Sudan, Ethiopia Fail to Resolve Simmering Border Conflict

The Ethiopia-Sudan border is primarily made up of agricultural areas, which are also inhabited by Ethiopian farmers on Sudan's side.

Sudan and Ethiopia have failed to resolve a simmering border conflict in what may be a prolonged dispute where their common boundary should pass.

On January 13, the Sudan Border Commission announced that Addis Ababa was adamant on maintaining the status quo, in contradiction to Khartoum's call for all parties to comply with the 1972 border agreement.

The head of the Sudan's Border Commission Muaz Tango said: "We have always been told in every round of negotiations that the encroachments are out of control," adding that Ethiopia's claims that it was not party to the 1902 convention are incorrect.

Sudan says it is ready to foot the bill for the demarcation of the border.

The dispute is in a region in eastern Sudan near Ethiopia's Amhara State known as Al-Fashqa. Traditionally, within Sudan's international border, the area has been occupied by farmers from Ethiopia's Amhara region. The farmers and Sudan's livestock keepers have clashed in the past. In late December, the two groups fought, and Sudan amassed troops at the common border.

Muaz Tango, the Commission's head, said last week that the technical committee, which has been operating since 2003, had made several field visits, the most recent of which was in 2010. On that visit, he said, they did not find any Ethiopians living on the Sudan side, and suggested that the current settlements by Ethiopian farmers are recent. He said the border markers may need to be renovated.

On January 12, Sudan condemned "in the strongest terms" what it described as the "aggression launched by Ethiopian Shifta gangs", after Ethiopia accused Sudanese forces of advancing towards the disputed border area. The Sudanese Foreign Ministry issued a statement saying that "the locality of Al-Quraisha in eastern Sudan, had been violated by armed aggression by the Ethiopian Shifta gangs, killing five women and a child, while two women who were involved in the harvests were still missing".

The death toll from the attack on Al-Quraisha locality in Al-Gadarif province that touches Amhara region later rose to seven people, six women and a child, after another body of a woman was found last week, as the Sudanese army pushed new reinforcements into the area.

Lt-Gen Abdul Fattah al-Burhan, the chairman of the Transitional Sovereign Council, confirmed in a statement that his country's forces will "protect the land and preserve the country's security and gains".

On January 13 he toured Al-Gadarif state and addressed the forces deployed within the Sudanese border.

Observers say the Sudanese army is sending reinforcements in anticipation of counter attacks by the militia, but may not face a direct confrontation with Addis Ababa.

Walid al-Nour, a Sudanese political analyst fighting between the two countries is unlikely.

"Both countries have not severed diplomatic relations. The Sudanese ambassador has not been summoned in Addis, and the Ethiopian ambassador has not been summoned in Khartoum. The two countries have their own internal problems that prevent them from entering into war that affects them internally and externally," Mr al-Nour said.

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