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Demeke breaks silence over land dispute
Demeke Mokonnen, Deputy Prime Minister

Demeke breaks silence over land dispute

Deputy Prime Minister Demeke Mokonnen – also the current Chairman of the Amhara Nation Democratic Movement (ANDM) – has stepped out of silence regarding the longstanding rumor that he has put his signature to allow some tracts of land in the Amhara region to be given to Sudan.

Demeke, who is now in BahrDar for his party’s 12th Congressional Assembly, had a Q&A with the region’s TV (Amhara TV) on Wednesday before the opening day of the assembly.

During his interview, Demeke denied to have signed the documents of which he was accused of allowing Sudan to take the much controversial lands snatching them from the region’s farmers.

He told the regional broadcaster that he was “in London” when the land was given to Sudan.

But in his interview, he gave signals confirming some lands have are already been given to Sudan; in which both the regional and the federal government have denied for a long time.

For instance, it should be recalled that in 2015, former Prime Minister Hailemariam Dessalegn told parliament that no land was given to Sudan.

Demeke, however, did not indicate who should be accountable for the handing over of Ethiopian territorial land.

Over the past few years, various activists have accused Demeke and other senior officials of the Amhara region for neglecting the suffering of local farmers whose land is “sold out for Sudan” for the government’s political profit at the cost of national sovereignty.

Bloody clashes have since broke-out between Sudanese and Ethiopian farmers on the joint border last June leading to many casualties on both sides.

Ethiopian and Sudanese farmers from the two sides of the border disputed over the ownership of land in Al-Fashaga area located in the southeastern part of Sudan’s eastern state of Gedaref.

Last August, Demeke met with Vice-President Hassabo Mohamed Abdel-Rahman in Sudan while attending the signing ceremony of South Sudan’s peace agreement whereby the two discussed the longstanding dispute on the common border.

Both then vowed to exert commitment to resolve border issues through the joint technical committees between the two countries.

Meanwhile, in the past years, Sudanese authorities accused Ethiopia of controlling more than a million acres of Sudanese agricultural land in the area of Al-Fashaga, saying the area has been completely isolated from Sudan.

Al-Fashaga covers an area of an estimated 250 having about 600,000 acres of fertile lands. Furthermore, there are river systems flowing across the area including Atbara, Setait and Baslam rivers.

The current borders between Sudan and Ethiopia were drawn by the British and Italian colonizers in 1908. The two governments have agreed in the past to redraw the borders and to promote joint projects between peoples from both sides for the benefit of the local population.

The joint Sudanese-Ethiopian High Committee announced in December 2013, it has reached an agreement to end disputes between farmers from the two sides of the border over the ownership of agricultural land.

In November 2014, the former Ethiopian Prime Minister, Hailemariam Desalegn, and President Omar al-Bashir instructed their Foreign Ministers to fix a date for resuming the border demarcation.