Unreported and Unnoticed, Sudan and Ethiopia Fight Over Border

Since the end of 2020, Sudanese forces have steadily been reclaiming territory in the disputed Fashaga Triangle on the border of Sudan and Ethiopia. Largely unreported, Amhara militiamen backed by the Ethiopian army have been pitted against Sudanese forces who wish to use the fighting in Tigray as an opportunity to seize territory which is internationally recognized as belonging to Sudan.

The Fashaga Triangle

With Ethiopian forces occupied in a bloody, demanding fight in Tigray, Sudanese forces have largely expelled ethnic Amhara militiamen – known as Fano – from farmland along the border with Ethiopia. Mostly unnoticed by the international community, dozens have been killed in three and a half months of fighting as the Sudanese army seeks to expel both militiamen and the Ethiopian National Defense Forces.

The current objective of the Sudanese is to recapture the town of Birkhat in the northeast of the Triangle near the border city of Humera. Alleged to be the basecamp for Ethiopians in the region, the capture of the town will signify returned Sudanese control over the embattled region.

Birkhat in northeastern Fashaga. Imagery courtesy of Ethiopia Map [Map may have irregularities]

In recent weeks, Sudanese forces have been taking great swathes of farmland largely uncontested, but raids by Fano militiamen frequently result in dead and wounded civilian farmers, while others are kidnapped for ransom. At other times, the Sudanese military has alleged coming under artillery fire, and last month exchanged fire across the border with the Ethiopian army.

Unfortunately, Ethiopian army sources have been silent about the fighting in the area, likely wishing to avoid escalation as it tries to control the Tigray Region. As a result of this silence, battle lines are unclear. A chronic lack of accurate maps for the region also means that it is often harder to find locations than it is to verify that fighting even took place.

The fighting in Fashaga underscores international apathy to African conflicts and risks turning into a full-scale border war as tensions mount over Ethiopia’s Grand Renaissance Dam project, which is nearing completion. Sudanese sources state that the Ethiopian army is massing forces near Humera alongside Eritrean forces. An escalation in fighting risks the loss of the region’s harvest which would put tens of thousands at risk of starvation.