Lt . Gen. Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, Head of State in the Transitional Government of Sudan, once again brought up the disputed Halayeb border area with Egypt at a time when relations between the two countries are witnessing a rapprochement after Omar al-B...
Lt . Gen. Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, Head of State in the Transitional Government of Sudan, once again brought up the disputed Halayeb border area with Egypt at a time when relations between the two countries are witnessing a rapprochement after Omar al-Bashir 's ouster.
Lt . Gen. Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, chairman of Sudan's Transitional Military Council, has once again brought up a contested border area with Egypt in a spirited speech given to army officers and soldiers, which has long been a point of contention between the two neighboring countries.
In a speech given Aug. 24 in Khartoum's Wadi Seidna military zone on the occasion of the army's 66th anniversary, Burhan said the army would not surrender one inch of Sudan's territory. "We will not abandon or forget our right until Sudan's flag is raised in Halayeb, Shalateen and any contested region along the Sudanese borders," he said.
Burhan said the unity and boundaries of his country are widely targeted in what revived a long-standing and persistent dispute between the two countries over the Egyptian-controlled border area , known as the Halayeb Triangle, which includes the Halayeb, Shalateen and Abu Ramad regions. It is a conflict which dates back to the colonial British period of 1899.
Since the 1950s, Sudan has claimed the Halayeb Triangle that overlooks the Red Sea coast on the border between Egypt and Sudan, with an area of approximately 20,580 square kilometers (nearly 5 million acres). Sudan claims its sovereignty lies within it.
Despite the dispute between the two countries over the mineral-rich region after Sudan gained independence from Anglo-Egyptian rule in 1956, the region was open to trade and movement of personnel from the two countries without any party restrictions, until 1995 when the Egyptian army took power.
Cairo claims the Halayeb Triangle is Egyptian and declined to initiate talks or resort to international arbitration in 2016 to assess the region 's claim to sovereignty.
The Sudanese Foreign Ministry summoned the Egyptian ambassador to Khartoum in March 2019, against the backdrop of an announcement by the Egyptian Petroleum Ministry that an international offer to explore and develop oil and gas in the disputed region will be opened.
Every year Sudan reiterates its argument about the contested region before the UN Security Council, calling for international arbitration.
Ibrahim Ahmed, former head of the Department of International Law at Ain Shams University, told Al-Monitor that Egypt exercises jurisdiction over the Halayeb Triangle and the comments made by Burhan are "an absurd assertion that violates international law.'
Ahmed rejected that Egypt will return to international arbitration, which needs the two countries' consent. "Egypt finds this issue to be uncontroversial. The situation is stable and the region falls within the jurisdiction of Egypt, so there is no reason for there being an issue, "he said.
In that regard, Burhan 's remarks were played down by Ayman Shabana, professor of political science at the Institute of African Studies and Research affiliated with the University of Cairo. He told Al-Monitor, "Burhan 's speech was just a declaration made at a military ceremony in front of his forces and he only wanted to maintain the army 's position before the public opinion. Sudan will not be taking any further steps in this respect. Ever since Omar al-Bashir was president, Cairo has been accustomed to such announcements.
Shabana said Burhan 's comments are not extreme, and this is demonstrated by the fact that no diplomatic action has been taken by Cairo to respond to them. They did not summon the Sudanese ambassador to Cairo to ask him to explain the claims and he added that the Egyptian Foreign Ministry had not released a statement to answer.
He also said that Egypt would not take the matter seriously until Sudan took offensive measures in the contested region, and he found this matter to be a fictional presumption that would not materialise.
Shabana said Egypt's political leadership puts these comments into context and believes that relations with Sudan and the problems they share, such as the file of the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Project, trade cooperation and stability at the Red Sea, are more relevant nowadays.
Shabana discounted Burhan 's comments as contributing to a diplomatic dispute between the two nations. He said the Sudanese leadership has domestic goals related to the economic situation, bringing about stability and fulfilling the commitments of the transition process.
However, Amani al-Taweel, director of the African program at the Al-Ahram Center for Political and Strategic Studies, told Al-Monitor that the comments made by Burhan can not be viewed separately from the visit of Egyptian Prime Minister Mustafa Madbouly to Sudan on 15 August, during which he met with Sudanese Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok, suggesting Egyptian support for the transitional government, and it was
Taweel said Burhan 's statements were meant to convey a message to the Egyptian government that is in control of the military and has the upper hand in Sudan. "It seems that Burhan has decided that Madbouly 's visit at the expense of the military aspect was in the interest of civilians," Taweel said.
Power in Sudan is exercised by the military and citizens under the umbrella of the Sovereignty Council, which was established for three years in August 2019 before democratic elections are held.
In addition to six other members of the popular opposition alliance that led protests against Bashir 's rule in December 2018, the council comprises five members of the military council headed by Burhan — which controlled the country in April 2019 when the army expelled Bashir–.
Opposition members have reservations about the likelihood that the military could be inspired by corruption to rule again in a world that, with the help of Islamists, has for decades been ruled by the military.
Taweel said Burhan 's comments do not generally represent the views of all members of the Transitional Council, especially provided that the military and civilian components accuse each other of failing to resolve the increasing widespread dissatisfaction over the lack of solutions to the country's stifling economic crisis.
Hamdok has accused the army of manipulating most economic capital in the region. In a state radio interview, Radio Omdurman, Aug. 21, he said that just 18 per cent of the country's economic capital are under government supervision.
The Sudanese army has economic institutions that work in the fields of war production, meat exports, agriculture , and mining.
However, Burhan denied those claims and said that the army corporations had not monopolized the capital of the country in a speech to the army chiefs Aug. 23. “There are losers who want to find something to attribute [their] failure to,” he added.
Burhan said such comments are aimed at stirring the pot between the army and the people, while attributing economic problems to the investments and businesses in the army.
Taweel said the internal parties' domestic turmoil and conflict eventually affected Egypt regionally.
"The issue of the Halayeb Triangle is not a political concern for the two countries. ... Unresolved topics should be addressed in high-level joint committees to establish a strategy for addressing these kinds of problems, "she said.