Sudan and Eritrea: on the Brink of War?

By Scott Morgan

The row between Sudan and a group of nations including Eritrea, Egypt and the United Arab Emirates has escalated on a slow scale that for the most part has gone unnoticed by most of the major international news outlets.

The usual questions, of why and how is this happening, provide more than one answer at this point of time. The source of tension regarding Eritrea is the few relatively month old reports that some Sudanese Groups have set up a camp there to establish a resistance movement. Such base also has a presence of Egyptian and Emirati Forces. There has been a substantial deployment of Sudanese troops to the border with Eritrea during this time that has not been noticed either.

The Ethiopia-Egypt-Sudan-Turkey Angle

The unresolved issues regarding the Nile River Dam Project, in Ethiopia, is another source of tension between Sudan and Egypt - having caused the Ethiopian PM to visit both Khartoum and Cairo, over the weekend of January 14th, in an attempt to placate both sides. The Sudanese Media did report that the Ethiopians will support Sudan in resolving some unspecified regional security issues. Can we truly accept that Addis Ababa is acting in the position of an honest broker? Or are they just trying to protect what they see as an investment to consolidate power domestically?

During the week of Christmas 2017, Turkish President Erdogan made an official visit to Khartoum while on a quick three nation tour of Africa. There has been an improvement in ties between Ankara and Khartoum over the recent years. One factor that has not been adequately investigated in this row is what level of support will Sudan receive from Turkey if any form of hostilities break out? 

The UAE-Eritrea Angle

However, there is one glaring omission in this crisis: not much is mentioned of the United Arab Emirates' role in this crisis. Last year, it signed a deal with Asmara to set up an Airbase with the cover story being to support the Saudi-led efforts in the Yemen conflict. This additional step of supporting anti-Bashir elements signals not only that Military ties are being cemented between Eritrea and the UAE but potentially political ones as well. A cynical view can be presented as the Eritreans could be doing this only for the potential revenue that will be provided.

The Sudan-Egypt Angle

Based on comments made on January 15th, it appears that both Sudan and Egypt have the intent of cooling down tensions. The Egyptian media was very concerned over comments made over the previous weekend by the Sudanese Ambassador to Egypt. Some accounts actually considered these comments to be a declaration of war against the country. The retraction of these comments are a positive sign in ratcheting back the tensions that currently exist. However, the sense of unease still remains and it is still possible that hostilities could still erupt between Cairo and Khartoum.

Meanwhile, the Sudanese Army continues to augment its presence near the border with Eritrea. Unlike Darfur or the Kordofan region along the border with South Sudan, it is a rare event to learn of any form of tension along this border - making it possible for any military confrontation there. Both sides would be able to be in a position to control the flow of information from the battlefield. Both Sudan and Eritrea are known for cracking down on Press Freedom.

Media Ignoring the Crisis

Will anyone even notice if these two international pariahs actually come to blows? That is a question that may be answered in short order. Whether or not this is a row over water or a effort to support a suppressed ethnic minority, the risk of conflict is high but not certain yet.

(Image: Map - Google Images)

[The views expressed in this publication are solely those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of Dissecting Society]