AU, EU urge restraint over escalating Sudan-Ethiopia tensions

Wednesday June 29 2022
African Union Commission Chairperson Moussa Faki Mahamat.

African Union Commission Chairperson Moussa Faki Mahamat. PHOTO | FILE


Sudan has pledged to deescalate tensions with Addis Ababa over the killing of its seven soldiers and a civilian in Ethiopia whose military it had accused of committing the atrocity.

Two days earlier, Khartoum had vowed to provide an adequate “response”. Reports indicate that Sudan shelled an area near the disputed border region since Monday.

On Tuesday night, the head of Sudan’s Sovereignty Council Lt-Gen Abdel Fattah al-Burhan made a promise to calm the situation hours after the reported escalation in which its military is said to have fired heavy artillery into Ethiopia.

The European Union has cautioned the two sides not to go to war. In a meeting between the EU's envoy for the Horn of Africa, Annette Weber, Lt-Gen Al-Burhan affirmed his country's keenness on “normal and balanced relations with neighbouring Ethiopia.”

The Sudanese Sovereignty Council said in a statement: “The meeting dealt with the unfortunate incident in the Al-Fashqa area, in which the Ethiopian army killed seven prisoners [who were] Sudanese soldiers, and a civilian, who were kidnapped from inside Sudanese territory.”

Read: Sudan accuses Ethiopia of killing 7 soldiers, civilian


Voice concern

On Wednesday, the African Union also voiced concern over "escalating military tension" between Ethiopia and Sudan, calling for restraint and dialogue.

The AU Commission chairman Musa Faki Mahamat, in a statement Wednesday, appealed for a “complete refrain from any military action whatever its origin and calls for dialogue between the two brotherly countries to solve any dispute.”

Sudan accused Ethiopia of capturing its soldiers and a civilian on June 22 in the disputed Al-Fashqa, which lies within its international boundaries but has been settled by Ethiopian farmers for decades.

Khartoum recalled its ambassador to Addis Ababa on Monday and vowed to lodge a complaint with the UN Security Council and regional organisations.

Addis Ababa said Tuesday that Sudanese forces had crossed into Ethiopian territory and the casualties resulted from a skirmish with a local militia, denying its soldiers were in the area at the time. Ethiopian officials also said Sudan’s armed forces fired heavy artillery into its territory.

Sudan was able to capture Jabal Kala al-Laban, an area near the contested border, on Tuesday following an artillery barrage and an air raid, according to an anonymous Sudanese military source speaking to Reuters news agency.

However, the Sudanese Armed Forces spokesman said in a press release that  “incorrect and misleading breaking news has been reported on some satellite channels and websites, attributed to the Sudanese army and military sources about troop movements and the capturing of Ethiopian soldiers in Al-Fashqa area.”

“The Sudanese Armed Forces confirm that it will not issue any speech or statements to these channels or other websites in any matter related to the situation on our eastern borders.”

Speaking to AFP in Khartoum, the army spokesman Nabil Abdalla said: "We have not attacked anyone and we will not and we are not planning that. But we will not allow any armed force from another country that wants to cross our international border. It's our right legally to deal with it." 

Read: Ethiopia denies Sudan claims of execution of soldiers, civilian

Skirmishes have occurred between the two neighbouring countries in the past years over the disputed fertile border area of Al-Fashqa. The two sides are yet to formally draw a borderline on the area.

Al-Fashqa has long been cultivated by Ethiopian farmers but claimed by Sudan, and the dispute has sparked sporadic clashes between the Sudanese and Ethiopian sides, some fatal.

- Additional reporting by AFP and Reuters.