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Tensions between Sudan and Ethiopia escalate further

January 14 - 2021 EL GEDAREF / KHARTOUM
Sovereign Council Chairman and army commander Lt Gen Abdelfattah El Burhan arrives in El Gedaref (Social Media)
Sovereign Council Chairman and army commander Lt Gen Abdelfattah El Burhan arrives in El Gedaref (Social Media)

Tensions between Sudan and Ethiopia over border issues are escalating after an Ethiopian military aircraft entered eastern Sudanese airspace yesterday. Politicians call for the expulsion of the Ethiopian ambassador in Khartoum. 

The Ethiopian military aircraft penetrated the Sudanese airspace when a high-ranking military delegation, headed by the Chairman of the Sovereign Council, Lt Gen Abdelfattah El Burhan, was visiting El Gedaref to discuss the recent border issues with officials in the eastern Sudanese state. The delegation also visited the area in El Gureisha where six women and a child were killed in an attack by Ethiopian gunmen earlier this week.

The Sudanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs condemned the penetration of an Ethiopian military aeroplane into the Sudanese airspace, in a statement yesterday. They called it “a dangerous and unjustified escalation of hostilities” that will cause more tension in the border regions.

The ministry called on Ethiopia not to repeat such hostilities in the future “given the serious repercussions on the future of bilateral relations between the two countries and on security and stability in the Horn of Africa”.

Border disputes

In his briefing to foreign diplomats and heads of NGOs yesterday in Khartoum, the head of Sudan’s National Border Commission, Dr Moaz Tango, accused Ethiopia of neglecting its responsibilities and obligations regarding border agreements ever since they were defined in 1903.  

Last month, border demarcation talks between Sudanese and Ethiopian government delegations in Khartoum 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.

Tango stated that Sudan possesses all the necessary documents to support its sovereignty and control over the lands regained by the SAF in December. 

According to Tango, the Ethiopian government acknowledged the validity of Sudan's position regarding control of the disputed lands. He noted that in all meetings of the Border Commission with their Ethiopian counterpart about the issue, the latter did not call for a review of the border agreement. 

Tango explained that the Ethiopian encroachments on Sudanese lands began in 1957, with three Ethiopian farmers cultivating Sudanese land. The encroachments continued to a level where there were more than 10,000 Ethiopian farmers occupying and cultivating Sudanese farmland

Calls for expulsion of Ethiopian ambassador

In Khartoum, political leaders called for the expulsion of the Ethiopian ambassador because of his “provocative statements” yesterday. 

During a briefing with the National Border Commission, the Ethiopian ambassador reportedly accused the Sudanese army of seizing “nine areas belonging to Ethiopia”. 

He claimed that British border demarcation officers sided with Sudan and drew unfair borders in colonial times. Therefore, Ethiopian citizens cannot be removed from the area. The diplomat called on the Sudanese army to stop their attacks and withdraw to its previous position “until the dispute is resolved peacefully”.

Earlier this month, El Burhan stated that the SAF "have not and will not cross international borders or attack neighbouring Ethiopia”.

Helicopter crash

Yesterday morning, an Apache helicopter of the Sudan Armed Forces (SAF) crashed after taking off from the Wad Zayed Airport in Showak, El Gedaref. The helicopter hit the ground and caught fire when the pilot tried to land again. The three crew members survived.

SAF helicopter crash in El Gedaref (SUNA)

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