Ethiopian militias have seized more than one million acres of agricultural land from Sudan

By Dabangasudan

Farmers near the Sudanese border with Ethiopia reported that attacks by armed Ethiopians and the seizing of their lands have resulted in the loss of large numbers of crops and problems on trade routes.

In El Gedaref state in eastern Sudan, Ethiopian militias have reportedly seized more than one million acres of agricultural land, causing the loss of sales of sesame and maize. Farmers told Radio Dabanga on Thursday that murder and theft by the militias have claimed the lives of a number of Sudanese civilians. The insecurity caused a stop on the movement of trade between Sudan and Ethiopia, harming the livelihood of locals.

A farmer said that the Sudanese government's efforts to send Popular Defense Forces to the border region in order to control the situation might only “lead to the worsening of the security situation”.

The representative of El Fashaga constituency in El Gedaref, Mubarak El Nur, called on the government to quickly conduct the re-demarcation of the border with Ethiopia. “I am concerned about the Ethiopian militias’ invasion of a huge territory of El Fashaga, which is more than 2 million acres,” El Nur said.

“The region is completely isolated because of the difficulty of crossings, and the presence of security there is weak.”

Khartoum has been urged more than once by politicians to expedite the border demarcation in El Gedaref. They say it is the main cause of the tension between farmers in Sudan and Ethiopian gangs. Over the past few years, the violence between them rapidly increased, with many reports of Ethiopian gangs attacking Sudanese farmers in the border areas, extorting them, and occupying their lands.

Prevalent attacks

In particular the ownership of land in El Fashaga has led to violent disputes between Sudanese and Ethiopian farmers. The locality covers an area of about 250 square kilometres, including 600,000 feddan (252,000 hectares) of fertile land, irrigated by the Atbara, Seteit, and Baslam rivers that flow across the state.

The attacks of Ethiopian militias developed from stealing agricultural machinery to murdering farmers, El Nur told Radio Dabanga in November 2015. Abductions of Sudanese citizens in El Gedaref have become prevalent starting October.

Radio Dabanga reported in November 2015 that 50 villages and large parts of farmland in the eastern localities of El Gedaref state were occupied by Ethiopian militiamen.