Sudan-Ethiopia border crossing between Galabat and Metema remains closed after shifta killings

The crossing between Sudan and Ethiopia between Galabat in El Gedaref and Metema in northern Ethiopia remains closed for the second day, after the killing of three Sudanese within days by Ethiopian gunmen (called shifta in the region).

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The crossing between Galabat in Sudan’s El Gedaref and Metema in northern Ethiopia remains closed for the second day after the killing of three Sudanese by Ethiopian gunmen (called shifta in the region) within days.

El Jamri El Taher told Radio Dabanga that the movement of all people and goods between El Gedaref and Metema has completely stopped due to the closure of the border post by Sudanese authorities.

With the approach of the autumn season, he predicts an increase in the number and frequency of the shifta attacks “aimed at impeding the work of farmers”.

He referred to continuous public demands to intensify military presence and patrol the border strip, in addition to continuing to close the crossing until the attacks are resolved.

Two Sudanese farmers were killed and another wounded in an attack by shifta near Galabat on Monday.

Ethiopia's Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Affairs Minister, Demke Mekonnen, has described his country’s relations with Sudan as “not good”. Relations between Addis Ababa and Khartoum worsened after Sudan became what Mekonnen calls a springboard for the opposition Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) “against his country”, and he considers this a “declaration of war”.

He accused Sudan of exploiting the situation in northern Ethiopia to attack the border, and stressed that Ethiopia would “restore its entire territory in all possible ways”.

He accused Sudan of working to change the demographics of the disputed region by building infrastructure projects in an area still in dispute.

In December last year, at least 20 members of the Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF) died in clashes with Ethiopian forces and militiamen, who ambushed them in the border area of El Fashaga El Soghra in El Gedaref. The SAF also asserts that it inflicted “heavy losses of life” on Ethiopian troops and militiamen who attacked them. In December 2020, following several cross-border incidents, the Sudan Armed Forces (SAF) claimed to have taken control of the area of Khor Yabis in eastern El Gedaref on the border between Sudan and Ethiopia after 25 years of absence.

The shifta regularly conduct violent cross-border raids to steal crops and livestock, or kidnap people for ransom.

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.