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Killings by Ethiopian farmers require ‘urgent intervention’ in Sudan

October 30 - 2020 EL GEDAREF
El Galabat in eastern Sudan (OCHA)
El Galabat in eastern Sudan (OCHA)

Two eastern Sudanese farmers were killed and two other men abducted from their land in East El Galabat in El Gedaref, in an attack by Ethiopian gunmen, at the beginning of this week. In a separate incident in the area, a farmer was shot.

Speaking to Radio Dabanga from Basunda, Omar Abdallah reported that Ethiopian gunmen (called shifta in the region) occupied and cultivated the land in the area between Taya and Basanga, near Basunda in East El Galabat locality.

“The shifta harvested their crops and transported them to Ethiopia,” he said. They returned to the project again days after harvesting and began shooting at Sudanese villagers working on their farms.

The attackers demanded SDG4 million* for the release of the two people who were abducted and are being held hostage. The families are unable to pay the ransom, according to Abdallah, who demanded that authorities intervene urgently to secure the area and release the kidnapped.

In a separate incident on Wednesday, people in El Hamra in East El Galabat closed the El Gedaref-El Galabat road, to protest the shooting of a farmer by unknown gunmen in the area. The farmer was transferred to El Gedaref Teaching Hospital in a stable condition.

The protestors link the shooting to clashes that took place between Hausa and El Lahwi tribesmen in July 2018, killing at least 11 people. This case is still before the court.

Colonial border

Earlier this month, the Lands Committee of El Fashaga reported that Ethiopian gunmen were again wreaking havoc on the El Gedaref-Ethiopian border, and called for authorities to intervene.

This month, six Sudanese women and a child were kidnapped by Ethiopian gunmen in El Gedaref, their captors demanding a ransom of half a million Sudanese Pounds. The week before, a group of gunmen from Ethiopia (called shifta in the region) prevented farmers from the villages of Jemeiza and Um Disa in East El Galabat from harvesting their sesame crops.

On October 16, three border crossings between Sudan’s Blue Nile state and Ethiopia were officially re-opened, along with the introduction of security measures to facilitate the resumption of trade between the two countries.

The 1,600 kilometre border between Sudan and Ethiopia was drawn in colonial times. No clear demarcation of the border has been made since the country 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. The lands are protected by Ethiopian gunmen. Farmers in El Fashaga and the El Gedaref governor have demanded that these lands be returned to them.

* As effective foreign exchange rates can vary in Sudan, Radio Dabanga bases all SDG currency conversions on the daily middle US Dollar rate quoted by the Central Bank of Sudan (CBoS). USD 1 = SDG 55 at the time of writing. On the parallel market in Khartoum, the greenback sold for around SDG250 in early October.

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