Analysts See Continued Tension But No War Between Sudan, Ethiopia

KHARTOUM, SUDAN – Sudan this week accused Ethiopian troops of crossing the border amid a land dispute between the neighbors.

The dispute adds to tensions stemming from Ethiopia’s massive hydropower dam, the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD), on a Nile River tributary that Egypt and Sudan say threatens their supply of fresh water.

This week, Sudan’s ministry of foreign affairs issued a communiqué, saying Ethiopia made what the ministry called a disrespectful incursion into Sudanese lands.

Ethiopian troops allegedly crossed the border at al-Fashaga, an area that sits on the border between northwestern Ethiopia and eastern Sudan.

A long-running dispute

The Ethiopian government did not deny the incursion but called on Sudan to stop its own incursions across the border.

The dispute over al-Fashaga goes back at least 50 years but has flared up again since December, shortly after tens of thousands of refugees from Ethiopia’s embattled Tigray region began crossing into eastern Sudan.

In January, Sudan said an Ethiopian military aircraft overflew its territory, while Ethiopia accused Sudanese troops of crossing the border and looting from Ethiopian citizens.

However, Sudanese political analyst Abbas Mohamed, based in Qatar, thinks both Sudan and Ethiopia could not stand the costs of a real war.

Mohamed said decision makers in Sudan and Ethiopia know very well that going to war is nonsensical. There is economic development in Ethiopia and democratic change in Khartoum. Any war would threaten the gains in the two countries, but the ruling leaders are looking for enemy to defuse the internal conflicts.

The border dispute adds to existing tensions over Ethiopia’s hydropower dam on a Nile River tributary. Egypt and Sudan say the dam would reduce the flow downriver and threaten their supply of fresh water.

Dam seen as big part of problem

Khartoum based political analyst Alfatih Mahmoud said the dam is the driving factor behind the tension.

Mahmoud  said the GERD dam is the reason behind it and that dispute could push the two parties into a skirmish and to sit together at a negotiation table, though it never has resulted in in a war.

Sudan and Ethiopia have welcomed an initiative by South Sudan to mediate the border dispute. However, Ethiopia said it wants an immediate withdrawal by Sudan’s military from the border area in exchange for starting negotiations.

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