Chairman of Sudan's Sovereign Council, Lt Gen Abdelfattah El Burhan, announced that the Sudan Armed Forces (SAF) have been redeployed at Sudan’s border with neighbouring Ethiopia, which has seen a number of battles since the beginning of December.
The SAF "have not and will not cross international borders or attack neighbouring Ethiopia," El Burhan stressed in a speech during celebrations for the 65th anniversary of Sudan’s independence from colonial rule on Thursday evening.
His statements come in response to accusations by the Ethiopian government that the SAF carried out cross border attacks, threatening retaliation “if Khartoum does not stop these attacks.”
The government is keen to continue to address the violations made by Ethiopian farmers and their supporters in Sudan through dialogue, said El Burhan. He stressed that the approach to dialogue and negotiation will remain the guide “until everyone who has the right, takes his right”.
Sudan’s acting Foreign Minister told reporters on Thursday that the army has recovered all agricultural areas occupied by Ethiopian militiamen and regular forces for the past 26 years.
According to Minister Omar Gamareldin, Sudan has documents confirming ownership of the border areas where the SAF has been deployed. Markers are currently being placed every two kilometres to mark out the territory.
Gaining back ground
In early December, the SAF regained control of the area of Khor Yabis in El Fashaga locality in eastern El Gedaref after the area had been occupied by Ethiopian farmers and gunmen (called shifta in the region) for over 25 years.
The 1,600 kilometre border between Sudan and Ethiopia was drawn in colonial times. No clear demarcation of the border has been made since Sudan became independent in 1956. The lack of clear border markers has made it easy for Ethiopian militants to occupy fertile farmlands in eastern El Gedaref.
Ethiopian farmers have been cultivating crops for decades along the border. These lands are protected by Ethiopian gunmen. Farmers in El Fashaga, backed by the El Gedaref governor, demanded in July that these lands be returned to them.
The UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) and Sudan's governmental Commission of Refugees (COR) have registered over 54,000 Ethiopian refugees in Kassala, El Gedaref, and Blue Nile state since November 9, after the outbreak of violence in the Tigray region in Ethiopia caused mass displacement.
During his speech, El Burhan also confirmed that the doors to peace negotiations remain open for the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement-North under the leadership of Abdelaziz El Hilu (SPLM-N El Hilu) in South Kordofan, the mainstream Sudan Liberation Movement (SLM) under the leadership of Abdelwahid El Nur (SLM-AW), and a number of SLM breakaway factions.
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