Ethiopian militiamen opened fire on Sudanese farmers as they harvested corn grown by members of Ethiopia's Amhara ethnic group in a border enclave inside Sudan, two local residents told The National.
The incident, on Tuesday, was the latest violent episode in a long-simmering border dispute between Sudan and Ethiopia that was rekindled late last year when the Sudanese military moved to wrest back control of farmlands inside Sudan that had for decades been held by Amhara farmers backed by militias.
The two residents had no word on casualties from among the Sudanese farmers who fled the area when the militiamen opened fire, leaving behind dozens of bags full of corn they reaped.
The Ethiopian militiamen seized the corn and took it away, back over the border, the residents said.
News of the incident in Al Fashaqa came after a senior member of the Sudanese military, Gen Yasser Al Atta, told the Saudi-owned Al Arabiya television network his country was prepared to negotiate a settlement of the border dispute with Ethiopia.
“We welcome the Ethiopian brothers into constructive negotiations to make things right and place border marks on our eastern border,” Gen Al Atta said.
Ethiopia has rejected previous calls by Khartoum to negotiate a settlement of the border dispute, saying Sudanese troops must first pull out from areas they retook since December.
Sudan has rejected this condition and vowed to “liberate” other enclaves inside its boundary settled by Ethiopians. It maintains that the border was demarcated in a 1902 agreement reaffirmed in 1972.
The two sides have also accused each other of trespassing. In the latest round of their war of words, Ethiopia made a thinly disguised claim that the Sudanese military was stoking the border dispute for the benefit of Egypt, Khartoum’s northern ally, with which it is at sharp odds.
Sudan responded with a similarly vague allegation, claiming Eritrean forces joined their Ethiopian peers in breaching the Sudanese border.
Sudan has another dispute with Ethiopia and that is over a massive hydroelectric dam Addis Ababa is building on the Nile. It says Ethiopia must share data on the operation of the dam to avert flooding and the disruption of work in its own power-generating dams on the Blue Nile.
Egypt, like Sudan a downstream nation, fears the dam would reduce its vital share of the river’s water, leading to the loss of hundreds of thousands of jobs.