The very good and exemplary relationship of the two major countries in the Horn of Africa, Sudan and Ethiopia is under risk after the military wing of the government of Sudan invaded, displaced farmers and controlled a territory belonging to Ethiopian farmers.
The first question to be raised here should be what triggered Sudan to commit such unprecedented aggression and erode the good relation that has been established for the past decades by the two neighbours?
It is a fact, that for Sudan, with large uninhabited territory and a highly sparsely populated nation, the desire to have territorial expansions cannot be a sound reason to invade Ethiopia. There are, however, popular guesses behind Sudan’s actions.
The first reason many speculate is that the Sudanese government military wing is trying to divert the internal problems such as the questions of democracy and good governance. According to BBC news (BBC, 2019) Sudan has been in the midst of a political crisis since long-serving ruler Omar al-Bashir was overthrown and a council of generals led by Lt-Gen Abdel Fattah Abdulrahman Burhan assumed power in April 2019. The framing of Bashir’s ousting as a “military coup” rather than a natural response to the legitimate demands of the people was the beginning of a new wave of viscous psychological warfare on the people (Africanreport, 2021). So according to this speculation invading the Ethiopian territory is one of the tactics of the Military wing for its survival in power.
The Second speculation is related to Egypt’s occupation of the Halaib triangle, which lies near the Red Sea in a mineral-rich border region, covering 20,580km2 claimed by Sudan. Ten times bigger than the area now Sudan invaded in Ethiopia, this place has been a bone of contention between the two neighbours for decades. Egypt recently is trying to declare the triangle as part of her territory in an official ways. Sudanese officials on the other hand cannot confront or oppose this process by Egypt, because of the fear of the deep involvement of Egypt in Sudan’s politics. Therefore, the best way to get rid of this humiliation is by redirecting the public attention to other agendas. Hence, invading Ethiopia’s territory became the best way to cover the General’s weakness and deflect the pressure from the public and from Egypt.
The third speculation is related to the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) negotiation process. Sudan was an ally of Ethiopia in the long negotiation processes, but after the recent political shifts and the influences from Egypt, Sudan is becoming a mouth to Egypt. So, it can be considered that the Egyptians guide Sudanese interest, and Egypt wants by any means to halt the construction of the hydroelectric dam project based on its greedy attitude for monopolizing the water use from the Nile. One of the means of halting the Dam’s construction is by destabilizing Ethiopia through funding different armed groups internally and lobbying of the Military wing of Sudan to engage in a border conflict with Ethiopia.
The other wide speculation took the agenda further higher level, Sudan is in a difficult transitional stage and Egypt highly interested in continuing her active role in Sudan’s politics in a permanent base. But, Egypt is afraid of the spread of Ethiopia’s Culture of principle based independent politics and non-alignment principle to Sudan. So, she must ruin the good political relationship Ethiopia and Sudan have. In this perspective, the GERD and the boarder issue are not by themselves the long-time concerns of Egypt and the military wing of the Sudanese government, instead they are the strategies by which Egypt and its ally individuals in the government use to ruin the public and political relations of Ethiopia and Sudan.
Analysing the entire speculations, one can reach at a conclusion that the border dispute is not a simple territorial land issue, rather it is a cover-up for one or more agendas at a cost of the interest of the people of Sudan, at a cost of regional and continental peace and at a cost of the longstanding good relationship of the two countries.
Ethiopia is trying to deescalate the dispute, despite the painful continuous and, unwise decision and actions of the military wing. But this one side desire of peace and tolerance will not last long. The Sudanese military wing must adapt and learn other non-military ways in securing interests of foreign affairs, and also must give priority to the voice of the people of Sudan.
At last it should be clear that war never ended disputes in history and will never end in the future; consensuses and understanding based on peaceful negotiation are the only means by which states can achieve their desire or solve their disagreement. It will be very short and fruitful for two sisterly nations to come to a table and solve their disputes.
The views expressed in the article do not necessarily reflect the views of The Reporter.
Contributed by Asnake Belay