Eritrea’s and Egypt’s foreign ministers in Egypt last year.
According to the Middle East Monitor, in coordination with the United Arab Emirates, Egyptian forces arrived in Eritrea today, Al Sharq has reported. The forces are armed with modern technology and heavy armoured vehicles. Sources told Al Sharq that a meeting was convened between the UAE, Egypt and the Sudanese opposition representing groups in Darfur and eastern Sudan. There are no reported military confrontations.
The reason for the alleged deployment of Egyptian forces is unclear but MEMO reports “The military presence in Eritrea may be a response to Sudan allowing Turkey to take over Suakin Island in Sudan temporarily last year, as part of a broader Turkish engagement policy in Africa. Suakin was once Sudan’s largest port and governed by the Ottoman Empire but has fallen into disuse since the creation of Port Sudan in the 20th century just 60 kilometres to the north.”
Egypt’s media are also reporting about their concerns regarding Turkey’s move to the Saukin island.
Al Sharq reported that, according to diplomatic sources, Turkey is planning to build a military base on Suakin Island. It opened a military base in Somalia last year, deploying 200 troops to train local Somali forces. Relations between Abu Dhabi, Cairo and Khartoum have been strained as a result of Turkey’s presence in Sudan.
An Egyptian military source denied that there were plans to establish a base in Eritrea back in May last year. Media reports in Sudan claimed that Egypt communicated with Somalia and Djibouti to establish a base for 20,000 to 30,000 soldiers.
MEMO also reported that throughout 2017, Egypt was trying to put together an African lobby in a bid to defend its position on Ethiopia’s Renaissance Dam. Egyptian experts claim that the dam will harm Cairo’s access to 55.5 billion cubic metres of River Nile water. However, Ethiopia insists that the project will have a positive effect by assisting Egypt and Sudan with electricity generation. The construction of the dam began in 2011. It is located 15 kilometres east of the Ethiopia-Sudan border and has been a major cause of political tension between Egypt and Ethiopia. The reservoir of the dam is expected to hold 70 billion cubic metres of water, which will help to solve Ethiopia’s own power shortages. Once in operation, the dam will be Africa’s largest hydro-electric power station, MEMO added.
Some Arab media outlets gave a detailed analysis about the effects of Turko-Sudan relations.
However, on Twitter, Eritrea’s Information Minster, Yemane G.Meskel said it was false:
For reasons better known to itself, Al Jazeera News Channel seems to relish propagating false and preposterous news on Eritrea: latest is phantom deployment of Egyptian troops/weapons!
— Yemane G. Meskel (@hawelti) January 5, 2018
In an unrelated development, the Tigrean Peoples Liberation Front (TPLF) has reportedly called up its former combatants and the Tigray region has also ordered a purchase of large tons of cereals and food from several regions of Ethiopia, Ethiopian social media news pages have reported.
Last week, thousands of soldiers of the Rapid Support Forces, an affiliate of the Sudanese army, recently arrived in Kassala State on Sudan’s border with Eritrea but Sudan said the deployment was to deal with human trafficking in the region and relations with Eritrea were “”deeply-rooted and there is nothing to disturb it”, the Chinese media xinhuanet.com reported.
Analyst Khalid Ali on worsening relations between #Sudan and #Egypt. Drivers:
Khartoum’s support for Ethiopia’s #GERD;
Long-running (territorial) dispute over Halaib
potential Turkish military base in Sudan’s Suakin (Red Sea) coast https://t.co/dWXqvTpmKv
— Rashid Abdi (@RAbdiCG) January 6, 2018
On January 6, 2018, Reuters reported that Sudan has closed its border with Eritrea a week after Sudan’s President Omar al-Bashir announced a six-month state of emergency in the regions of Kassala and North Kurdufan. It means all the three land borders of Eritrea are now effectively locked: with Djibouti, Eritrea and Ethiopia.
MEMO also reported on January 6, 2017 that Ethiopia has also deployed its forces near the Eritrean-Sudan border and there was a meeting of UAE, Egypt, Eritrean and Sudanese opposition forces in Sawa, Eritrea.
The Assayha Sudanese newspaper quoted Ethiopian sources as saying that the government of the Ethiopian western region sent military reinforcements to the border triangle with Eritrea and Sudan. The same sources revealed details of Eritrean military reinforcements supported by Egypt, as well as rebel movements from the Darfur region in western Sudan, gathering near the Sudanese-Eritrean border. The Sawa base, which is located in the Gash-Barka region bordering eastern Sudan, is the main centre for training National Service soldiers. Al-Jazeera reported that a meeting was held at the base which included a number of military and security leaders from Egypt, the UAE, Eritrea and the Sudanese opposition represented in some Darfur and eastern Sudan movements.
In May 2017, Middle East Monitor had reported that Egypt could attack Ethiopia or Sudan due to the Dam. The report did not specify whether Egypt was to attack the Benishangul Region, where the Dam is being constructed or Tigray region, which borders and is very close to Eritrea, where Egypt’s army is reportedly deployed now.
In April 2017, Redda Mulgeta, a member of Ethiopia’s ruling Peoples Republican Democratic Front (EPRDF), told the Sudan Tribune that Cairo’s motive to have a military presence in Eritrea was clear.
“Egyptian leaders’ motive to have a military base in the soil of rival Eritrea is to sabotage the construction of Ethiopia’s mega dam project by supporting Eritrea sponsored anti-Ethiopian elements and al-Qaeda-allied Somali militant group,” Mulgeta told Sudan Tribune.
A video report released today by the Ethiopian News Agency (ENA) unusually interviews some popular Ethiopian athletes, traditional leaders and writers about Ethiopia,unity and peace. Among the interviewees, the legendary Ethiopian athlete Haile Gebreselassie is heard saying:
“Now is the time for Ethiopians to unite more than any other time. The things we started are not too little. The source of the issues that we see here is not local. I cannot say this or that country. But there are countries and worlds that have said what we started affects their interest. It is time that we Ethiopians should unite more than any other time and fight.”
Recent talks between Ethiopian and Egyptian Foreign Ministers failed to find any agreement.
Ethiopia’s PM Hailemariam Desalegn was expected to address Egypt’s parliament last month but has not yet visited the country. Egyptian media have reported that Egypt’s parliament is divided over the visit, when two groups welcoming the visit and opposing the visit are collecting signatures in the house.
In a sign that shows the seriousness of the Middle East politics and its geopolitical ramification on the Horn of Africa (HoA) especially in relation to the Arab axis that Eritrea is forming inside its territory, the EPRDF led government has for the first time appointed a position of PM’s Middle East adviser. Seyoum Mesfin, senior TPLFite, veteran foreign minister of Ethiopia under the current incumbent and recently Ethiopia’s Ambassador to China is assigned to the new post of PM’s Middle East Adviser.
After Saudi Arabia had deported thousands of Ethiopian illegal immigrants from its country in the past months, Seyom was in Saudi Arabia this week to hold a meeting with Ethiopians residing there, ENA reported.