Forces of Ethiopia’s Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) have destroyed an airport in the town of Axum, state-affiliated Fana broadcaster said on Monday, after federal troops gave them a three-day deadline to surrender.
TPLF leader Debretsion Gebremichael told Reuters the ultimatum was a cover for the government forces to regroup after what he described as defeats on three fronts.
There was no immediate response from either side to the other’s comments, and Reuters could not confirm the latest statements. Claims by all sides are hard to verify because phone and internet communication has been down.
At the core of the current war between the Ethiopian central government and the Tigrayan People’s Liberation Front is the realignment of politics and the contest for political hegemony.
In my view, it is about Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed allying with the Amhara to destroy Tigrayan power. This is an attempt to consolidate his position and that of his Amhara supporters.
Abiy declared war on the Regional Government of Tigray in early November 2020. The region is led by the Tigrayan People’s Liberation Front. He accused the regional government of attacking and looting the armaments of the Northern Ethiopian Military Camp.
The Tigray People’s Liberation Front controlled and dominated Ethiopian politics for 27 years through the Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front coalition. The coalition included the Amhara National Democratic Movement, the Oromo People’s Democratic Organisation, and the Southern Ethiopian People’s Democratic Movement. The Tigrayans were the dominant force in the coalition.
The Tigrayan elites squandered their political opportunities by attacking the Oromo Liberation Front. They violated the human rights of the Oromo and others. This is what gradually led to the demise of their power in Addis Ababa (Finfinnee).
Ethiopia has about 80 ethno-national groups. The major ones are the Oromo (the largest), the Amhara and the Tigrayans. Emperor Menelik, the architect of the Ethiopian Empire, was from the Amhara. His rule resulted in the Amhara elites and Amhara culture and language dominating the empire for more than a century. These elites now claim that they are the rightful group to shape Ethiopia today in their own image.
The other most powerful groups are the Oromo and Tigrayans who have been fighting their own corners, often through liberation armies. Abiy, a political chameleon, has been manipulating ethnic divisions among the Amhara, the Oromo, and the Tigrayans.
Tigray’s dominance of Ethiopian politics
For nearly three decades – from 1991 to 2018 – the Tigray People’s Liberation Front dominated the Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front. The democratic front controlled Ethiopian politics and economics.
Throughout this period, the Tigray front and its collaborators were accused of gross human rights violations against Ethiopians of different ethnicities. In Oromia, the Oromo People’s Democratic Organisation was a partner in the looting of Oromo resources such as land and in committing heinous crimes.
Meles Zenawi , a Tigrayan by birth, was the master of coalition politics. His deputy, His Haile Mariam Desalegn, became prime minister when Zenawi died in 2012.
In response to pressures for reform, and to placate the Oromo Youth Movement, the then-coalition replaced Desalegn with Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed.
Abiy used his affiliation with the Oromo people to come to power. He promised to address issues such as the right to self-determination, political and cultural freedoms, sovereignty (Abbaa Biyyummaa), democracy, making the Oromo language a federal language, and enabling the Oromo to repossess their lands. After coming to power, Abiy ignored all these Oromo demands.
Abiy’s father is Oromo. But he was raised by his Amhara mother, a fact that he has used extensively. Considering his cruelty against the Oromo who embraced him at the beginning, most Oromos now think that his close affinity with his mother shaped his values, philosophy, ideology, and culture.
Abiy’s leadership triggered a realignment within the coalition. One of the consequences was the Oromo People’s Democratic Organisation becoming an ally of the Amhara party. For its part, the Tigrayan front retreated to its home state to reorganise.
Reform agenda gone wrong
On coming to power Abiy launched a reform agenda. It included releasing political prisoners and allowing exiled and banned political leaders to return to Ethiopia.
He also promised to expand the political space, respect human rights, build independent institutions such as an elections board and independent judiciary, and to institute economic reforms.
Based on these promises – and because he initiated peace with Eritrea – he was awarded the 2019 Noble Peace Prize.
But since then, things have gone downhill. Abiy started to implement his political objectives by using the empire’s economic resources and the army. He ignored most stakeholders demanding the collective formulation of a political road-map for the transition to democracy. He began to attack and delegitimise the Oromo movement that had propelled him to power.
