Exclusive Conversations

Sudan and the Three Countries

Omer B. Abu Haraz – Khartoum

Sudan must always maintain special and good relation with three countries which play important and sensitive role in its stability. These are: Egypt, Ethiopia and S. Sudan.

They are important because:

  • The three countries share long borders with Sudan: Egypt 1300 km north, Ethiopia 744 km east and S. Sudan 2000 km south.
  • The three have deep intermingled history. Sudan in the Kingdom of Kush (1071 B.C. – 350 AD) era ruled Egypt for a century known as the 25th   Dynasty of Egyptian rule. Egypt shared rule of Sudan twice – 1821 – 1885 with Ottoman Empire Sultan Mohammed Ali and 1898 – 1956 with the British Empire in the condominium rule of colonization.

Sudan played two important roles in the political governance of Ethiopia.

On was the re-instating of Emperor Haile Selassie after being defeated and expelled by the Italian invasion in 1936. (Haile Selassie ruled Ethiopia as Emperor from 1931 – 1936. He took refuge in Sudan from which he defeated the Italians with the help of Britain in WWII in 1941. He ruled till 1974, when he was ousted by the Communist coup of Mangestu Haile Maryam who assumed ruthless iron-grip rule in Ethiopia (till that time Eritrea was annexed to Ethiopia by Haile Selassie, and was part of Ethiopia).

Sudan played a pivotal role in the ousting of Mangestu by granting refuge to the leaders of the Ethiopian and Eritrean insurgencies – Meles Zenawi and Assiasi Afwerki.

Both lived in Khartoum for years before they defeated Mangestu army in decisive wars which originated in eastern Sudan.

Mangestu defected to Zimbabwe in 1991. In 1992 Eritrea became an independent sovereign country.

As for S. Sudan, the relation is special because S. Sudan was a united region of Sudan till 2011 when it seceded after a plebiscite stipulated in the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) of 2005.

  • Socially and culturally the three countries are connected by the presence of millions of citizens in the three countries at any one time.

At least three millions Sudanese travel to Egypt throughout any year. About one million Sudanese own apartments in Egypt. About 3 million Ethiopians are in Sudan at any time.

  • Egypt played crucial role in all military coups in Sudan.

Elements of Sensitivity

  • Egypt is now occupying Sudanese lands in the North-East corner of Sudan known as Halayeb and Shalateen. It occupied it in retaliation to the failed assassination attempt to Egyptian President, Husni Mubarak in Ethiopia in 1995.

The failed attempt was plotted and executed by the ousted Islamic regime of Sudan.

  • Ethiopia occupied a fertile Sudanese land at the borders known as Fashaga and recently carried military operations in the Tigray lands at the border with Sudan.

Operations spilled over to Sudanese lands which raised the preparedness of Sudanese army which is now in continued military operation pushing back the Ethiopian army.

  • Sudan, Egypt and Ethiopia are in a sticky dispute over the construction of the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD). Ethiopia in its efforts to win the battles in the two fronts –Fashaga lands and GERD construction– raised the issue of the borders with Sudan.

The borders disputes in the North and East are unequivocally confirmed and recognized as Sudanese land. North border dispute is confirmed by the maps in UN and UK. Eastern border is well-defined and acknowledged by the rulers of Ethiopia in honouring the 1902 Treaty by Minilik II and Britain.

Sudan, beyond doubt, has the full support of the international institutions and on its right over its land North or East.

  • With South Sudan the dispute over the Abyei land was amicably resolved by International Court.
  • So, Sudan should opt for maintaining the good relations with three countries in prudent, sure and strong steps because it owns the upper hand and the pivotal location leverage.
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