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Sudan-Ethiopia border demarcation talks end without results

December 24 - 2020 KHARTOUM / HAMDAYET
Refugees from Tigray, Ethiopia, flee to Sudan in Hamdayet (UNHCR / Hazim Elhag)
Refugees from Tigray, Ethiopia, flee to Sudan in Hamdayet (UNHCR / Hazim Elhag)

The border demarcation negotiations between Sudanese and Ethiopian government delegations in Khartoum were concluded yesterday afternoon without any results.

The Sudanese delegation was headed by Omar Manis, Minister of Cabinet Affairs, while the Ethiopian side was headed by Demeke Mekonnen, the Ethiopian Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Affairs Minister.

Sources say that the negotiations failed because the Ethiopian delegation refused to recognise the 1903 border demarcation, saying that the British-Ethiopian treaty on the border was signed in colonial times.

In a joint statement, the two parties said that both delegations exchanged views only. They will submit their reports to their governments. The next meeting will be held in Addis Ababa at a date to be determined later.

The Sudanese armed forces reported earlier this week that they recaptured territories in the areas of Salam Bir and Mahaj in El Gedaref from Ethiopian forces. At the same time, Ethiopian troops and militiamen launched a series of new attacks in which a shepherd was injured.

Last week, the Sudanese army stated that Ethiopian forces ambushed Sudanese troops, killing four and wounding 27.

Earlier this month, the Sudan Armed Forces (SAF) regained control of tKhor Yabis in El Fashaga in eastern El Gedaref. The area was occupied by Ethiopian farmers and gunmen (called shifta in the region) for more than 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 Sudanese-Ethiopian border demarcation
negotiations in Khartoum yesterday (SUNA)

 

Ethiopian refugees from Tigray

The Sudanese Refugee Commission reported that 853 new Ethiopian refugees fleeing the war in neighbouring Tigray entered Sudan this week. They passed the border crossings Hamdayet in Kassala and Village 8 in El Gedaref. In total, 56,501 Ethiopian refugees have sought refuge in Sudan since early November.

37,286 of them remain in reception centres near the border. They are supposed to be transferred to the Um Rakouba refugee camp in El Gedaref, but transport has stopped since Monday.

On November 4, Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed announced a military offensive against the Tigray People's Liberation Front (TPLF), an ethnically based political party that dominated the Ethiopian government for almost 30 years, until Abiy came to power in 2018.

Abiy accussed the TPLF of attacking Ethiopian army bases in Tigray in order to loot military equipment. In retaliation, Abiy's cabinet declared a six-month State of Emergency in the region and ordered airstrikes and an offensive. The Ethiopian army took Tigray’s capital Mekelle at the end of November. The Tigray leadership retreated north.


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