Ethiopia and Sudan agree to boost dialogue to resolve border tensions over Al-Fashaga

Abiy Ahmed and Abdel Fattah al-Burhan met in Nairobi after a meeting of the Intergovernmental Authority on Development

PHOTO/TWITTER/ABIY AHMED/@AbiyAhmedAli  -   Abiy Ahmed with Abdel Fattah al-Burhan

The end of border tensions between Sudan and Ethiopia seems to be in sight after years of dispute over Al-Fashaga. On Tuesday, Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed and the head of Sudan's Sovereign Council Abdel Fattah al-Burhan met to address recent border tensions and called for dialogue.

The two leaders met in the Kenyan capital, Nairobi, on the occasion of the meeting of the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD), the East African economic bloc. The meeting itself was an important reason for advancing the dialogue, as the bloc of Horn of Africa countries and neighbouring states agreed to tackle problems such as drought, armed conflict and terrorism.

PHOTO/TWITTER/ABIY AHMED/@AbiyAhmedAli –  Abiy Ahmed with Abdel Fattah al-Burhan

"We both agree that our two countries have many elements of collaboration to work peacefully. Our common bonds transcend any divisions. We are both committed to dialogue and peaceful resolution of outstanding issues," the Ethiopian Prime Minister posted on his Twitter account. Sudan's Governing Council later issued a similar statement, saying the meeting had been "fruitful and extremely successful".

These statements come days after tensions in the Al-Fashaga region escalated, with Khartoum forces announcing the launch of a new offensive against the Ethiopian army over the execution of seven captured Sudanese military personnel and a civilian, according to Sudan. For its part, Ethiopia attributed this action as a response to the fact that the Sudanese soldiers entered Ethiopia with the collaboration of the Tigray People's Liberation Front (TPLF), which is also at odds with the government of Abiy Ahmed. 

AFP/ASHRAF SHAZLY - A boy stands next to a donkey loaded with jerry cans in the agricultural region of Al-Fashaga al-Sughra in Sudan's eastern Gedaref State

Following what was seen as the threat of a new war between Sudan and Ethiopia, the African Union expressed its "deep concern over the military tensions".

However, the latest clashes over the Al-Fashaga border region that have escalated over the past month are just the latest twist in a decades-long history of rivalry. The disputed area, rich in agricultural resources, lies between Ethiopia's northwestern Amhara region and Sudan's Gedaref area, considered the Arab country's breadbasket. And although the Al-Fashaga region has been settled to the east under colonial treaties, Ethiopians settled and cultivated the area, with Sudan's consent. A situation that was reaffirmed in the 2008 negotiations, and until Ethiopia reclaimed the region ten years later.

PHOTO/OBSERVATORIO DE PAZ DE ETIOPÍA - Map of the Al-Fashaga region, on the border between Ethiopia and Sudan, and the fighting between April 2018 and April 2021

Sudan's former Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok, before his resignation following the October 2021 coup d'état, had already raised the issue with his Ethiopian counterpart. However, the head of Sudan's Sovereign Council, Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, changed Sudan's position on the disputed area, calling for the immediate departure of Ethiopian farmers settled in Al-Fashaga. 

These movements have caused the armies of both countries to concentrate in the border areas in the face of increasing tension, a confrontation that is worsening the internal situation. Sudan with constant protests against the military government, and Ethiopia with a civil war that still does not seem to be capitulating.