The border skirmish between the Sudanese army and the Ethiopian military diverts both countries’ attention from their respective internal crises and raises concerns in the international community that another war front could open up in the Horn.
Over the past week, both countries have warned each other before pledging to ease tensions. The pledges follow calls from the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (Igad), of which both countries are part, who expressed “concern” after seven Sudanese soldiers and one civilian were killed near the shared border. Khartoum accused the Addis military of “executing” the troops, but Ethiopia claimed a “local militia” massacred the soldiers through diplomatic means to find a lasting and sustainable solution.”
According to the Morden had promised Sudan to “respond,” and Lt. Gen. Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, who heads the junta’s Sovereignty Council, said the troops died.
However, after talks with the European Union, both countries later announced plans for de-escalation. At a meeting with the EU envoy to the Horn of Africa, Annette Weber, Lieutenant General Al-Burhan reiterated his country’s interest in “normal and balanced relations with neighboring Ethiopia”.
Read: AU, EU call for restraint amid escalating tensions between Sudan and Ethiopia
Sudanese military later denied reports they had fired rockets in retaliation.
“There were False and misleading breaking news reported on some satellite channels and websites attributed to the Sudanese army and military sources about troop movements and capture of Ethiopian soldiers in the Al-Fashqa area,” the Office of the Spokesman for the Sudanese Armed Forces said in a press release >
Ethiopia Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed said in Arabic that the people of both countries are “brothers”.
“Ethiopia is not and will not be a security threat in Sudan,” he wrote.
The incident came as both countries struggled to return to normalcy after months of conflict and chaos s.
Sudan is post-coup Transition almost stalled on October 25, which ousted Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok. Civilian protests are commonplace in Sudan, with activists refusing even to engage in talks with the junta.
In Ethiopia, ethnic violence between the Oromos and Amharas is now threatening peace-making moves between the Addis Ababa government and the Tigray Liberation Front, the rebels who have been fighting in the north since November 2020.
“Restoring peace and security in affected communities remains our top priority,” Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed said last week. A special committee headed by his deputy, Demeke Mekonnen, will conduct talks with the TPLF.
“Attacks on innocent civilians and the destruction of livelihoods by illegal and irregular forces are unacceptable.”
“There is zero tolerance for horrific acts that have claimed lives recently in both Beninshangul and Oromia regions by elements whose main objective is to terrorize communities,” the prime minister said, referring to the militia attacks.
The area where the skirmishes took place has been a flashpoint of sporadic firefights for the past five decades – the result of unfinished demarcations between Sudan and Ethiopia in the al-Fashqa and Amhara regions.
More than a border dispute
< p>The Sudanese political scientist Abd Almueam Abu-Idris told The EastAfrican that the dispute between Sudan and Ethiopia is about the border, the violence t have taken a different path when formal military officials got involved.
“This has a link to the commercial interests of Amhara Essmen corporations,” he said.
“The Complexity of the problem and the difficulty of addressing it is caused by this connection between the interests of the economically powerful Amhara, who have been cultivating this land since 1995 to 2020, and their political influence, which makes the Ethiopian side adamant in redefining the borders as it does in all agreements signed between the two countries.”
Khartoum has accused Ethiopian militias of repeated attacks in the Sudanese area of Al-Fashqa, on the border with Ethiopia, with the aim of evicting farmers. Ethiopia denies the allegations, but the attacks could mean Addis cannot guarantee security, especially since it cannot control militia actions.
Read:Sudan blames Ethiopia , Having Killed 7 Soldiers, Civilians
Also Read:Ethiopia Denies Sudan’s Claims of Executing Soldiers and Civilians
The Story of the Border conflict with Ethiopia dates back more than 120 years Britain ended its occupation of Sudan and the latter began demarcating borders with its neighbors.
Al-Fashqa is isolated from the rest of Sudan as the territory is a peninsula , which is traversed by the Baslam, Atbara, and Setit rivers, and is inhabited by hundreds of Ethiopian farmers despite being geographically within Sudan’s territory.
The Ethiopian Amhara say that the lands of these border areas belong to them . The attacks almost always take place in the months of June and July and then during the harvest season.
Various Ethiopian armed forces are active in Sudanese territory: one of these is the Ethiopian opposition, which is affiliated with the Tigray People’s Liberation Front . On the Ethiopian side is the army itself, as well as disorganized groups affiliated with but not controlled by it.
In recent years, these militias have kidnapped citizens within Sudan’s borders for ransom and killed some.
Sudan requests the establishment of border fires with Ethiopia in the region on the basis of the agreement between Ethiopia and Great Britain signed in Addis Ababa on May 15, 1902 on behalf of Sudan.