KHARTOUM (Sudanow) - For decades now, the border strip separating Sudan and its Eastern neighbor Ethiopia has been in a state of tension because of the activity of Ethiopian bandits (known as Shifta) who scared off the peaceful Sudanese farmers and eventually occupied wide swaths of the fertile-rainy Fashaga area.
Tensions escalated in mid-September when a Sudanese Army patrol unit was ambushed by the Shifta, aided by Ethiopian armed forces from behind.
A Sudanese officer and three soldiers were killed in the attack in which also over twenty other Sudanese army personnel were hurt.
On the heels of the assault, Chairman of the Sovereignty Council, General Commander of the Armed Forces, General Abdelfattah Alburhan, visited the frontline, accompanied by the Army Chief of Staff.
The Armed Forces also declared the state of maximum alert in the area that also borders the belligerent Tigray region in Ethiopia, and sent military enforcements therein.
On 31 December, the Armed Forces of Sudan said it took full control of all the Sudanese territories in the area.
In a speech to some of his troops in the area Wednesday, General Burhan said they were now 7 kilometers from the joint border.
“This is our land. We, all of us, are ready to die for it,” said Burhan to his enthusiastic troops.
“Enough is enough for this humiliation, these degradations, these insults” he said.
In the meantime, Ethiopia says Sudan has take advantage from the situation ensuing from the fighting in the neighboring Tigray region to occupy Ethiopian territories.
Last week the Ethiopian militias, in a renewed act of war, reportedly attacked Sudanese border villages, killing six women farmers collecting their crop on their own farms in Fashaga. An infant in the company of the women was also reported killed in the offensive, while some other Sudanese farmers were abducted. This had prompted General Burhan to camp with his forces on the Eastern front for sometime.
The diplomatic and information escalation continued unabated:
Ethiopia last Tuesday announced that it was impatient about what it called Sudan’s continued military mobilization on what it described as “a disputed area.”
The next day the Sudanese authorities said an Ethiopian military plane had violated Sudan’s airspace and announced the airspace in the Eastern Gedarif State closed, reaffirming that it wants no war with Ethiopia and that its armed forces would fight back any aggression.
The authorities said Ethiopia calling the border district of Fashaga “a disputed area” is an attempt to undermine Sudan’s historically established rights in the area. What the Sudanese Army had done was a redeployment of its forces within the Sudanese border. Member of the Transitional Sovereignty Council Mohammad Alfaki Suleiman on Tuesday said “the Fashaga area is legally Sudanese.”
Charters And Laws Stand By Sudan:
Dr. Muaz Tango, Chairman of Sudan’s Borders Commission, has said all international charters and laws and all regional agreements indicate that the Fashaga district restored by the Army is a purely Sudanese territory and that the Ethiopian side cannot disavow its former recognition of the area as Sudanese.
Dr. Tango has added in a briefing of foreign diplomats and representatives of international and regional organizations accredited to Sudan that international border agreements cannot be amended except by the consent of its two signatories. He said, according to the International Law, Ethiopia cannot unilaterally amend agreements and that no signatory party can disavow an agreement.
Tango then explained that the description of the Sudanese-Ethiopian border was conducted for the first time in 1900 between Ethiopian Emperor Menelik and the British administration of Sudan at that time. He said the agreement to this effect was signed on 15 May 1902 and was ratified by the two parties, thus acquiring legal legitimacy.
He added that in 1903 the border signs were laid down by a joint committee of the two sides and the local citizens from both countries. These signs had existed up to 2010, he said.
Tango has also recalled that in 1972 the then Ethiopian foreign minister asked for the painting on those border signs to be thickened. Accordingly, the two countries agreed in 2001 upon the formation of two panels: The first to thicken the painting on the border signs and the second one to consider disputes that may arise among farmers from both sides.
Dr. Tango also said the Ethiopian government’s recognition of the correctness of Sudan’s position as regards these referred to lands cannot be denied. ”In all our meetings with the Ethiopian side during the previous period, there was no mention of a reconsideration of the border agreement. The Ethiopian Government recognizes the historical borders,” he explained.
