By Tesfa-Alem Tekle
August 14, 2014 (ADDIS ABABA) – Ethiopia’s ministry of defence announced on Wednesday that it had reached an agreement with its Sudanese counterpart to establish a joint military force which would operate under the same command.
An Egyptian farmer stands by his cow as it takes a drink from the Nile. Egypt fears a massive Ethiopian dam project will ultimately diminish its historic water rights (Photo: Reuters)
The military agreement was reached on Tuesday during the11th Ethiopia-Sudan joint defence ministerial meeting held in the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa.
Ethiopia’s defence minister, Siraj Fegessa, told reporters that the joint force will be operational by the end of September.
Forces will be deployed on eight fronts along the two countries’ common border with the aim of ensuring border security, boosting economic cooperation and allowing the two countries to carry out joint development activities.
Sudanese defence minister Abdul-Rahim Mohamed Hussein said that the formation of the joint force would further reinforce the existing security cooperation between the two countries.
Lt. Gen. Emad Al Din Mustafa, the chairman for the Sudanese side on the expert committee, said that Tuesday’s agreement was based on a memorandum of understanding previously signed between the two neighbours.
“The most important outcome of Tuesday’s talks is the conclusion of an action plan for the Ethiopia-Sudan joint forces” he said.
Ethiopia and Sudan share a long and porous borderline, which stretches around 800 kilometres.
It’s hoped the military agreement will help both countries to safeguard their common borders and defend themselves from any external aggression or other cross-border attacks.
ATTACK ON NILE DAM
Ethiopians see the joint military agreement as a key defence strategy to avert any possible sabotage of a controversial dam project it is building on the Nile, some 40km from the Sudanese border.
Egypt fears the dam will eventually diminish its water share and insists its historical water rights must be maintained.
During president Mohammed Mursi’s leadership Egyptian politicians were caught live on TV in June proposing to sabotage the massive dam project, known as Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD).
Some politicians suggested taking hostile action, including a direct air strike and backing Ethiopian rebels to destroy the $ 4.6 billion power plant project.
Although Ethiopian officials say a direct attack from Egypt is unlikely, the country’s army remains on high alert.
Ethiopian rebels, Eritrea and Somalia’s Al-shabaab, which is suspected of supplying mercenaries on Egypt’s behalf, are all considered to be a potential threat to Ethiopia’s national security.
The military agreement between Sudan and Ethiopia is expected to guard against any potential attacks from Sudanese soil.
Leaked files published by Wikileaks in 2012 alleged that Sudan had agreed to allow Egypt to use an airbase in Kursi in the west of Sudan’s Darfur region to strike Ethiopia’s dam, which will be Africa’s largest hydro power facility upon completion.
Sudan has dismissed the allegations.