Sudan sends troops to border area after ambush blamed on Ethiopia
Sudan sent military reinforcements to its border with Ethiopia, after it said an army unit was ambushed in the area by militiamen backed by the Ethiopian army, causing the death of an officer and an unspecified number of soldiers.
Sudan and Ethiopia have had a long history of border disputes that occasionally flare into armed clashes. The latest clash, on Saturday, followed a similar one in May in which a senior Sudanese officer was killed in fighting that forced thousands of Sudanese residents in the border area to flee their homes.
The military did not give details on the size or make-up of the reinforcements sent to the border, but the move is likely to fuel tension at a time when at least 50,000 residents of Ethiopia’s restive Tigray region have fled their homes and found refuge in Sudan from a government offensive against separatist rebels there. The influx of the refugees and the continuing fighting have prompted Sudan’s military to beef up its forces on the border with Tigray to prevent the use of Sudanese territory by the rebels.
The clash followed a dramatic improvement of relations between Ethiopia and Sudan since the 2018 rise to power of Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed in Addis Ababa and the removal a year later of Sudanese dictator Omar Al Bashir. Border tension adds a new layer to Sudan’s woeful array of problems, which range from a collapsing economy and civil strife to uneasy relations between the military and civilian components of the transitional government that succeeded Al Bashir. Sudan’s Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok recently visited Addis Ababa and, according to a Sudanese statement, agreed with his Ethiopian counterpart Mr Abiy to revive a joint committee tasked with the demarcation of the border.
Mr Hamdok’s government on Wednesday issued a statement condemning Ethiopian “aggression” and stating its full support for the armed forces in its effort to safeguard the country’s territory.
Sudan has long claimed that Ethiopia was illegally controlling areas straddling their border. One of those areas, Al Fashqah, was wrested from Ethiopian control this month, ending 25 years of occupation.
The neighbours are at odds over a Nile dam being built by Ethiopia. Sudan maintains that operating the hydroelectric dam without sharing data with its authorities poses a danger to its own power-generating dams on the Nile and leaves the country at risk of the deadly floods that often hit it in late summer.
It also sets Sudan an extra challenge as its transition to democratic rule repeatedly runs into obstacles with the military and civilian wings of the government publicly bickering over a range of issues, including control of the army’s business interests, security in major cities and charges that the generals meddle in foreign policy behind the government’s back.