He even went as far as deploying the military in the Oromia regions of Wallaga, Guji, and Borana. Civilians have been killed extra-judicially. There has also been widespread killing and imprisonment of Oromo political opposition activists, sympathisers, and journalists. And elections have been postponed.
Abiy claims that it it is necessary to establish command posts in many Oromia regions to fight and defeat the Oromo Liberation Army.
Abiy also spearheaded the disbanding of the ruling Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front. He replaced it with the new Prosperity Party. Since the launching of the party on 1 December 2019, Abiy has dramatically shifted his focus from a democratic transition to consolidating power through violence and terror.
Abiy has introduced four interrelated political initiatives that consolidate his personal and party power. A combination of these factors has led to the current crisis and war in Tigray.
His first approach was the medemer philosopy. Medemer means “coming together” in Amharic. Abiy has co-opted political organisations, activists and politicians by appointing them to state positions. He has also tried to bring ethno-national groups together but without addressing historical and existing collective grievances and contradictions. These include unequal access to political power and economic resources as well as the denial of the right to self-determination and democracy.
Secondly, his use of the Prosperity Party to centralise political power under his leadership has led to Abiy’s critics characterising his government as a modern version of the authoritarian and colonial models of previous Ethiopian leaders, namely Menelik II and Haile Selassie.
His third initiative was to gradually diminish the power of the Tigray ruling elites. He removed them from the central government and important political positions.
The fourth initiative has been to suppress and dismantle the Oromo Liberation Front and the Oromo Federalist Congress, the most popular and influential parties in Oromia.
Some scholars argue that the central government is uneasy with the autonomy of Ethiopia’s federal units. Others say the conflict is about unresolved ethnic tensions and the underlying battle for control of the state.
Either way, the Abiy government and its supporters are keen to dismantle the Tigray region’s autonomy. It’s a paradox of history that Tigrayan elites used their control over central government to suppress and exploit other ethno-nations, only to lose control of central government and return home.
Abiy’s main aim is to replace Tigray’s leadership with a government that is subordinate to the central state. Abiy’s position as premier would be stronger without pressure from the Tigrayans and the Oromo. These two groups have been most aggrieved by his reforms.
To his advantage, the war is fully supported by key federal allies. These include the Amhara regional state, former Oromo Democratic Party members, and political parties such as the Amhara National Movement, the Ethiopian Citizens for Social Justice, and the Baldars party. All are dominated by the Amhara elites.
Using the Abiy government and the Ethiopian army, the Amhara elites want to recover from Tigray the land they claim belongs to them and to demolish Tigrayan power in order to dominate the empire.
But I believe that Abiy and the Amhara are naive in their belief that they can subjugate ethno-nations such as that of Tigray and Oromo by war.
An immediate ceasefire is needed. And an independent, neutral, and internationally endorsed body should be established to investigate major crimes committed over the last three decades to facilitate a national reconciliation. Also, the transition that has been derailed must be resuscitated and negotiations must begin on how to establish a transitional government that will prepare Ethiopia to become a true democracy. Otherwise, Abiy and his supporters are leading the empire in the wrong direction, one that may result in the collapse of the state, more humanitarian disasters, and the end of the empire as we know it.
Ethiopian Airlines Group has successfully completed a new passenger terminal at its hub Addis Ababa Bole International Airport with emphasis on Bio Security and Bio Safety measures.
The new terminal has a capacity to accommodate 22 million passengers annually, the spacious terminal is designed to offer contactless and a convenient experience with the help of digitally equipped amenities. Besides the spacious check-in hall with sixty check-in counters, new immigration, security screening, boarding gates, travellator and panoramic lifts, the new terminal also features shopping malls, restaurants, entertainment areas, fully air-conditioned and features a ultra-luxurious new 5000 square metre lounge, plenty of relaxed seating and offering a first class dining experience. .
In addition, for departing passengers it has three contact gates for wide body aircraft along with ten remote contact gates with travellator, escalator, and panoramic lifts. It will house thirty-two arrival immigration counters with eight e-gate provisions at the mezzanine floor level.
