conversation, warns that the fear of fake news clouds the international African relationship with politics. 

“Fake news” and fables… These terms have been referred to as poor qualifiers for the issue. These terms lack concrete definition. 

Fake news is essentially “perceived false information.” For a complex set of cultural, social, and regional reasons, African perception of fake news varies by nation. The Conversation survey found soaring rates of news mistrust in Nigeria and Kenya. 

Perceived false information is the mutual fear in fake news. Wise news consumers pride themselves in seeing through it. Hyena’s children can run past them, following after these false narratives in a herd, and it’s not their problem. They have a carcass of juicy information all to themselves. 

What becomes of the news consumer, who, like hyena begins to believe false news as truth? When the narrative-spinner, for the sake of the carcass they found, misleads the entire Continent to rush by their prised island of needs-met, what then? Will these narrative spinners, truthmakers, hyenas have confused themselves? Will the informant run in the direction of the misinformed and leave the prize behind?  

Risks of Intransigence In the Blue Nile Crisis 

Famine shakes the ribs of Africa in the coming wake of the Blue Nile crisis. Africa as the Continent is buzzing at the inflection point with political tensions surmounting from Islamic jihad wars and intransigent diplomacy. Falling to the backdrop now, a hive’s drone of ever-present anxiety is the prayer of hungry mothers. 

From Egypt to Tigray, to Sudan, a cry of fear at coming or present hunger insecurity is a constant issue, springing from the dusty ravages of chronic civil wars in the region.  

Little efforts make their strokes. South Sudan and IFAD, Relief Web reports, are taking measures to “boost productivity” and food security resilience for small farmers who are faced “with climate change.” Climate will soon be subjected to a sudden force of change. This by the Blue Nile dam goals of Ethiopia, a national greatly troubled with the Tigray power struggle. 

Will Ethiopia’s “intransigent policy” be the “hyena” of this unfolding narrative? 

Ethiopia’s Prime Minister has called out reports from the Tigray conflict front, statements made by Tigray separatists, as “fake news.” Separatists, he says, are not taking control over towns, as he was quoted by The Star KenyaBy his behavior, he appears indifferent to the crisis that seems to stampede about him. 

What the prime minister cannot deny, however, is that the rising crisis exists, as wild and apparent as the force of the Serengeti charging past him for a village of dead donkeys. It is impossible to deny the facts of forced migration and famine that is the result of the conflict as they unfold and bleed even resulting in border wars with Sudan. These are the hyena’s children, spilling out of the seams, approaching upon some dead carcass of Ethiopian national policy promises that could not and cannot feed them. 

Yet, the Prime Minister’s attitude toward his civil war remains the same and reflects his set-in-stone mindset about the goals of the Blue Nile dam projects. Egypt has argued for nearly seven months that Ethiopia continues to be “intransigent” and unwilling to negotiate at all. 

Suppose that Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed has found a prize in his policies that serve Ethiopia alone. Suppose that his stance on the Tigray conflict and the Blue Nile crisis is his “dead donkey” a meal that will feed Ethiopia and that Ethiopia must keep to itself. 

As the world looks on with a held breath, a wonder begins to develop. As those displaced by failures of diplomacy and the denialism in favor of ambition from their leaders, narrative spinners look on. Will Ethiopia be a hyena failing to differentiate the lie from the truth? Will Ethiopia’s people and leadership and all the whole system rush off in the exaggerated press of a dead donkey policy? 

Already, the storytellers are about the business of arguing this. The Washington Post called out Ahmed for another prize, the Nobel Peace Prize, which he won in 2019. Through the famous prize, he was celebrated, for his “efforts to bring international peace” writes The Post. They praised him for his pursuit of liberalizing his nation. His policies were hailed as “transformational.” He came in as a savior of sorts, with his “art of building peace” of which he spoke and which the Horn yet looks for the fruit of. 

They accuse him of tarnishing his prize now. To them, he is Hyena, misguiding his children. 

What will be the final result of hyena’s misguidance? It is difficult to say. What cannot help at all is the echoing of hyena’s children. Narrative parrots will debate intransigence or justice, praise or tarnish. Politics will fall into the echoing chamber that they always do. The tiger and small cat will join the hyena’s children and they will all rush for blood as they always do. Before long, storytellers and leaders will believe their lies and join in the pursuit of blood and greater adventures. 

As for Africa, recognizing the pattern of false promises and false narratives is the first step toward liberation. The day will come when hyena’s children must grow up and hunt the living and viable policies down for themselves. The fresh blood of a younger generation will lead the pursuit of African ambition. They will gain an appetite for living donkeys and avoid at all cost the dead carcasses of empty promise. As they learn from their father, the hyena’s children will run farther and hunt better. What a mighty Africa that will be, in the days when the Blue Nile crisis outcome is decided.