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Sudanese farmers killed by Ethiopian ‘shifta’ in cross border attack

May 18 - 2022 GALABAT
Ethiopian 'shifta' gunmen (File photo)
Ethiopian 'shifta' gunmen (File photo)

Two Sudanese farmers were killed and another wounded in an attack by Ethiopian gunmen (called shifta in the region) near Galabat in eastern Sudan on Monday. Sources from Galabat in El Gedaref report that the attack resulted in the deaths of farmers Arbab and Mohamed Adam. Farmer Abdallah Matar was injured, and was taken to the El Gedaref Hospital.

Ethiopian Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Demke Mekonnen has described his country’s relations with Sudan as “not good”.

He said in a report to the Ethiopian Parliament on Wednesday, that “relations between Addis Ababa and Khartoum worsened after Sudan became a springboard for the opposition Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF)” against his country, and considered 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.

A military source from El Fashaga confirmed the deployment of the armed forces in half of the area that was formerly occupied by shifta. 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.

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