Facts on the status of recent developments regarding Ethiopia-Sudan Border
Ethiopia and Sudan enjoy deep-rooted historical relations, which dates back to the predecessors of present-day Ethiopia and Sudan- the Abyssinian kingdoms like Aksumite and Zagwe on the one hand, and the Nubian and Meroe on the other. Besides the long boundary, the people of Ethiopia and Sudan share common people, languages, religion, culture, history, etc.
Nevertheless, this does not mean that they did not have difficulties in their long historical relations. One of the difficulties was territorial disputes that existed for more than a century. Particularly, the advent of British colonial rule in Sudan has given birth to the present Ethio-Sudan border disputes explained hereafter. With the aim of settling the border problems, the boundary between Ethiopia and Sudan was delimited by the Treaties of 1902 and 1907, which was concluded between Emperor Menilik II and Mr John Harington representing the colonial power, Great Britain. However, contrary to the 1902 agreement, which states that the boundary will be demarcated by Joint Boundary Commission to be nominated by the two contracting parties, Major Gwynn, a British surveyor, representing the Government of Great Britain unilaterally demarcated the boundary in 1903 in the absence of representatives from the Government of Ethiopia, which Ethiopia rejected. It is worth noting here that the 1903 demarcation is different from the treaty of delimitation concluded in 1902 and had been a point of disagreement for a long time.
However, our ancestors had been settling disputes peacefully giving priority to nurturing the friendly relations and cooperation between the two countries and their peoples that endured to date. In this connection, the two parties signed an Exchange of Notes in 1972 to settle the territorial disputes arising from the unilateral demarcation of Gwynn and to maintain the status quo until they arrive at an amicable solution. To this end, they set up all the structures and mechanisms that accomplished tremendous tasks and were on the right track to the final disposition of the problems.
Despite the long-standing historical and friendly relations and all available border issues settlement mechanisms set up, it is unfortunate that the government of Sudan recently has pursued a provocative approach to resolve the border disputes by force. When the Ethiopian National Defence Forces moved to the Tigray region for law enforcement measures in early November 2020, the Sudanese Army took the advantage to grab places vacated by the Ethiopian army and entered deep inside Ethiopian territory, exposing the opportunistic behaviour of our longtime friends. The aggression committed by the Sudanese army against Ethiopia has broken not only the basic principles of international law and the border delimitation treaties but also the understanding reached and trust bestowed upon it. Ethiopia considers that the recent action of Sudan’s army does not serve the interest of the Sudanese people rather it serves the interests of third parties that miscalculated to profit out of the collateral damages of the hostilities between the two neighbouring countries.
Ethiopia is familiar with such kind of recurrent attack by Sudan’s military. In this connection, it is worth recalling that similar incursions have taken place when Emperor Haile Selassie was toppled in 1974. Similarly, when the military government was overthrown incursions have happened from 1989-1991 and in 1995 as well. Therefore, Ethiopia has concluded that the Sudanese army has established a pattern of attacking Ethiopia whenever it feels that Ethiopia is preoccupied with its internal matters. However, Ethiopia, by focusing on promoting friendly relations between the two countries to break the cycle of conflict, scored remarkable achievements on economic and political cooperation as well as peaceful neighbourly relations.
The Government of Ethiopia opted to exercise maximum restraint and patience towards the clear violation of its sovereign integrity and provocation by the Sudanese Army. Ethiopia does not seek to raise arms against the sisterly people of Sudan. Ethiopia is well aware that war doesn’t serve the interest of peoples of both Ethiopia and Sudan particularly at this moment of political transition and economic difficulties. Ethiopia wants to give the Government of Sudan and its military leaders a chance to reconsider all means of peaceful resolution of the territorial dispute between the two sisterly countries. In this regard, in order to resolve the problem peacefully, the committees established based on the existing bilateral agreements should draw a lasting amicable solution for the re-demarcation of the boundary between the two countries.
Ethiopia has always been trying to lend a right hand to Sudan in times of its difficulties. In the government transition that has taken place recently in Sudan that threatened the country with a risk of disintegration on its territorial integrity, Ethiopia stood with the people of Sudan and assisted the transitional government to establish the Sovereign Council. Since both countries have much at stake beyond the territorial dispute and the situation in the Horn of Africa demands the maximum efforts to foster peace and cooperation, Ethiopia wishes to continue to play its constructive role in its relations with the people and government of Sudan.
Source: Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Ethiopia