Does Eritrea support Sudanese armed groups?

Security concerns towards eastern Sudan, adjacent to its western and northern borders, represent a major item on Asmara's agenda, as its three states, particularly Kassala and the Red Sea region, are a threat to Eritrea due to their long, extended border. Represents strategic depth. and ethnic overlap between the many tribes on either side.

Therefore, it was natural for “the security and stability of the eastern states and the strategy of not allowing the war to spread to them” to become one of the axes of the talks held by Eritrean President Isaias Afwerki with Vice President Malik Agar. According to what the Sudanese Sovereignty Council reported on its account on the X platform on January 17, 2024.

In this context, Asmara's establishment of training camps for Sudanese fighters on its territory is an extension of its deep interest over the past three decades in eastern Sudan, where it had worked – according to a study published on the Al Jazeera Center for Studies website – Build a network of close relationships with social, political and tribal forces to ensure their lasting presence and influence in the region.

Eritrean security services were also active in the area to monitor opposition factions and Eritrean groups present in the region, prompting one of the foremost experts on Sudanese affairs, Professor John Young, to say that Asmara had “excellent knowledge And intelligence is the “field.”

Despite Eritrea's official silence on whether to confirm or deny that it is hosting Sudanese fighters, with the escalation of the Sudanese war and its approach to the east of the country, Eritrea has sought to train armed Sudanese groups. There are discussions going on about opening camps within our area. Following the fall of Al-Jazeera to the state's Rapid Support Forces in late December. First 2023.

eritrea active efforts

Taking into account the above, the reception of the Sudanese Armed Forces by Asmara represents Eritrea's attempt to create advanced defense points in anticipation of any security chaos caused by the extension of the conflict in Eastern Sudan, which could leave a void Which allows hostile parties to locate and support the Eritrean armed opposition, of which it is a part, crossing the long border between the two countries. Many of them are flat areas that are easy to navigate.

These concerns are heightened by the fact that Eastern Sudan has one of the largest Eritrean communities abroad, as according to its report released in March 2023, the number of people registered in UNHCR camps in the region exceeds 136 thousand asylum seekers. Is of. Apart from all those who live outside it and who have obtained permits. Sudanese nationality, and many of them from border tribes historically associated with opposition to Asmara.

Furthermore, several international reports indicate that the wave of Eritrean refugees in recent years was composed primarily of deserter conscripts who received military training within the framework of national service in Eritrea, and that violations committed within them They were forced to flee to Sudan.

These circumstances make these former recruits a fertile environment for any opposition military action against Asmara if a unit capable of controlling and recruiting is formed, leading to Khartoum's efforts to establish a military front in opposition to Asmara. Might not seem impossible considering a similar scenario. By Mesfin Hakas, former Eritrean Defense Minister. It was disclosed. Reported in July 2021.

support sudanese army

Neutrality has been a feature of official Eritrean discourse towards both sides of the war since the war began in mid-April 2023. However, recently several indicators have emerged showing increasing rapprochement between Asmara and the Sudanese military. In addition to Agar's statement that the President of Eritrea stands with “the people and government of Sudan”, the team praised the first pillar. Yasser al-Atta: Asmara's position on the crisis in his country.

In this context, the hosting of Sudanese armed groups reflects Eritrea's support for the Sudanese military's war efforts, with these groups declaring their side as Al-Jazeera after the state suddenly fell into the hands of the Rapid Support Forces. Training camps were opened. At the end of December 2023.

The collapse of forces deployed in the state has led many military analysts to believe that there are difficulties facing the Sudanese Armed Forces, who then began arming civilians as part of “armed popular resistance”.

stop the siege

According to a situation assessment published by the Al-Jazeera Center for Studies in January 2024, the capture of Al-Jazeera State by the Rapid Support Forces changed the geography of fighting from Khartoum and the west of the country to central and eastern Sudan. ,

Within this change, the latest Eritrean move expresses Asmara's fears about the possibility of General Hemedti's forces reaching the Ethiopian border through Gedaref state, which would mean opening a supply line through Ethiopia or elsewhere, Which will strengthen its field position and relieve it from hindrance. Its long supply lines from the west of the country and beyond ensure its control over eastern Sudan.

