Ethiopia continues extending olive branch despite Sudan’s hawkishness: Ethiopian Ambassador to Sudan, Yibeltal Aemero

BY ADDISALEM MULAT

Ethiopia and Sudan have been at loggerhead for quite a while now as Khartoum encroached into Ethiopia’s borderline. Sudan’s aggressions came as Ethiopian troops marched to enforce law in Tigray state. However, Ethiopia has been sparing no effort to resolve the border dispute in a peaceful manner despite Sudan’s belligerent acts of stubbornness and hawkishness. No breakthrough has been made since.

Ratcheting up the tension, Sudan has been persistently beating the drums of war and claiming that the occupied Ethiopian territory belongs to it. In spite of the fact that Ethiopia pulls out all the stops to resolve the problem through a round table discussion, Sudan has been persistently pouring cold water on the efforts of the Ethiopian government. But again, Ethiopia continues extending an olive branch to the neighboring country.

On Tuesday, Ethiopia has urged the international community to put pressure on Sudan to evacuate its troops from Ethiopian territories.

In a statement yesterday, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs said Sudan has forcefully occupied Ethiopian territories since 6 November 2020 while the Ethiopian army was preoccupied with the law and order operation in Tigray.

Although Sudan is the current Chair of IGAD, it is regrettable to see it as the main actor in jeopardizing the peace and security of the Horn of Africa by invading Ethiopian territories, plundering and displacing civilians and beating war drums to occupy even more lands, it added.

Ethiopia is ready to solve the Sudanese aggression border dispute with Sudan using existing conflict resolution mechanisms once the status quo is maintained as per the 1972 Exchange of Notes between the two that prohibits displacement and force to solve border issues till amicable solution is found, the statement indicated.

Besides calls to Sudan, Ethiopia has been briefing diplomats from African countries and others regarding the developments on the border dispute as well as the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam which mainly perceive as the driving force behind the Ethio-Sudan border tension. Even, Yibeltal Aemero, who is Ambassador of Ethiopia to Sudan and Plenipotentiary has been meeting with his counterparts in Khartoum, Sudan to reaffirm his country’s commitment for a peaceful resolution of the dispute.

Of late, The Ethiopian Herald had a short stay with the Ambassador to discuss a wide range of issues in relation to the Sudanese border aggression. Here are the Excerpts of the interview:

Sudanese military have occupied Ethiopian territory illegally. How do you describe the overall damage caused by the unjustified aggression?

It is worth remembering that TPLF clique carried out an attack on the northern command of the Ethiopian National Defense Forces that had been stationing in the Tigray state in the early morning of 4 November 2020. Sad as it may sound when the ENDF guarding the border evacuated the area to play a part in the law enforcement operation against TPLF, the Sudanese military forces took control of the area using the security vacuum right away.

Aside from looting agriculture and farming equipment of the farmers residing in the Ethiopian border, thousands of farmers have been displaced and were forced to flee their homes. In addition to that, the Sudanese military forces have inflicted considerable property damage that resulted in mass unemployment and things of a similar kind all over the border region.

Strictly speaking, Ethiopia and Sudan may take up arms with the passage of time as a way out to resolve the border dispute, but in the light of the foregoing, no matter what happens, they cannot resolve the dispute everlastingly.

The two nations should reach a consensus through a round table discussion in connection with the topic of land demarcation and things of that sort. On top of that, border pillars should be accepted by the people of the two nations and governments by unanimous decision. In doing so, we can achieve the looked-for goal in the next to no time.

According to my way of thinking, war is not the answer and the solution to all problems. By any means necessary, it will not help the two nations enter into an agreement. I would venture to say, a round-table discussion is the only way out and bring about a lasting solution in a short space of time.

While on the subject, taking the two nations’ long-standing relationship into account, the government of Ethiopia does not have an inkling of interest to resolve the border dispute through war. Ethiopia’s stance regarding the territorial dispute remains the same. We have different options. But if the conundrum remains unsolved, we will come up with other options in accordance with the international law.

In the present climate, we have been calling for the Sudanese government to evacuate from the border area and come to the negotiating table over and over again. Aside from moving heaven and earth to resolve the border dispute in an orderly fashion, we have been as well bringing the existing situation of the border into the light.

Though Ethiopians have been displaced and their properties have been looted, we have been attaching great importance to the two nations’ long-standing relationship. We as well keep in mind the domino effect of the war. If all options fail to attain the intended target, we will consider other options to secure our border.

Is the international community aware of Ethiopia’s concern and stance?

To begin with, as things stand at present, the government of Sudan has been creating a social media campaign time and time again against Ethiopia. Besides, the government of Sudan is heard saying, “As we have retaken 95% of our land, Ethiopia should evacuate from the remaining parts of our border.”

They have been blame-shifting, and engaging in smear campaigning. The international community understands the fact that Sudan has invaded Ethiopia’s border area. As they know the current reality on the ground, they all would like the two nations not to go to war. They want the problem to be resolved through dialogue.

The government of Sudan cannot deny the fact that it has invaded Ethiopia’s boarder as it has already claimed it during a press briefing.

Most of the time, whenever Sudanese officials talk about the border dispute between the two nations; they pick up the old boundary map and perplex the international community saying, “This is the map that shows our border.” However, the government of Ethiopia does not give recognition for the boundary line given that it needs a lot of improvement.

By the way, the government of Ethiopia cannot change the boundary line unilaterally in view of the fact that it reached a consensus to re-demarcate and change the demarcation line through negotiation. There will be a new border line down the road when the two governments reach a consensus. I would say, the old map has been confusing the international community to some extent.

It is known that Sudan is also engaged in border dispute with Egypt. But why do you think Sudan is digging its heel in the Ethio-Sudan border?

Even though Sudan and Egypt are in a border conflict, the former gives priority to the border dispute with Ethiopia. The decision is theirs. It is the leadership’s decision. It is their choice and their focus.

We understand the fact that the behavior of Sudan is missing the mark compared to the past, but taking into account the two nations’ peoples’ interest, we have been making an effort to solve the problem in a peaceful manner.

The Ethiopian Herald April 15/2021

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