Khartoum accuses Ethiopia of arming rebels

Thursday March 11 2021
Sudanese soldiers.

Sudanese soldiers in Sudan on August 31, 2019. Since September 2020, the border between Sudan and Ethiopia has been witnessing rising tensions between the two sides. PHOTO | AFP


Sudan and Ethiopia have disagreed on a third issue, with Khartoum now accusing Addis Ababa of arming rebels in its territory. Ethiopia has denied the allegations.

The two countries first fell out following a dispute on how to fill Ethiopia’s Grand Renaissance Dam (GERD) on the Blue Nile, and afterwards disagreed over an unmarked border line in al-Fashaqa in which Khartoum claims Ethiopians have invaded its territory.

In a report on Wednesday by the official Sudanese News Agency (SUNA), Khartoum accused Addis Ababa of arming rebels in its southern regions in what could constitute proxy wars.

Officials in Sudan said Ethiopia has provided “logistical support” to rebel groups led by Joseph Tuka in the southern state of Blue Nile.

Citing officials in Khartoum, the news agency said Ethiopia had provided arms and other combat equipment at the end of February, ostensibly to provide a buffer against Sudan’s deployment of the military near the disputed border in al-Fashaqa.

Sudan did not immediately provide evidence even though Addis Ababa has denied any interference in Sudan.


The news agency further stated that the Ethiopian government "aims to use Tuka to occupy the city of Kurmuk in the state with the support of Ethiopian artillery, with the aim of dispersing the efforts of the Sudanese army on the eastern front."

The state is located in southern Sudan, specifically on the border triangle with Ethiopia and South Sudan. It lies next to the area where both countries have bickered over a borderline between al-Fashaqa in Sudan and Amhara in Ethiopia.

A century-old dispute, the matter had traditionally been swept under the carpet or treated as a local community problem even though there exists past agreements that neither side has fully implemented.

The latest tiff began last November, the traditional harvesting season for Amhara farmers who often fight for land with Sudanese nomadic herders. Sudan deployed its military in the area, but Addis Ababa accused Khartoum of taking advantage of Ethiopia’s attention to the Tigray conflict to make moves. Addis Ababa has since demanded that Sudanese troops pull back before any negotiations can happen.

The Blue Nile State, south of al-Fashaqa, has witnessed fighting between the government and rebels since 2011. Tuka’s forces had initially fought alongside South Sudan’s SPLA rebels before they later chose to remain in the north as the south seceded.

Last year, the Sudanese government concluded a peace agreement with a number of armed movements in the country, with the aim of ending the hostilities that ravaged the country. The agreement included five key issues including assurances of service provision by the central government as well as power sharing.

However, the agreement signing was skipped by a number of rebel movements including Tuka's forces.

Ethiopia, a country that was deeply involved in Sudan’s peaceful transition in 2019 is now the main one accused of destabilising Khartoum.

Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2019 largely for rapprochement with Eritrea as well as masterminding a peaceful transition that saw the military and civilians share power in Sudan.