Three years after the reign of Yohannes, the reunification process was once again interrupted by Egypt’s Khedive Ismael Pasha attempt to occupy Ethiopian territory. On March 1875, the Egytian and Ethiopian forces took positions at Gundet. The Ethiopian army under the command of Sahleqa Alula surrounded the Egyptian forces on the left flank; Emperor Yohannes’ forces were on the right flank; in the middle and rear were several Rases, one of whom was Ras Woldemichael Solomon of Hazega/Hamassien.
The strategy Ethiopians employed at the battle of Gundet is known as ‘ox-horn strategy’ whereby the enemy is encircled but some space is allowed for retreat so that the rearguard or reinforcing regiments could capture the enemy troops in disarray. The battle of Gundet started at about 9 am and raged till 3 pm in the afternoon. Both sides fought bravely but the Ethiopians had clearly the upper hand, thanks to the “field advantage,” knowledge of the topography, their masterful combat tactics, and of course the support of the people.
The Egyptian army was virtually annihilated, several hundreds were captured, and others managed to escape. But again, after reorganizing their forces and recuperating from the nightmare of Gundet, they came back on November 1876 and another Ethio-Egptain confrontation took place at Gura’e. This time, the son of Khedive Ismael, Hassen Pasha, led the Egytptian forces. And this time, Yohannes issued a proclamation, which reads in part: ‘an enemy has come to destroy Ethiopian sovereignty, and whose objective is to enslave our people, rape our women, and desecrate our religion. Hence, soldiers get ready with your weapons and priests pray in all the churches.’ This time, the Ethiopian forces altogether sixty thousand combatants were mainly from Tigray, Mereb Millash, Gonder, Gojjam, and Shewa.