Ethiopia Rejects Sudan’s Claim of Handing over ‘Captive soldiers’

ADDIS ABABA – Addis Ababa has rejected Sudanese authorities’ claim of handing over 61 ‘captive soldiers’ to Ethiopia last week.

“Unlike the Sudanese side of the story, 59 of the so-called Ethiopian soldiers are farmers while the remaining are militiamen,” said Ambassador Dina Mufti, spokesperson of the ministry of foreign affairs, while briefing reporters on Wednesday.

Last week, Khartoum said its forces handed over 61 captive prisoners of the Ethiopian army to Addis Ababa at the Gallabat border crossing.

Ethiopia said the claim was untrue as there are no Ethiopian troops deployed there to fall captive under the Sudanese army.

“In the absence of a military response from the Ethiopian side, the Sudanese government is claiming to capturing and handing over Ethiopian soldiers to the government of Ethiopia to misinform the world as if Ethiopia is participating in an armed border conflict,” Ambassador Dina said.

With a 1,600-kilometer shared border, Sudan and Ethiopia were in constant talk to demark their territories.

That has changed after the Sudanese army decided to take over the entire disputed land in a military offensive that began in November.

In the process, Ethiopia said the Sudanese army killed its farmers and destroyed their properties in the disputed land.

While Khartoum said it imposed its control on Sudanese territory, Ethiopia accused the Sudanese army of taking advantage of its recent internal conflict in Tigray and expanding into its fertile lands.

So far, Ethiopia said they will not strike back to regain control over the disputed territory.

Answering questions posed by lawmakers in parliament last month, Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed said he had no interest in escalating tensions with Sudan.

“Ethiopia also has many problems, and we are not ready to go to battle. We don’t need war,” he said in remarks translated into English for a live TV broadcast. “It is better to settle it in a peaceful manner.”

Historical background

– 1902: boundary treaty in delimiting the Ethio-Sudan border was signed between the Government of Ethiopia and the British Colonial administration of Sudan. The treaty declared the establishment of a Joint Boundary Commission for the demarcation of the common boundary.

– 1903: the representative of British (Major Gwynn) unilaterally carried out the demarcation process without the presence or the authorization of the Ethiopian Government. As a result, the Gwynn demarcation particularly in the area North of Mount Dagleish remained controversial and disputed.

– 1972: In order to solve the long overdue boundary dispute between the two countries, Ethiopia and Sudan through their Foreign Ministers Exchange of Notes. It stipulates for the two countries to proceed with the re-demarcation process from Mount Dagleish southwards; to study the problem resulting from settlements and cultivation by nationals of either nation in the territory of the other with a view to finding an amicable solution.

Two months after the signing of the Notes, the Foreign Minister of Sudan wrote a letter to Ethiopia informing the latter that the government of Sudan had written a letter to the then Chairman of the Organization of African Unity(OAU) informing that the conclusion of an agreement governing the longest frontier between the two African countries.

In addition to this, they informed Ethiopia that the government of Sudan had ratified and deposited the 1972 Exchange of Notes in accordance with article 102 of the United Nations Charter.

The 1972 Exchange of Notes clearly envisages finding an amicable solution for the problem resulting from cultivation and settlement is a prerequisite for the re-demarcation of the Gwynn Line north of Mount Daeglish.

– 1974: Immediately after the signing of the 1972 Exchange of Notes both countries set up a joint boundary commission tore-demarcate the boundary south of Mount Dagleish. But due to a change of government in 1974 in Ethiopia the agreed-upon re-demarcation project did not materialize.

– 2000: both Ethiopia and Sudan decided to implement the 1972 Exchange of Notes and establish a Joint Special Committee that was mandated to find an amicable solution for the problem resulting from settlement and cultivation in the area north of Mount Dagleish.

Moreover, both countries agreed and set up Joint Boundary Commission (JBC) and Joint Technical Boundary Committee (JTBC) to re-demarcate the boundary line between the two countries, based on the amicable solution of the Joint Special Committee, particularly for the boundary sector north of Mount Dagleish.

The Joint Special Committee, even though it held eight meetings, it did not complete its task given to it under the 1972 Exchange of Note and its Terms of Reference adopted by the agreement of our two countries.

– 2005: while the negotiation was ongoing the two countries signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) in 2005, a supplementary to 1972 one, give a temporary solution to a specific challenge until a final agreement is reached on the amicable solution that the two countries will agree on.

– 2020: Sudanese troops begin organized attacks using heavy machine guns and armored convoys on farmland in the border areas starting from Nov. 9, 2020, and the troops are still pushing to invade more farmlands.

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