Sudan accuses Ethiopia of providing weapons to rebel groups

Officials say Ethiopians want rebels to capture Kurmuk from Sudanese troops

Members of National Defence Force stands on guard during the celebration of the 125th victory of Adwa, at Menelik square in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, on March 2, 2021. The Battle of Adwa was the climactic battle of the First Italo-Ethiopian War. The Ethiopian forces defeated the Italian invading force on March 1, 1896, near the town of Adwa. The decisive victory thwarted the campaign of the Kingdom of Italy to expand its colonial empire in the Horn of Africa. / AFP / Amanuel Sileshi
Powered by automated translation

Ethiopian forces infiltrated a Sudanese border region in February to deliver weapons and ammunition to a rebel group that has for years fought Sudan’s security forces, military officials in Khartoum said.

The officials said the delivery took place in the Yaboos area near the border town of Kurmuk in the restive Blue Nile region.

A senior delegation from the Sudanese military will visit the area this week to assess the situation, they said.

Quoting intelligence gathered in the region, officials said the Ethiopians wanted the rebels to use the arms and ammunition to capture Kurmuk from Sudanese forces.

Sudan and Ethiopia are locked in a dangerously escalating frontier dispute. They have engaged in deadly clashes and massed troops in the border region.

There was no comment immediately available from Addis Ababa on the arms shipment. It has in the past accused Sudan of stirring unrest among disgruntled ethnic groups in Ethiopia.

The border tension between the two countries began when the Sudanese military in December moved to wrest back control of farmland long held by members of Ethiopia’s powerful ethnic Amhara group.

Ethiopia said the Sudanese military was fuelling the dispute for the benefit of its ally Egypt, both of whom are at odds with Addis Ababa over a Nile dam that Cairo claims will reduce its share of the river’s water.

The military officials said the weapons and ammunition were delivered on February 27 to rebels belonging to the Sudan People’s Liberation Army-North led by Abdel-Aziz Al Hilu.

They identified the local commander who took the delivery as Joseph Toka.

Sudan’s top soldier and de facto head of state, Gen Abdel Fattah Al Burhan, on March 4 met Mr Al Hilu.

The previously unannounced meeting took place in Juba, capital of South Sudan, during a brief stopover by Gen Al Burhan on the way home from a brief visit to Uganda.

The Sudanese leader reportedly asked the rebel leader to start peace negotiations with Khartoum.

SPLA-North is one of two rebel groups that are yet to sign a peace deal with the transitional Sudanese government running the country after the removal in April 2019 of longtime dictator Omar Al Bashir.

The rest of the country’s rebel groups, mostly small and with little or no territory under their control in the west and south of the country, signed a peace deal in October.

Sudan and Ethiopia have a history stretching back to the second half of the last century of supporting rebel groups fighting the other’s government.

But the two countries are also bound by deep social and economic ties, with some ethnic groups living on both sides of the border.