Regarding the expanded infrastructure, Mr. Tewolde GebreMariam, Group CEO of Ethiopian Airlines remarked:
“I am very pleased to witness the realisation of a brand-new terminal at our Hub. While Addis Ababa Bole International Airport has overtaken Dubai to become the largest gateway to Africa last year, the new terminal will play a key role in cementing that position. What makes the new terminal unique is that it’s the first terminal in the world to be completed after Covid-19. It was designed, not re-purposed, with Bio safety and Bio security in mind. I’m sure our esteemed customers will highly appreciate that. "
Aviation infrastructure expansion is one of the core pillars of Ethiopian’s Vision 2025. Ethiopian is continuously working on expanding airport facilities. The features of the new airport play a key role in protecting passengers’ and employees’ safety as airport experience becomes contactless.
Ethiopia has the potential to harvest more than 500,000 tons of honey annually, Expert said.
Because of its unique production environments and suitable climate, Ethiopia has comparative advantages to produce and supply high-quality honey and beeswax for the global market at competitive price.
International Centre of Insect Physiology and Ecology (icipe) More Young Entrepreneurs in Silk and Honey (MOYESH) Programme Coordinator Dr. Workneh Ayalew told The Ethiopian Herald that the country has a wide potential for honey production.
Currently, the country is producing honey below its potential. Despite, the potential to harvest 500,000 tons of honey, it is harvesting not more than 60,000 tons of honey annually.
Besides, there is a potential to harvest up to 50,000 tons of beeswax but the country is harvesting below 10,000 tons of beeswax annually.
The Climate Resilient Green Economy (CRGE) strategies and the ongoing comprehensive forest rehabilitation efforts could contribute a lot to generate more income from the beekeeping sub-sector.
The millions of hectares of protected and rehabilitating degraded habitats, forests, and bushlands can be used to establish commercial beekeeping, according to him.
Ethiopia is endowed with diverse agro-ecologies that are very suitable for raising honeybees where indigenous bee forages can support commercial beekeeping and promote honey sector investment, he said.
By making sufficient inputs available, conserving indigenous plant species, allocating suitable area of harvesting and infrastructure, designing proper policies, promoting market linkage, among others, are fundamental towards harnessing the honey sector potential, Dr. Workneh said.
Research surveys indicate that there are more than 7,000 indigenous plant species that help to harvest quality honey products countrywide.
Pesticide chemicals application on crops, lack of modern honey harvesting technologies, and the low attention given to the sector are challenging the sector's production and contribution for the national economy, he said adding, ensuring integrated pest management and reducing the application of chemicals on crops is important.
"Every chemical has its own short-term and long-term consequences on vegetation and insects like bees. Thus, utilizing organic-based and pro-environment agricultural inputs is important to maintain the safety of biodiversity," he stressed.
Beyond honey and beeswax production, bees play a significant role in facilitating pollination for the flower industry, coffee, crops, and fruit and vegetables.
Rehabilitating bees is essential not only for the honey production but ensuring sustainable ecological services.
Credit: The Ethiopian Herald
The political crisis in Ethiopia is not showing sings of abating. Ongoing riots in Oromia and Wolayta; state fragmentation in the Amhara region, and the standoff between the federal government and the Tigray region have put the survival of the government in question.
To address this crisis, the African Union has been called upon to mediate between prime minister Abiy Ahmed’s government and the Tigray People’s Liberation Front. Similar in tone, a US-based Ethiopian working group has urged Washington to play a more vocal role in the deepening crisis.
Most recently, some members of the US congress wrote a petition calling on the US secretary of state to encourage the Ethiopian government to engage in an open dialogue with the opposition for a peaceful transition.
These are all encouraging signs. But there needs to be greater clarity on the nature of the crisis for an informed and meaningful intervention.
It is my view that the crisis in Ethiopia today is not a conflict between the federal government in Addis Ababa and the regional government in Tigray. It is a crisis of the federal government manifest in Tigray and other regions. The governance of the federal government has become more of an exercise in seamanship (staying in power) and less of navigation (reaching a destination) falling short of coherent and democratic approaches to address the crisis.
Therefore, defining the problem as a disagreement between the federal government and Tigray is, to say the least, simplistic. There are concurrent crises in Oromia and the Southern regions that also need urgent attention. And to call for dialogue without taking some confidence building measures, such as the unconditional release of political prisoners, is a non-starter.