He said the Ethiopian trespassing of Sudanese lands had started since 1957 in full violation of the historical border agreements. He said Ethiopia had old ambitions in Sudanese agricultural lands, recalling that those Ethiopian trespassings were first made by three Ethiopian farmers. Then they increased over the years, climaxing to ten thousand Ethiopian farmers at the moment.
Role Of Bashir Regime’s In The Ethiopian Penetrations:
Ambassador Osman Nafi, who served in Ethiopia for a long time, said at a symposium organized by the organization ‘Article For Media Training and Production’ last Thursday the Ethiopian ambitions in Fashaga district had begum during the rule of Emperor Haile Selassie, who hails from the Amhara ethnic group. The Amhara do not hide their ambitions in the Fashaga lands due to their growing population and because the area, that houses three million acres of fertile lands, is largely unpopulated.
In the mid-1990s the Ethiopians started building settlements after the defunct regime was accused of an assassination attempt on Egyptian President Husni Mubarak in Addis Ababa in 1995. The Sudanese Armed Forces then pulled out of the area, leaving the Sudanese farmers at the mercy of the Ethiopian gangs.
Ambassador Nafi further said the defunct Bashir regime had neglected the border issue with Ethiopia because it was busy with its internal wars. It also belittled the importance of the area. This had raised the ambitions of the Ethiopians in the Fashaga lands.
Ambassador Nafi then went to the extreme of expecting an all out war between Sudan and Ethiopia on this sensitive issue. He expressed the fear that such a struggle may draw other countries in the region, a matter that sets the security of the African Horn into jeopardy.
Ambassador Nafi’s statement was supported by Alrasheed Abdelgadir, a farmer from Barakat Norain village of the Fashaga district.
He said up to 1990 there was no dispute over the borders with Ethiopia.
Rasheed accused the Bashir regime of withdrawing the Army from the area leaving the citizens prey to lootings, thefts and forced immigration and allowing the Ethiopian forces to penetrate deeper the Fashaga.
Rasheed categorically rejected the term “Ethiopian Gangs”. He said these are official Ethiopian forces sent by the Ethiopian Federal Government. They operated a carefully designed plan and built settlements and towns that provide food and services free of charge to attract more people to the area. They built infrastructures, including roads 40 km deep into the area, for instance.
Raheed also said the Ethiopian Government follows misleading tactics: Its media speaks about fraternal relations with Sudan and that the Fashaga is Sudanese, while on the ground they work for occupying the area and the building of settlements.
The Latest Developments:
Regardless of the media escalation and the troop build up on the border, Sudan is reiterating that it was not seeking war with Ethiopia.
The latest of such statements was made by Member of the Sovereignty Council Mohammad Alfaki Suleiman in his press conference referred to above when he said “the decision to reclaim the lands taken by the Ethiopians is a political rather than a military one.”
He said Sudan did not declare war against Ethiopia and did not issue a decision about that.”We are not war mongers, but there are imbalanced addresses from the Ethiopian side that obliged us to take action,” he said.
For his part, Chief of the General Staff of the Ethiopian Army, General Burhanu Jula had denied that an Ethiopian fighter jet had flown over Sudanese territories.
He said Addis Ababa “would not be enmeshed in a war against Khartoum.”
In statements carried by Abu Dhabi- based TV Channel Sky News Arabic, General Jula said “news circulating about an Ethiopian fighter jet violating the Sudanese airspace are baseless.”
“Our forces did not leave their borders for even an inch,” he said.
General Jula said his country would not fight Sudan, indicating that “Ethiopia is in no need for a war with Sudan, whatsoever.”
He added that there are “some” who have interests in igniting sedition and blowing the drums of war between the two countries. He did not disclose who were the “some” he was referring to.
He also added “the incursions along the border are not new, because the borders were not demarcated.”
“We cannot describe that as occupation from either party,” he said.
Meanwhile, the Sudanese business community on Saturday organized a fund-raising event to support the Army and improve the Fashaga infrastructures and services.
In the massive event, during which General Burhan and Prime Minister Hamdok took front seats, it was announced that bank accounts were to be opened to receive donations for the development of the Fashaga.
Some of the most urgent projects focused on during the event are roads, bridges and health and education facilities.
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