The rapidly cooling relations between Sudan and Ethiopia has implications to the Tigray Ethiopia conflict. There have been growing tensions between the Ethiopian government of Abiy Ahmed and Sudan for several reasons. Tigray leadership has discussed the need to open a western land route for supply which means through Sudan. Could Sudanese Tigray relations be warming up? Logic would suggest Sudan will move to at least neutral if not passively supportive of the Tigray cause.
Sudan Prime Minister recalls ambassador to Ethiopia
The recall of the Sudanese ambassador from Addis Ababa occurred after an internationally supported plan for Sudan to mediate negotiations between the Tigray National State and Ethiopia was flatly rejected. The Ethiopian spokesperson added to their usual statement that they do talk to “terrorists” that they have “trust” issues with Sudan. This was a diplomatic slap in the face to Sudan.
Territorial Dispute between Ethiopia and Sudan
There is a very productive agricultural area the Sudanese call al-Fashaga and the Ethiopian’s call Mazega. Previously the TPLF leader Meles Zenawi had worked out a joint sharing agreement for its use. When Abiy Ahmed came to power the influence of the Amhara elites who claimed this area as theirs become vocal that it belongs to Amhara.
There are frequent skirmishes between Sudan and Ethiopian forces along the disputed farmland with Ethiopia currently holding a captured Sudanese officer. Skirmishes including military movements and exchange of fire have happened when Eritrean and Ethiopian National Defense Force invaded Sudanese territory to capture escaping refugees or search for elements of the Tigray Defense Force.
Dispute over Grand Renaissance Dam
Recently Sudan signed a joint defense treaty with Egypt regarding the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam. Both parties feel that Ethiopia is not cooperating with their rights to the Nile flow. They have wanted the dam to be slowly filled over many years rather than rushed filling the Ethiopian government has done. I have had discussions with some quite familiar with current Egyptian policy makers who tell me that Egyptian Sudanese cooperation of the GERD plan of action have decided to avoid aggressive action because they expect that if there is a Tigray takeover negotiation will be easier to reach a compromise.
Dispute over Refugees from Ethiopia
Tens of thousands of refugees have fled from Tigray and recently more from Amhara, the Qemant in numbers of at least 3000, because of the Amhara aggression to non-Amhara. Sudan is complaining to the UN that they do not have the resources to care for them. Local Sudanese authorities have exhibited shock at the growing number of bodies of tortured Tigrayans found floating in the Tekeze river bordering Sudan and Western Tigray currently occupied by Eritrea and the Ethiopian National Defense Force.
Sudan is hosting opposition to Eritrea
The Sudanese are also hosting the organization of a shadow opposition government against Abiy Ahmed ally, Eritrea, and may be allowing organization of opposition military forces. This is occurring even though the ruler of Eritrea, Isaias Afwerki, visited Sudan just a few months ago where they reportedly agree to more mutual cooperation. So one must assume the relationship has taken a turn for the worst.