The ongoing unrest in Oromia
The killing of a popular Oromo singer Hachalu Hundiessa in June sparked massive communal riots. Most parts of western and southern Oromia were engulfed in fighting between armed forces Oromo Liberation Front fighters and government forces. The opposition parties in Oromia – protesting the decision of the government to continue in power beyond its mandate at the end of September 2020 – began preparing for resistance. The killing of the artist occurred in the middle of this political crisis.
The protests engulfed much of the Oromia region where many businesses and shops were torched or looted. The government response to the riots left 178 people dead and a further 9,000 detained without due process of law . Curfews were imposed and a complete closure of the internet enforced.
The public mistrust of government grew amid inconsistent statements and its knee-jerk decision to arrest opposition political leaders. Its failure to set up an independent inquiry into the artiste’s killing further fuelled suspicion.
In reaction to the resistance of the Oromo elites, Abiy has gone about purging over 1,700 local administrators and civil servants. The dismissed officials included Lemma Megersa, the Defense Minister, a politician considered pivotal in prime minister’s rise to power.
But resistance in the Oromia region continues in different forms. With over 9,000 people in prison, including key Oromo political leaders, the crisis has immense potential for escalation.
The Wolayta crisis
The Wolayta people in the country’s south have long agitated for a regional state of their own. The claims have become louder since December 2018 when the neighbouring Sidama people secured a referendum to form their own regional state – breaking away from the Southern Nations, Nationalities, and Peoples Regional state.
The constitution recognises the right of any nation or nationality clustered in any of the regional states to form its own state. Following the steps required, the council of representatives of the Wolayta zone unanimously voted for a regional state, and presented its decision on December 19, 2018. But this has yet to be considered at regional or federal levels or referred to the Electoral Board.
In protest at the silence, the Wolayta organised a massive rally and the 38 representatives to the regional council declined to attend the council meeting. The federal government responded to these developments by detaining dozens of zonal officials, elected members of the Wolayta statehood council, political party leaders, and civil society actors.
The regime also acted violently against peaceful demonstrators demanding the release of those detained. The government also suspended a community radio station and shut down offices of civil society organisations.
A national crisis
Events in Oromia and Wolayta illustrate the point that the current Ethiopian problem is not limited to a dispute between the federal government and the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF). It is a national one.
The decision of the federal government to postpone the scheduled elections using the excuse of the COVID-19 pandemic was rejected by most substantive opposition political groups calling for a dialogue to avert the consequences of the constitutional crisis.
The best-organised of these groups, the TPLF, has the capacity to hold its regional elections on schedule. This has brought the crisis to a head. But the dispute with Tigray cannot be resolved with a simple compromise: there is much more at stake, and the TPLF leaders are unlikely to make a short-term bargain when they see the problem as more fundamental.
Tens of thousands of Ethiopians, including leaders of the opposition, are in prison for political reasons. All media outlets, except those fully controlled by or affiliated to the Prosperity Party, are closed.
For a meaningful dialogue to start, the federal government should take some unilateral confidence building measures. All political prisoners should be released without condition and all media outlets closed by the government opened immediately. It should also end the unlimited and unlawful state of emergency.
This can then set the stage for a national dialogue with two main objectives. First is to agree an early date for elections and determine how the country transitions to an elected government. Second is a discussion on some of the fundamental questions on the political future of Ethiopia. This is currently obscured by a focus on the crisis of the moment.
Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed has hailed the "historic" early filling of the massive dam on the Blue Nile River that has stoked tensions with downstream countries Egypt and Sudan.
Addis Ababa had long said it planned to begin filling the dam's reservoir this month, in the middle of its rainy season, drawing objections from Cairo and Khartoum who wanted to first reach a trilateral agreement on how the dam would be operated.
Ethiopia's announcement on Tuesday that it had hit its first-year target for filling the dam came as the three countries were participating in talks overseen by the African Union (AU) to try to resolve the dispute.
"The completion of the first round of filling is a historic moment that showcases Ethiopians' commitment to the renaissance of our country," Abiy, the 2019 Nobel Peace laureate, said in a statement read on state television on Wednesday.
"The fact that we reached this milestone by our own efforts when no one else believed in our capabilities to accomplish such initiatives makes the moment even more historic.
"We conducted the filling of the dam without causing harm to anyone," said Abiy.
The Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam has been a source of tension in the Nile River basin ever since Ethiopia broke ground on it in 2011.
