BY YESUF ENDRIS
Currently at loggerhead with incidents of border clashes, Ethiopia and Sudan governments have had warm bilateral diplomatic relations cemented by the longstanding people to people ties. In 1972, the two countries agreed to resolve the border issues through mutual cooperation. Addis Ababa and Khartoum also signed Exchange of Notes during that year in a move to resolve border disputes.
The 1972 Exchange of Notes was signed by the two countries to set mechanisms of border resolutions declaring that issues must be resolved through technical studies conducted by experts from both countries. On the basis of the agreement, Ethiopia and Sudan Joint Border Commission was established in 2002 to discuss border issues by gathering inputs from experts.
Relatively speaking, the two countries have been having cordial diplomatic relationships compared with other Horn African countries and made continues progresses in resolving border issues. Nonetheless, Sudanese forces have been, though doubts remain if the actions represent the interests of the Sudanese people, recently and reportedly encroaching on Ethiopian borderlands since the end of last year.
The recent border skirmishes are the continuations of the long lingering border issues. But usually, the issues are resolved peacefully and wisely. This time, Sudanese actions are more violent and of large-scale that they would destabilize the entire region. On the contrary, Ethiopia has been following diplomatic approach to settle the issues that continue to this very day.
Ethiopian members of the Joint Border Commission members have lately announced that Sudan has violently breached borders; it is thus a complete violation of historical Exchange of Notes, they said. The members of the Commission have said that the two countries have had a clear agreement to resolve any border disputes through mutual understanding but the recent Sudanese’s acts are a total violation of the agreement and run-in contradiction to peaceful resolution.
The Exchange of Notes signed during 1972 which compiled in UN charter article 102, clearly indicates that the current borders must be obeyed until technical experts come up with comprehensive results to draw the border.
Amb. Ibrahim Edris, member of Joint Border commission said that borderlands starting from Mount. Daglish are problematic that clear demarcation must be lined with cooperative work of experts.
“North to Daglish Mountain has to be studied and we (Ethiopia and Sudan) have a clear agreement on approaches to resolve the issue. And there is still active special joint border committee researching on the resolutions,” he said.
The Sudan’s illegal move to take Ethiopia’s land is violation of rule of law and the Sudanese force has to return back. Adding, mutual understanding and resolution must be reached through comprehensive agreement, he noted.
The feedbacks of experts from both sides have been taken as a major input for planned demarcation and mutual understanding has been reached to mediate border dispute, he added.
The Ethiopian member of Joint Border Commission said that amidst the continued discussions, the Sudanese forces however have violated all regulations while the Ethiopian government is repeatedly calling for peaceful dialogue.
Wuhib Muluneh, another member of the Joint Border Commission also indicated that any issues related to borderland should be resolved in accordance with inputs raised in joint discussions. In this regard, Ethiopia and Sudan have been holding a number of discussions to settle the differences without causing any harm. The opposite will be disastrous for both sides. The two countries have held dialogues as a means to end border dispute since the signing of the Exchange of Notes. However, things have gone awry lately with Sudan following aggressive and undiplomatic approaches.
There is active joint force (Joint Technical Boundary Committee) which works survey, reconnaissance and cartography. Besides, the Special Committee overseen by the Joint Border Commission is also tasked with monitoring cultivation and settlements along the border. All these structures are in place, and used as input for discussion and negotiations, he noted.
“We believe that all these approaches must be revitalized as the issue needs comprehensive agreement;” adding, mechanisms of resolution are clearly written on the historical 1972’s Exchange of Notes in this regard,” he noted.
He further said that any of unilateral moves will cause escalation of the issue, so, all things should be accommodated with the existing treaties and international laws while keeping agreements to maintain status quo until reaching lasting solution is vital in going forward.
“Until then, the ground reality must be in place as the exchange of notes stated,” he remarked.
Amb. Ibrahim on his part also noted that the issue is not complicated much since the structure to resolve the issue has been outlined before and favorable conditions to set resolution are alive despite of Sudan’s move.
“I believe there will be no other means to end the dispute. In my view, peaceful dialogue is the only approach to resolve disputes, sustain bilateral relationship and strength bonds between the two countries besides promoting joint development along the borders.”
In exclusive interview with Walta TV, Amb. Dina Mufti, Spokesperson of Ministry of Foreign Affairs, also said that the issue of the border has gained attention since 1902/03. The lands that Sudan claims these days were drawn by the Britain, the then colonizer of Sudan and it was rejected by Ethiopia at that time.
Adding, Ethiopia and Sudan have signed agreement in 1972 following Sudanese independence known as Exchange of Notes, he said. “Both sides have been in talks to demarcate the boundary in accordance with the Exchange of Notes,” as to him.
“But the Sudanese forces have entered into border areas lately, which is a total violation of the signed agreement. It seems the Sudanese forces are miscalculated that the Ethiopian National defense force is disintegrated due to Tigray’s law enforcement operations or there may be some other hidden reasons too.”
“With Sudan’s incursion, the signed agreement has been violated, farmers are being pushed to leave the land and assets have been looted. These are the gruesome realities done by the Sudanese forces,” he said. However, Ethiopia is still urging for lawful resolution based on the existing treaties and international laws.
Amb. Dina also said that there is strong stance from the Ethiopian side in extending negotiations and bilateral discussions to end the dispute backed by technical committees drawn from the two countries.
“We are repeatedly calling Sudan to pull out its militias from the Ethiopian borders in accordance with the existing agreement and maintain status quo until clear resolution is provided,” he said.
Talking about the current situation, he also stated that there will be no lasting solution unless both countries do not enter into peaceful dialogue. “In this regard, the Ethiopian government is ready to finding diplomatic resolutions to the problems. And, African Union, other international organizations and neighboring countries are aware of the issue. Hopefully, Sudanese government will follow suit and probably get back to peaceful talks.”
The Ethiopian herald January 13/2021