Basunda — Around 80 refugees from Ethiopia crossed into Basunda in El Gedaref, following days of violent clashes between the Ethiopian army and the opposition Tigrayan Front forces near the Sudanese-Ethiopian border.
Activists from Basunda told Radio Dabanga that the clashes lasted two days, the second of which was considerably more violent and intense, with both sides reportedly using artillery and other heavy weapons.
With conflict escalating again near Sudan’s eastern border, both activists and local residents say they expect more refugees from Ethiopia to cross into El Gedaref and Kassala.
Authorities in El Gedaref have announced arrangements to assist any incoming refugees from Ethiopia.
Resurgence of Tigray conflict
In late August, reports of renewed fighting across several front lines separating the Tigrayan Front Forces and the Ethiopian army were reported, including in the west of the country near the Sudanese border.
The Ethiopian government has accused Tigrayan forces of sparking the recent escalation. Tigray’s leaders have not responded to these allegations.
On Tuesday the Sudanese foreign ministry summoned Ethiopia’s Ambassador, Yibeltal Aemero Alemu, to Khartoum following his claim that Ethiopian forces shot down a plane crossing the Sudanese-Ethiopian loaded with weapons bound for Tigrayan forces.
According to Sudan Tribune, the Sudanese foreign ministry has called on the Ethiopian Ambassador to denounce the claim.
Relations between Sudan and Ethiopia are already under strain due to an impasse surrounding the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD), the tens of thousands of refugees that have streamed into Sudan following start of the Tigrayan war, and disputes over farmland straddling the border.
According to the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR), there are more than 73,000 Ethiopian refugees living in Sudan, many of whom live in permanent camps established in Um Rakouba and El Tuneidiba in El Gedaref.
Ethiopian farmers have long cultivated crops on border lands belonging to Sudanese farmers for decades. The lands are protected by Ethiopian gunmen (called shifta in the region).
After several clashes with Ethiopian gunmen in eastern El Gedaref, the Sudan Armed Forces (SAF) reclaimed areas in El Fashaga near the Ethiopian border in December 2020, after 25 years of absence.
The shifta still conduct violent cross-border raids to steal crops and livestock, or abduct people for ransom.
The 1,600-kilometre border between Sudan and Ethiopia was drawn during colonial times. No clear demarcation of the border has been made since Sudan became independent in 1956. The lack of clear border markers has made it easy for Ethiopian militants to occupy fertile farmlands in eastern El Gedaref.