While the expansion of these forces into Kassala state and reaching Eritrea's borders would lead to a triple encirclement between Ethiopia to the south-west and Addis Ababa's Rapid Support ally to the west, continued tensions are seen along its southern border with Djibouti. This resulted in a border dispute between the two sides, which led them to war. Limited in 2008.

Given the extreme tensions experienced by Ethiopian-Eritrean relations, Rapid Support Force control over the state of Kassala would limit Asmara's options, as Sudan was the lung through which it could breathe in the event of conflict with Ethiopia. . This also reflects the possibility of Ethiopian forces reaching western Eritrea via Sudan.

Asmara previously accused Sudan of opening its borders to Ethiopian forces during the war between the two sides (1998–2000), which greatly affected Eritrean forces in the region, according to Mahzoub al-Basha in his book. Told in “Enemy Brothers”. :Eritrean–Ethiopian War.

a seat at the negotiating table

Lionel Cliffe, professor of politics at the British University of Leeds, believes – in his paper titled “The regional dimensions of conflict in the Horn of Africa” ​​– that proxy wars are a traditional pattern in the policies of the countries above in the region, through which they aim to Political gains are to be made by embracing opposition armed movements.

In this context, Eritrea's support for the Sudanese armed parties provides it with the most effective tool to participate in formulating a final solution and agreement when it reaches the negotiation stage, where it can, through its allies, support Sudan, especially its can guarantee its future interests in the eastern region. ,

Asmara had a similar experience in the early second millennium, by hosting factions of the Sudanese Eastern Front, which launched an armed rebellion against the Salvation regime, which ended with the signing of the Eastern Peace Accords with Khartoum in 2006, which Asmara won, according to which Sudan banned the activity of Eritrean opposition groups on its territory, thereby contributing to creating a secure security environment. Since then on its western borders.

old associates

Despite the relative lack of information about the nature and numbers of Sudanese forces operating in Eritrea, several sources indicate that they included the Beja General Conference, led by Musa Muhammad Ahmed, one of the leaders of the Eastern Front, who met in Asmara. Eastern Peace Accord was signed. In 2006, under which he became an assistant to Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir. Until his ouster in 2019.

In addition to this party, forces linked to Omar Muhammad Tahir Omar, the historical military leader of the Beja Congress, also stand out, who refused to sign the Eastern Peace Agreement and has kept his fighters inside Eritrean territory until now.

While both of these groups are ethnically affiliated primarily with the Bedouin-speaking Beja tribes, other groups have established training camps for themselves inside Eritrea. Most of their fighters are affiliated with Tigray-speaking Beja tribes such as the Beni Amer and Habab, the United Popular Front for Liberation and Justice led by al-Amin Daoud, and the emerging Eastern Sudan Liberation Forces. Under the leadership of the new Ibrahim Dunia.

These groups also include the Sudan Liberation Movement led by Minnie Arko Minawi, whose base is located in the Darfur region of western Sudan, unlike the rest of the movements which geographically belong to the eastern region.

While many of the above figures are known to be old allies of Asmara in Sudan, a new change has emerged in these camps from the formation of an armed movement of border tribes in opposition to the historically organized Eritrean regime, which raises the level of concern that exists. indicates. between the two sides regarding the incident of security disturbance in Eastern Sudan.

This was expressed by the commander of the Eastern Sudan Liberation Forces in a video recording, explaining that the purpose of his movement's formation is to protect the population of Eastern Sudan in the event of war, to prevent the recurrence of violations. Following the army's withdrawal from the city of Wad Madani and an offensive by Rapid Support Forces, violence against civilians occurred there.

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