Ethiopia Rejects Sudan’s Offer To Mediate The Tigray War

Sudanese Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok has recalled his country’s ambassador from Addis Ababa, only days after Ethiopia rejected Sudan’s offer to mediate the Tigray War. The conflict in the Tigray region of Ethiopia erupted last November after national military camps were attacked by the regional governing party. Since then, Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed has sent in troops which have struggled over the region for months, resulting in a humanitarian crisis with thousands dead and 60,000 having fled to Sudan. This conflict has been marked by bloody massacres and sexual violence on both sides, and it is in the interest of all civilians that it ends as soon as possible. However, the move to mediate made by Sudan (and subsequent rejection) highlights other tensions in the area.

A spokesperson for Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, speaking to the recent diplomatic situation, described ties with Sudan as a “little bit tricky.” This is in reference to a decade-long border dispute between the two countries that straddles rich agricultural land. Late last year, Sudan deployed troops into this region and called on Ethiopia to remove their troops from several points. This comes on the heels of another dispute between Ethiopia, Sudan, and Egypt around the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD). As genuine as Sudan’s offer to mediate may have been, its status as a credible party in this capacity would definitely be called into question.

The rejection of the offer to mediate and the subsequent recall of an ambassador only serve to underscore the complex relationships in the region, especially between Sudan and Ethiopia. There is a mire of historical, cultural, and geographic circumstances that must be slogged through before common ground is found. But when the politics of the region focuses on these differences, it is progress and the lives of citizens that ultimately find themselves in the crossfire. The solution is as obvious as it is implausible: a political imagination that allows bygones to be bygones while focusing on the historical, cultural, and geographic circumstances that drive these countries together.

These circumstances are not necessarily lost on the respective political leadership, but they are overshadowed by an antagonistic international political stage. In a system that pits nations against one another, decisiveness and a plan are necessary for steering the nation-state. In the end, the leaders of Ethiopia and Sudan will have to decide how much they are willing to sacrifice for peace. The windfall that may come from winning a diplomatic spat is at stake for each leader, but the pursuance of a multilateral peace is as much an ideological project as it is materialistic.