Field and river

20th International Conference of Ethiopian Studies (ICES20)
Mekelle University, Ethiopia

"Regional and Global Ethiopia - Interconnections and Identities"
1-5 October, 2018

ICES20 logo

Use the "back" button of your browser to return to the list of abstracts.


ALEMAYEHU Erkihun, History

The objective of this paper is to critically examine the boundary issues and border-related problems between Ethiopia and Sudan from the 1950s to 1974. As neighbouring countries, Ethiopia and Sudan share several common elements. Despite this, the relationship between the two countries is highly complicated because the borders between them are not demarcated, a fact that has triggered claims and counterclaims over the borderlands since the 1950s. Because of the sensitivity of the boundary issue and the claims on borderland resources, the two countries engaged in reciprocal spying activities to bolster their bargaining positions. This study explores the boundary and border-related problems as well as the two countries’ diplomatic efforts to demarcate the boundary line and handle frontier security threats from 1950s-1974. The boundary issues became a matter of serious dispute between the two countries in the 1950s. In the first place, the imperial government established mechanized farms in the Sätit-Humära borderlands. At the same time, rich landowners became actively engaged in cultivating sesame, cotton and other crops in Sätite-Humära, and sought to increase their land holdings. For its part, Sudan achieved its independence in January 1956 and the newly independent country therefore developed strong interest in the fertile and resource-rich borderlands it shared with Ethiopia. Furthermore, the late 1950s in both Sudan and Ethiopia saw the emergence of separatist movements, respectively led by South Sudanese and Eritrean insurgents, which further complicated the boundary issues and the issue of frontier security. The source material for this study comes largely from archival sources. Secret documents produced at the time of the events were consulted, along with journal articles, academic research, and other sources. The sources are objectively evaluated and carefully interpreted.