News: Ethiopia accuses Sudanese army of demolishing local administrative institutions; West Gonder residents decry continued incursion, urge solution

Sudanese forces patrolling farmland in the contested al-Fashqa corridor. Picture: Screengrab

By Siyanne Mekonnen @Siyaanne

Addis Abeba, February 17/2021 – Residents who live in the west Gonder areas in Amhara regional state where Sudanese forces have made incursions have expressed their concerns about the border issues and said it needed to be resolved before the coming farming season.

Ethiopia accuses Sudanese forces of occupying its sovereign territories at a time when the “government was preoccupied with the law enforcement operation in the Tigray region.” The Ministry of Foreign Affairs accuses Sudan of invading “land that is part of Ethiopia’s territory,” and said “in its indefensible conduct, the Sudanese Army demolished Ethiopian administrative institutions, overtaken military camps, killed and displaced residents, and destroyed their crops and property. Sudan acted in flagrant violation of international law against the use of force and the boundary re-demarcation treaties.”

Ethiopia also says “the boundary between Ethiopia and Sudan was delimited by the 1902 Treaty signed between Emperor Menelik II of Ethiopia and Great Britain, the then Colonial power of Sudan. The assertion by some Sudanese officials that Ethiopia is not accepting the border demarcation under the 1902 treaty is groundless.”

It a statement it released on February 14, Sudanese Foreign Ministry on on its part said “Sudan strongly condemns the aggression carried out by Ethiopia, in which its forces entered into territories that legally belong to Sudan,” and warned that it was “a direct violation” of its sovereignty.

On December 27/2020, Dessalegn Tasew, the administrator of West Gondar Zone, had issued a statement accusing Sudanese forces of occupying large swaths of land, looting and killings of civilians.

Now the residents of these areas who spoke to the regional Amhara Mass Media Agency (AMMA) repeated the same concern and said that the people of the two countries living in the bordering areas have long-standing strong economic and social ties. They both cross over to each other’s territories for shopping activities. Moreover, the two people get together on occasions of joy or grief.

“Sudan has violated Ethiopia’s borders especially in the West Gonder zone; it has forcefully taken over large areas from Kuwara to Abutir.”

Hunalem Ashagre

Getachew Tefera, a resident of West Gonder zone, Selamber kebele, said that there were occasional clashes in the community in the past and cited incidents of armed people barging in without warning and looting properties. Getachew, who runs an agricultural investment in the zone, added however that the recent incident was unexpected, “Sudanese government forces have invaded us,” he said.

Hunalem Ashagre, head of the ruling Prosperity Party (PP) of the zonal office’s political sector

Hunalem Ashagre, head of the ruling Prosperity Party (PP) of the zonal office’s political sector, corroborated Getachew’s claim, by saying “Sudan has violated Ethiopia’s borders especially in the West Gonder zone; it has forcefully taken over large areas from Kuwara to Abutir.”

The invasion has caused massive destruction of property and the displacement of residents, according to Hunalem. More than 1.5 billion ETB worth of property was looted, and local farmers’ and investors’ crops, tractors and camps were both looted and destroyed. The residents of Selamber Kebele have also been displaced, although he didn’t specify in numbers.

On the other hand, the mayor of Midre Genet town, Aysheshim Guwanche, said that Sudanese armed forces were harassing the community leaving them anxious. The local administration, elders and religious leaders are working to put the community at ease, he said.  

According to Huanlem the Ethiopian government is working to diplomatically return Sudanese to where it was before November 3, 2020. The locals who spoke to the regional broadcaster admired the way the government was handling the issue with patience and diplomacy. But they also said that the success of the government’s diplomatic efforts will be measured by the return of Sudan to ‘where it was’ before.

Commentators called on the government to ramp up efforts to find quick solutions to the crisis and prevent more harm than were already inflicted by Sudanese forces before the coming farming season in summer. The local community is patiently waiting for the Ethiopian government’s decision, AMMA reported. AS

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