Ethiopia said the colossal dam offers a critical opportunity to pull millions of its nearly 110 million citizens out of poverty and become a major power exporter.
Downstream Egypt, which depends on the Nile to supply its farmers and booming population of 100 million with fresh water, asserts that the dam poses an existential threat. Sudan also views the dam as a threat to its water supplies.
After Tuesday's call with the AU, leaders from the three countries said they had agreed to continue with the negotiations, though it was unclear what concrete progress had been made.
In a statement Wednesday morning, Egypt's foreign ministry stressed "the necessity of reaching a binding legal agreement on the rules for filling and operating the Renaissance Dam" that would "include a legally binding instrument to resolve conflicts".
Ethiopia has resisted a legally binding dispute resolution process. Its officials said the dam would not harm downstream countries.
They have also said this year's filling was a natural and inevitable part of construction.
By filling the reservoir with 4.9 billion cubic metres (173 billion cubic feet) of water, Ethiopia is now in a position to test its first two turbines - an important step on the way towards actually producing energy.
Ethiopia’s communications regulator said on Friday it received twelve bids for the two telecom licences it plans to award to multinational mobile companies, breaking the state monopoly.
Nine bidders are telecom operators and two non-telecom operators, and one submission was incomplete, the regulator said.
Bidders include Etisalat, Axian, MTN, Orange, Saudi Telecom Company, Telkom SA, Liquid Telecom, Snail Mobile and Global Partnership for Ethiopia, a consortium of telecom operators made of Vodafone, Vodacom, and Safaricom. The two non-telecom operators are Kandu Global Telecommunications and Electromecha International Projects.
The issuing of licences will open up one of the world’s last major closed telecoms markets in the country of around 110 million.
The Ethiopian Communications Authority said the licenses will be awarded through a “competitive bidding process,” but did not clarify a deadline for it.
“This is the initial stage. We will soon have...the second stage,” said Balch Reba, director-general of the Ethiopian Communication Authority.
Leaders of Sudan, Ethiopia and Egypt said they were hopeful that the African Union could help them broker a deal to end a decade-long dispute over water supplies within two or three weeks.
Ethiopia, which is building the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) which worries its downstream neighbours Egypt and Sudan, said it would fill the reservoir in a few weeks, as planned, providing enough time for talks to be concluded.
Tortuous negotiations over the years have left the two nations and their neighbour Sudan short of an agreement to regulate how Ethiopia will operate the dam and fill its reservoir, while protecting Egypt’s scarce water supplies from the Nile river.
Ethiopia’s water minister, Seleshi Bekele, said that consensus had been reached to finalise a deal within two to three weeks, a day after leaders from the three countries and South African President Cyril Ramaphosa, who chairs the African Union, held an online summit.
Billene Seyoum, a spokeswoman for Ethiopia’s prime minister, said that in Friday’s agreement there was “no divergence from Ethiopia’s original position of filling the dam.”
The Egyptian presidency said in a statement after the summit that Ethiopia will not fill the dam unilaterally.
The Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) is being built about 15 km (9 miles) from the border with Sudan on the Blue Nile, the source of most of the Nile’s waters.
Ethiopia says the $4 billion hydropower project, which will have an installed capacity of 6,450 megawatts, is essential to its economic development.
Ethiopia’s Prime Minister’s Office said that the three countries agreed that the Nile and the Grand Renaissance Dam “are African issues that must be given African solutions.”
Friday’s round of talks brokered by the African Union, is the latest attempt to move forward negotiations which have repeatedly stalled due to technical and political disagreements. They also signal an intention to solve the issue without foreign intervention.
Ethiopia’s statement said the African Union, and not the U.N. Security Council, will assist the countries in the negotiations and provide technical support.
Cairo had appealed to the Council in a last-ditch diplomatic move aimed at stopping Ethiopia from filling the dam. The Council was expected to hold a public meeting on Monday to discuss the issue.
It’s two years since a surprise leadership change took place in Ethiopia. Introducing himself with a historic speech to the nation, the new Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed preached democracy as the only future for the country of more than 110 million.
The initial reforms were breathtaking. So much so that imagining democracy became justifiable. But Abiy’s administration inherited an extraordinary set of problems.
