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Sudan: Ethiopia accused of attack near border, killing Sudanese soldiers

By Morris Kiruga
Posted on Sunday, 28 November 2021 15:51, updated on Monday, 29 November 2021 08:54

Ethiopians receive supplies at the Um-Rakoba camp on the Sudan-Ethiopia border
A World Food Programme helicopter flies over the Um-Rakoba camp on the Sudan-Ethiopia border, in Kassala state in Sudan, north of Al Faqsha December 17, 2020. REUTERS/Mohamed Nureldin Abdallah

Several Sudanese soldiers have been killed in renewed fighting with Ethiopia in the disputed Al Fashaqa region, in what could mark the start of an escalation of tensions in the Horn.  

According to a statement by Sudan’s military, several of its soldiers were killed while repulsing an attack by “Ethiopian army forces and militias…who sought to intimidate and spoil the harvest.”

It further claimed that its forces ‘repulsed the attack’ and inflicted ‘heavy losses of life and equipment’ on the Ethiopian army and militias.

Seasonal escalations

Attacks in the disputed region tend to escalate during harvest time, often by Ethiopian militias. The disputed region has been under Sudan for a little over a decade, since Ethiopia ceded its claim on the condition that Ethiopian farmers be allowed to stay in their farms.

The news of renewed fighting will escalate tensions in an already fragile region, with protests in Sudan forcing the military’s hand after a coup, and Ethiopia’s federal government at war with Tigray, which borders al-Fashaqa.

Sudan took advantage of the start of the Tigray war, after Amhara militias in the disputed region withdrew to join the battle to escalate the dispute.

READ MORE Ethiopia’s Tigray: New frontier for regional interests

In February, Khartoum claimed that Ethiopia’s northern neighbour Eritrea had also sent soldiers into the disputed region. At the time, both Asmara and Addis Ababa still denied claims by the TPLF that the former’s military was involved in the war.

Purging

The news comes just days after General Abdel Fattah Al-Burhan was forced to restore power to the country’s civilian prime minister by widespread anti-coup protests that have so far left more than 40 people dead.

The attack was launched against backdrop of an army and police purge in Sudan.

Eight Beshir-era generals retired yesterday (Saturday 27 November), and Prime Minister Hamdok sacked two police chiefs.

‘Defender of the nation’

Analysts suggest that while it has been reported as an Ethiopian attack, it is Sudan’s army that stands to gain the most in a fight with Ethiopia, helping shore up Burhan’s position as ‘defender of the nation’; and that an already stretched Ethiopian army is unlikely to open a new front.

In Ethiopia, Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed left the capital to lead the war from the frontline, as changing fortunes on the battlefield over the last few months have shifted to the TPLF’s advantage.

The Ethiopian military, engaged in a last ditch effort to fight back Tigrayan rebels from their advance on the capital, has not commented on the latest events in the Fashaqa region.

Abiy’s joining the battlefront has also inspired others to join the war effort, including Olympian medallists Haile Gebrselassie and Feyisa Lilesa to pledge their own frontline intervention.

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