By Tesfa-Alem Tekle
(ADDIS ABABA) – Ethiopian deputy prime minister Demeke Mekonen has dismissed accusations alleging that the horn of Africa’s nation has secretly given away farm lands to neighbouring Sudan along its border with Amhara regional state.
Some exiled opposition outlets have frequently released reports accusing Ethiopia’s Amhara regional state bordering Sudan of giving away Ethiopian lands as large as 1,600 Sq Km to Sudan.
Mekonen said those reports are “baseless” and a deliberate smear campaigns by some irresponsible opposition elements.
While responding to questions during a forum with the Ethiopian Diaspora, the deputy premier underscored there was no “inches” of land offered to Sudan by the Amhara regional state.
“In the first place regional states are not authorized to handle border issues,” he said.
He added “It is only the Federal Government of Ethiopia that has the authority to negotiate and decide on boarder issues. Even in that sense there is no piece of land given to Sudan”.
The Ethiopian official added that “it is so easy that any concerned group or individual can go to the place and check the reality on the ground”.
The issue of border re-demarcation has long been a source of conflict between Ethiopia and Sudan, but the two countries worked during the past years to fix it and established joint projects for the benefit of the residents of the border areas from both sides.
A number of opposition parties accuse the ruling EPRDF-led Ethiopian government of offering large territories of the country to Sudan in order to ease the tension which started in 2001 when the two neighbours tried to re-demarcate their boundary.
However, the Ethiopian government says it only gave back a lands occupied in 1996 which belongs to Sudanese farmers adding no single individual from both sides was displaced at the borders as a result.
Ethiopian officials further argue that Ethiopia and Sudan were only implementing prior agreements signed on border demarcation and there are no land given away to Sudan as had been reported by some Medias.
The deputy prime minister further said that border issues with Sudan could be raised but the government of Ethiopia has the right and duty to keep and maintain the sovereignty of the nation.
He added that the major objectives of such accusations are to create a gap among top leadership; thereby, attempt to jeopardize nation’s development efforts.