Apart from the challenge of democratising an authoritarian state, it had to deal with ethnic violence and conflicts. And massive internal displacement of citizens.
Two years later, the government seems to have controlled the issue of internally displaced people. Resettlement programs appear to have been mostly successful.
And there’s been considerable progress in ensuring peace and stability. News of violence is now mostly confined to two areas where the Oromo Liberation Army operates.
Beyond domestic politics, the volatile Horn of Africa also posed major challenges to Abiy’s leadership. But Ethiopia’s former arch-rival, Eritrea, is no longer a regional adversary.
In addition, Abiy played a major role in the Sudanese transition from chaos to some political promise. And the fact that he changed the loud silence between Somaliland and Somalia into potentially history-making meetings also deserves recognition.
But, looking back over this period, Abiy’s major achievement could be viewed as the dismantling of the 28-year-old Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front and the birth of a nationally unified political organisation, the Prosperity Party. This is not without its challenges too, however.
These developments have reinvigorated opposition groups afresh. In particular, the Tigray People’s Liberation Front, a regional political organisation that had major dominance over the old revolutionary front, has now emerged as a major political foe to Abiy’s Prosperity Party.
This poses a menace to Ethiopia’s path to reform. As a result, Ethiopia’s road to democracy and national elections, which were due to be held in August, is now facing two challenges: a global pandemic, and deteriorating relations between the Tigray regional state and the Prosperity Party, which is in charge of the federal government, and the remaining eight regions and two city administrations.
In its fight against the COVID-19 pandemic, Ethiopia has so far done a promising job. But cases continue to grow – slowly but alarmingly.
Abiy cited the pandemic as a reason to postpone the national elections. The current administration’s five-year tenure was set to expire come September 30, 2020. Debates on the legitimacy of the government after that date have dominated national discussions.
The government proposed a number of options. One was to dissolve parliament and declare a state of emergency. Another was to request a special constitutional interpretation of the challenge. Yet another was to extend the tenure of current incumbents.
The opposition was consulted and the issues were discussed in parliament. The decision that was finally taken was to ask for a judicial review process to provide a constitutional interpretation. These are done through the Council of Constitutional Inquiry, which then submits its recommendations to the House of the Federation for discussions and a decision.
The House of the Federation is the upper house of Ethiopia’s bicameral legislative branch. Its legislative authority is limited to powers on budgetary allocations, powers to interpret the constitution, and to safeguard the federal constitutional framework.
Based on House’s decision, the chamber postponed the national election.
The decision was not received well by the Tigray People’s Liberation Front. The regional parliament in Tigray has since defied the federal government’s decision, and announced it will hold its own elections.
This decision has wide-ranging implications. By holding an election without the supervision of the National Electoral Board, the Tigray People’s Liberation Front is undermining Ethiopia’s federal constitutional system.
Going it alone is a reflection of the front’s loss of power since the demise of the Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front coalition. This has weakened its resolve to maintain Ethiopia’s constitutional system.
The decision poses a threat to Ethiopia’s promising democracy. It has ignited an unprecedented level of tension between the Tigray region and the federal government. If this situation deteriorates further, the country’s fledgling democracy could regress.
So far, Abiy’s administration has ignored the threat from the Tigrayan People’s Liberation Front. This could lead to undesirable repercussions.
The federal government’s reluctance to address the crisis in Tigray might lead to renewed violence. This could in turn harm government’s response to the public health crisis caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Finally, unless addressed, the deteriorating relations between the federal government and the Tigray region could further unravel Ethiopia’s dangerously designed federal system that in any case, is in need of major revision.
For democracy to take root in Ethiopia, the Tigrayan People’s Liberation Front’s defiance to the country’s constitutional order must resolved.
Amid heightened tension along its border with Ethiopia, Sudan swore in a new defense minister. Major General Yassin Ibrahim Yassin was recalled from retirement to fill the position following the death of General Gamal al-Din Omar.
Yassin's swearing-in came after an alleged Ethiopian cross-border attack which left at least one Sudanese soldier and a child dead, according to Sudan's military. Three Sudanese civilians and a soldier were also wounded.
The attack, which took place in the eastern province of al-Qadarif, started after an Ethiopian militia group penetrated Sudan's border to fetch water at the Atbara river, Brigadier Amer Mohammed al-Hassan, a spokesman for the Sudanese military, said.
