Ethiopia: Whose Gamble Is Sudan Playing?

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opinion

It has become evident that the Sudanese armed forces have pushed deep into Ethiopia's border while Ethiopia is busy stitching the wounds caused by its own internal affairs in the fighting of a bitter feud between the Federal government and the now outlawed Tigray People's Liberation Front (TPLF) forces.

This military confrontation led over 58,000 people to flee into Sudan, according to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, further escalating the situation. Despite Ethiopia and Sudan holding regular talks over the long dated border issue there had been continued clashes between their forces over the years.

Although it is reported that the recent dispute between the two countries have concentrated on agricultural land in Al-Fashqa, which has long been settled by Ethiopian farmers, Ethiopia however encode Sudanese armed forces latest aggression as sending a different signal - as if it is no better time than now to strike Ethiopia and take control of the disputed farm lands. Ethiopia accused Sudan of taking the opportunity its attention in its Northern part, the Sudanese armed forces have interred and occupied Ethiopian land, looted peasant properties and created problems in the area.

Tensions in the border region flared particularly since the start of the conflict in Ethiopia's northern Tigray region in early November 2020. Ethiopia's Foreign Affairs Ministry has been asserting to maintain status quo over the border which had been there since 1902 while calling for amicable solutions.

The Ministry Spokesperson, Dina Mufti on a January 12, 2021 presser blamed Sudan of violating Ethiopian borders and called for negotiations to address the conflict. He was quoted as saying, "the Sudanese armed forces have been inflaming the border situation despite Ethiopia's magnanimous and tolerant attitude to settle the issues peacefully."

The Spokesperson whose quotes of caution have been circulating among Ethiopian social media users said "the Sudanese side seems to be pushing to inflame the situation."

Aside to inserting new jaw dropping territorial claims including Benishangul-Gumuz region, Sudan also announced that it possesses documents confirming Ethiopia's recognition of the disputed territories, which Ethiopia sees it bizarre.

Media adviser to the head of the Sovereignty Council, Taher Abu Hajjah, was quoted as saying in a statement that "the 1902 agreement is in force, and affirms Sudan's right to the border areas."

To the count of history, Ethiopia and British Colonial Administration of Sudan have signed boundary treaty in 1902 delimiting the Ethio-Sudan border. However, in 1903 the representative of British, Major General Sir Charles William Gwynn unilaterally undertaken the demarcation process without the presence of an Ethiopia representative or the authorization of the Ethiopian Government.

As a result, the Gwynn demarcation particularly in the area north of Mount Dagleish remained controversial and disputed. Then in order to solve the long overdue boundary dispute the two countries managed to exchange Notes in 1972 through their Foreign Ministers.

According to these Notes both nations have agreed to proceed the re-demarcation process from Mount Dagleish southwards, to study the problem resulting from settlements and cultivation by nationals of either nation in the territory of the other with a view to finding an amicable solution.

Two months after the signing of the Notes, the Foreign Minister of Sudan wrote a letter to Ethiopia informing the later that the government of the Sudan had written a letter to the then Chairman of the Organization of African Unity (OAU) informing that the

conclusion of an agreement governing the longest frontier between the two countries. In addition to this, they informed Ethiopia that the government of the Sudan had ratified and deposited the 1972 Exchange of Notes in accordance with Article 102 of United Nation Charter.

Lesson from Somalia

The Horn of Africa is arguably one of the mesmerizing regions to learn about disputes ushered by zero-sum game. Conflicts in the region bear no fruit than sustaining grave human and economic devastation for decades. Twenty years later the war between Ethiopia and Eritrea is seen as nothing but a ruthless act of cowards that took the lives of tens of thousands from both sides. Given these nations strife to ensure internal peace and resilience, their failure means devastation for the Horn in a bigger picture. Amid the latest military show off some Ethiopians caution Sudanese not to repeat Somalia's fault of four decade old.

Backed by political violence General Mohamed Siad Barre took control of Somalia in 1969 in a bloodless coup, and until 1978 his regime enjoyed relative popularity and support from cold war foes. However, the Barre regime became increasingly oppressive and violent beginning the late 1970s and subsequently waged the Ogaden war against Ethiopia in 1977.

Ethiopia believed that the Barre regime took advantage of the internal turmoil caused by the then revolution in Ethiopia, to achieve what was believed to form the Greater Somalia from the lands where ethnic Somalis live, where the Dergue military junta was riven by feuds and its costly war against Eritrean secessionists.

Unfortunately, it didn't go as planned for Somalia that it lost the war and President Barre had dozens of his high level military officers executed in Ethiopian soil for their opposition to the way the war was handled, and that eventually prompted a coup attempt in 1978. Later on, this and other factors have played the factor in delivering a failed Somalia which wounds remained regional affairs.

Sudan's Trojan horse

In its quest to democracy Sudan plans to hold general elections in late 2022, while Ethiopia is only few months away to install a new parliament that is expected to come from one of Africa's biggest general elections. At this point in time it is difficult to merely rule that the current transition

in Sudan stood in two feet as many Sudanese still demand for the departure of the transitional government. This could jeopardize the stability of a government that came with a notion of nonpartisan officials like Prime Minister Abedella Hamdok, whose authority is assumed to be trifling in the face of the military men who took greater stake in the transitional process.

In Ethiopia the observation is that Sudan's latest military buildup around the border came due to a temporary honeymoon the military officers at the Sovereign Transitional Council bidding with Cairo. This holds truth taking the fact that people who lives along border areas and beyond in Ethiopia and Sudan share strong ties

despite the fashionable warmonger. Such intense public relations gimmick with official comments of territorial claims and visit like that of by Chairman of Sudan's Sovereign Council, Abdel Fattah al Burhan to the disputed border area can add fuel to the fire in further escalating the tension.

Addis Ababa has already declared that it wants to abstain from taking part in this latest tension with Khartoum, as it said is a third party's play card without officially stating who this 'third party' is.

However, its diplomats are openly blaming Egypt as a master of proxy who sleeplessly havocs Ethiopia to serve its self-oriented interest over the waters of Nile and eventually the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) - Ethiopia's uncompromiseable flagship project.

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