Sudan and Ethiopia fail to agree on their border dispute

Two-day talks in Khartoum to define border demarcation end without agreement
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AFP/ ASHRAF SHAZLY  -   The Prime Minister of Sudan, Abdalla Hamdok

Two days ago, a meeting took place in the Sudanese capital, Khartoum, to try to define a border area that is used by Ethiopian farmers, but which Sudan claims. The area borders the region of Tigray, where confrontations have been going on for the last few weeks to depose the regional government that was maintaining the TPLF, contrary to the policies that Abiy Ahmed is implementing.

The disputed area, some 250 sq km, is located in Sudan's Al-Fashaqa region in Gedaref state, a very fertile land that is coveted by the farmers of both countries. The dispute is due to the fact that in the 1902 agreements between Britain and Ethiopia, the dividing line was not exactly defined, and this territorial dispute has been dragging on ever since.

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REUTERS/MOHAMED NURELDIN - The Prime Minister of Ethiopia, Abiy Ahmed, meets the head of the Sudanese Transitional Military Council, Lieutenant General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, in Khartoum, Sudan, on 7 June 2019

Precisely, the context of relations between the two countries, despite the fact that the foreign minister, Demeke Mekonnen, points out that they are very positive, is tense after Sudanese troops were ambushed by Ethiopian troops, and at least four people were killed and another 20 injured.

Demeke also accuses Sudan that, prior to that attack a few days ago, Sudanese troops would be carrying out attacks on Ethiopian land and camps along the border, in what he considers "an escalation of unnecessary violence.

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REUTERS/MICHEL EULER - Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed

Another meeting was held in May in Addis Ababa to delimit this disputed area, but no agreement was reached either and, furthermore, the meeting scheduled for June had to be cancelled. Finally, the Ethiopian delegation stressed the need to find an "amicable solution" although, according to Ethiopia, Sudan's position is more hostile than they would like.

Both parties have agreed to prepare reports to be presented to the leaders of the two countries and to meet again in the Ethiopian capital. Sudan, whose delegation was led by Omar Manis, said that the priority was to "demarcate the border", and that access to land for Ethiopian farmers could even be assessed afterwards.

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PHOTO/Agencia de Noticias Etíope vía AP - Ethiopian soldiers gathered on a road in an area near the border of Ethiopia's Tigray and Amhara regions
Ethnic violence

Ethiopia is experiencing a difficult situation in the face of growing ethnic violence. The Tigray offensive has focused attention on the possible repercussions of the advance of the Ethiopian armed forces in the region.

However, it has been in another region in the west of the country, where around a hundred people have been reported to have died as a result of several violent incidents, according to the Human Rights Commission. The origin is again in the ethnic struggle for control of land and resources. The clash has taken place in Benishangul-Gumuz, where Amhara leaders are claiming land rights. Another attack in the same region took place in mid-November when armed men attacked a bus, killing more than 30 people.