"It is not clear exactly what triggered a flare-up of this long-standing border dispute. Sources suggest that Sudanese security forces may have responded to incursions by Ethiopian farmers, which in turn brought in Ethiopian security forces," William Davison, senior Ethiopia analyst at the International Crisis Group, told DW.
The heavy exchange of fire reportedly left one Ethiopian militia wounded. "If these allegations are true, then it is an escalation," Kjetil Tronvoll, professor of peace and conflict studies and Research Director of International Studies at Bjorknes University College in Oslo, told DW.
The border clashes flared up as Ethiopia and Sudan were preparing to meet in the Sudanese capital Khartoum, for a second round of talks aimed at resolving the border dispute. "There have been negotiations and they reached an understanding that most or all of this contested land can be under Sudan," Tronvoll said. "The interesting aspect is why there is new violence now and possibly also at a higher level than before."
According to Sudan's military, tensions along the border between the two countries have recently heated up amid increasing attacks on Sudanese troops. Following the incident, Sudan summoned Ethiopia's envoy and urged the Ethiopian government to do all it can to end such border clashes.
Ethiopia's call for diplomacy
Ethiopia offered its "deep sympathy and condolences to the families of the victims of the conflict along the Ethiopia and Sudan border." Addis Ababa urged the two countries to pursue diplomacy as a means of resolving the border dispute saying there was no need for the countries to "descend into hostility". Last month, Ethiopia's Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed sent General Adam Mohamed Mahmoud, the country's military chief to Khartoum in a bid to ease the tensions.
For Tronvoll, solving the dispute via diplomatic means is reasonable and should be encouraged. However, he said there could be more to the clashes. "There are various actors and processes within the region, and this is an opportune moment for some to ignite some tension between Sudan and Ethiopia," Tronvoll said. "Hopefully, the two sides can sit at the negotiating table and come to a conclusion."
Sudan's ousted former president Omar al-Bashir had tolerated Ethiopia's encroachment along the border
Root of Ethiopia-Sudan border dispute
Sudan and Ethiopia share a common boundary that stretches over 1,600 kilometers (994 miles). The border was drawn following a series of treaties between Ethiopia and the colonial powers of Britain and Italy. However, to date, this boundary lacks clear demarcation lines.
Sudan's al-Fashqa region which covers approximately 600 km, is a rich fertile land conducive for agriculture. For decades, Ethiopia has allowed its farmers to plant crops there.
Former Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir largely turned a blind eye to his country's territorial incursion. However, Sudan's transitional authorities, who took over after popular protests which eventually led to the ousting of al-Bashir, have initiated talks with Ethiopia in a bid to have to Ethiopian farmers withdraw.
More Sudanese boots at the Ethiopian border
For the first time in nearly 25 years, Sudan deployed its troops along the al-Fashqa border strip at the end March. This came after an attack which prompted a top security team to visit the area.
"There are old problems. Herders have lost their livestock and farmers have lost their lands," Lieutenant General Abdel Fattah Al-Burhan, Chairman of Sudan's Sovereignty Council, said in an interview with the national network, Sudan TV, after touring the border region. Al-Burhan defended the troop deployment saying the armed forces were left with no choice but to protect their territory because the Ethiopians had imposed their presence.
Sudan's military has vowed that it is willing and ready to protect its citizens and territory.
Sudan's about-turn in Ethiopia's mega dam project
The border dispute could complicate Ethiopia's plan to construct the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD). On Wednesday, Sudan wrote to the UN Security Council calling on it to urge Ethiopia and Egypt, not to take unilateral action on the dam. Sudan had initially backed Ethiopia's project but later refused to sign on an initial agreement which would have paved the way for Ethiopia to begin filling the dam.
For Ethiopia analyst Davison, the border dispute has little to do with GERD. "Ethiopia and Sudan are holding regular discussions to prepare the ground for the resumption of trilateral GERD talks, so the process is restarting rather than stalled," Davison said. "It does not appear therefore that the border incident has caused a significant disruption to the negotiations."
According to Davison, Sudan and Ethiopia need to ramp up their existing discussions over the borderlands in order to come to an understanding that will lead to a final resolution of the issue.
Credit: Deutsche Welle