Sudan’s Kassala border closed as tensions in Ethiopia rise

The government of Kassala announced the closure of the border with Ethiopia until further notice yesterday. In El Gedaref, a farmer was killed in an attack by Ethiopian gunmen on Wednesday.

Military vehicle in Kassala town on November 5, 2020 (Social media)

The government of Kassala announced the closure of the border with Ethiopia until further notice yesterday. In El Gedaref, a farmer was killed in an attack by Ethiopian gunmen on Wednesday.

The decision to close the borders was announced on Thursday, due to insecurity in Ethiopia’s Tigray region adjacent to Kassala.

The acting governor of Kassala, Fathelrahman El Amin, told reporters that he plans to visit Wad El Helew locality in the south of the state bordering Ethiopia to assess the situation and take the necessary measures to ameliorate it. He also stressed that the authorities will not allow any individuals or groups to enter Kassala with weapons.

A committee will be formed “to determine the method of dealing with Ethiopian civilians who might seek refuge in Sudanese territories”, according to the governor.

Tigray rebels

The Government of Ethiopia declared a State of Emergency and the launch of a military operation in the opposition-controlled Tigray region, located at the borders of Eritrea and Sudan.

The Ethiopian Prime Minister, Abiy Ahmed, confirmed in a statement on Wednesday that the Council of Ministers decided to impose the State of Emergency in the region for a period of six months. The Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) held local elections in September that the Addis Ababa government considers illegal, which entrenched an ongoing stand-off between the rebel movement and the government.

The Prime Minister’s office also ordered the army to take offensive measures against the TPLF on Wednesday, accusing it of attacking the offices of the Defence Forces Northern Command stationed in Mekele, the capital of Tigray, with the aim of seizing artillery and military equipment there.

El Gedaref attacks

In neighbouring El Gedaref, a farmer was killed and three others were wounded in an attack by Ethiopian gunmen (called shifta in the region) in the area of Keneina in Basunda locality on Wednesday evening.

A source from Keneina told Radio Dabanga that the attackers stole 200 cows. The three wounded farmers were transferred to El Gedaref Teaching Hospital for treatment of their bullet wounds.

Last week, 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.

Strengthening ties

In August, the Ethiopian Prime Minister, Abiy Ahmed, visited Khartoum to hold talks with Sudanese Prime Minister Abdallah Hamdok and also met with the head of the Sovereign Council, Lt Gen Abdelfattah El Burhan.

The talks between the two sides dwelt on ways of strengthening, expanding, and deepening bilateral cooperation in all fields, according to a statement after the one-day visit.

Sudan and Ethiopia expressed a “shared conviction that, given the historical, cultural, social and economic ties between the two brotherly peoples, embarking on regional integration is the way forward to fulfil their peoples’ aspirations in peace, development, and pan-African unity.”

Sudan, Egypt, and Ethiopia were unable to make any tangible progress to reach an agreement about the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam this week.

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