Ethiopia’s Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed said on Tuesday that he had met Sudan’s strongman General Abdel Fattah al-Burhane in Nairobi on the sidelines of a summit of the East African organisation Igad, days after a new border incident between the two countries, which have several disputes.
“We both agreed that our two countries have many things to work on peacefully,” Abiy Ahmed said in a tweet on his official account, accompanied by photos showing the two leaders smiling.
“Our common bonds surpass any differences. We are both committed to dialogue and peaceful resolution of outstanding issues,” he added.
The meeting took place “on the sidelines of the IGAD meeting” which brings together on Tuesday – for the first time in 18 months – the leaders of the region’s countries in the Kenyan capital, according to the Ethiopian Prime Minister’s office.
In Khartoum, the Sovereign Council, the transitional authority chaired by General Burhane, simply reported a “closed meeting” between the two men.
At the end of June, the Sudanese army – led by General Burhane, who has been in power in Sudan since a coup in October 2021 – accused the Ethiopian army of executing seven of its soldiers and a civilian captured in Sudanese territory, in the disputed border area of Al-Fashaga.
The Ethiopian authorities denied this, accusing the Sudanese forces of having entered Ethiopian territory and provoked a clash – fatal on both sides – with a local militia.
The tone was raised before Mr Abiy called on his country and Sudan “to keep their nerves”.
The Al-Fashaga area has been the subject of a dispute for several decades, but clashes, sometimes deadly, have increased since late 2020, and this new episode of tension had raised the concern of the African Union and Igad.
This border crisis comes on top of the serious dispute over the GDR, the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam that Addis Ababa has built on the Blue Nile and which has aroused the anger of Sudan, but also of Egypt, the downstream riparians of the Nile who fear for their water supply.
Ethiopia is due to begin the third filling of the dam in August, a potential source of new tensions with its neighbour.