Border dispute between Ethiopia, Sudan could lead to full-fledged war

Ethiopia and Sudan have been accusing one another of seizing a border territory which currently falls under the control of…

Ethiopia and Sudan have been accusing one another of seizing a border territory which currently falls under the control of Sudanese army.Disputes over al-Fashqa border agricultural land have flared since the outbreak of a conflict in Ethiopia’s northern Tigray region in early November.

The armed clashes began after Sudan blamed Ethiopian militiamen of killing four Sudanese troops in ambush, which Addis Ababa rejected.

The disputes along the border are the latest twist in a decades-old history of rivalry between the two countries, though it is rare for the two armies to fight one another directly over territory.

The immediate issue is a disputed area known as al-Fashaga, where the north-west of Ethiopia’s Amhara region meets Sudan’s breadbasket Gedaref state.

Recently, Sudan said it took full control of the al-Fashaga area which Ethiopian farmers from the Amhara region had encroached over time.

Ethiopia recently demanded Sudan to pull its forces back from disputed border territory before restoring peaceful talks to settle the exact location of their 744km-long boundary.

Spokesperson for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Ethiopia Dina Mufti recently said Ethiopia has a firm stand to resolve the border conflict with Sudan through dialogue and believes war would not be a solution to the dispute.

Mid last month, Ethiopian Deputy Prime Minister Demeke Mekonnen also accused Sudan’s army of killing several innocent people and destroying properties in a “major raid” into its territory.

Speaking at Ethio-Sudan border joint high-level political committee meeting in Khartoum, Mekonnen blamed the Sudanese armed forces for major incursion, supported by heavy artillery and military vehicles.

Sudan on its part said the border area around al-Fashqa was demarcated under colonial-era treaties dating back to 1902, putting the land firmly inside its international borders. Khartoum has historically allowed Amhara farmers to conduct business and live on the fertile land as long as they pay taxes and operate under Sudanese laws and, in turn, Ethiopia has recognized the land as Sudanese.

There is no clear demarcation of border between the two countries and the issue has been left for compromise since 2008 after series talks between Addis Ababa and Khartoum.

The Ethiopian delegation to the talks was headed by a senior official of the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF), Abay Tsehaye who is considered as # 1 foe of the Amhara people. 

Officials of the Amhara region accused Abay Tsehaye of reaching a deal with Sudan without consulting the Amhara regional government in an attempt to push the region into war or lose the land.

At a regional summit in Djibouti on 20 December, Sudan’s Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok raised the matter with his Ethiopian counterpart Abiy Ahmed.

They agreed to negotiate, but each has different preconditions. Ethiopia wants the Sudanese to compensate the burned-out communities; Sudan wants a return to the status quo.

The dispute between the two east African nations is believed to have reached to the point of no return and a full-fledged war between them looks imminent.