No quick end in sight for Ethiopia, Sudan spat

Tuesday February 23 2021
Ethiopian refugees.

Border row comes at a time many Ethiopians fled conflict in Tigray for refugee camps inside Sudan. PHOTO | AFP


South Sudan’s bid to mediate in the ongoing border tiff between Khartoum and Addis Ababa appeared headed for more obstacles after Sudan recalled its envoy to Ethiopia this past week.

Khartoum said it was ready for a mediated settlement but not with preconditions such as having to withdraw troops from the contested area.

A statement by Sudan Foreign Ministry said: “Ethiopian aggression on Sudanese territory is an escalation that is unfortunate and unacceptable, and would have dangerous repercussions on security and stability of the region.”

Tariq Othman, a political analyst in Sudan told The EastAfrican that although the two sides may not be ready for war, the mutual military build-up is ominous.
He said “the tension and state of no war but no peace either between the two cast a shadow on the future relationship between the neighbours.”

Long-standing conflict

The two sides have quarrelled over an area near al-Fashaqa in Sudan and Amhara in Ethiopia which both sides claim. It is a historic conflict and remains largely unmarked, often fuelling clashes between Ethiopian farmers and Sudanese animal keepers.


Some analysts believe the war option for Ethiopia is a strategy to buy time to perform the second filling of the Grand Renaissance Dam, a $4.5 billion project that has also caused tensions in the past with Sudan and Egypt who oppose unilateral water harvesting by Ethiopia.

For Sudan though, the tiff could be a distraction from its transitional plan.
On Tuesday, Jamal Al-Sheikh, the Sudan ambassador to Addis Ababa was recalled for “consultations”, just as President Salva Kiir of South Sudan asked both sides to accept his mediation.

Despite the assurances of both Sudan and Ethiopia that they do not seek an armed military confrontation, the stance by both sides may make it harder for Juba to squeeze out an agreement.