AU calls for containment of ‘escalation’ tensions between Ethiopia and Sudan

The head of the African Union Commission on Wednesday expressed concern over “escalating military tensions” between Ethiopia and Sudan, calling for restraint and dialogue.

Moussa Faki Mahamat’s comments follow Khartoum’s claims that the Ethiopian army executed seven Sudanese soldiers and one civilian in an incident in a troubled border region last week. Addis Ababa rejects these claims.

Faki “is following with deep concern the escalation of military tensions between the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia and the Republic of Sudan and deeply regrets the loss of life on their common border,” the African Union said in a statement.

“The Chairman calls for total abstinence from any military action, regardless of its origin, and calls for dialogue between the two brotherly countries to resolve any dispute.”

Sudan accused Ethiopia of capturing soldiers June 22 in Al-Fashak, a fertile strip at the center of a bitter border dispute between the two neighbors.

Khartoum recalled its ambassador to Addis Ababa on Monday and promised to file a complaint with the UN Security Council and regional organizations.

Addis Ababa said on Tuesday that Sudanese forces crossed into Ethiopia and the casualties came from a skirmish with local militia, denying that its soldiers were in the area at the time.

The Sudan Tribune reported that the Sudanese army attacked Ethiopian troops in the Al-Fashak area on Tuesday, but army spokesman Nabil Abdallah denied this information.

“We have not attacked anyone and we will not and do not plan to. But we will not allow any military force from another country that wants to cross our international border. It is our right to deal with this legally,” he told AFP in Khartoum.

Relations between Khartoum and Addis Ababa have soured over Al-Fashak, which lies close to Ethiopia’s troubled Tigray region.

Al-Fashaka has long been cultivated by Ethiopian farmers but is claimed by Sudan and the dispute has sparked sporadic clashes between the Sudanese and Ethiopian sides, some of which have ended in death.

The rift over al-Fashaki is fueling broader tensions between neighbors over land and water, especially fueled by Ethiopia’s Blue Nile mega-dam.

Sudan and Egypt, both downstream countries, opposed the Great Ethiopian Renaissance Dam and pushed for an agreement to fill its reservoir and operate the dam.