Sudan’s second most powerful leader met with Ethiopia’s defense minister Saturday on a rare visit to Addis Ababa by an official from Khartoum, that comes amid border tensions, officials said.
Mohamed Hamdan Daglo, widely known as Hemeti, who is number two in Sudan’s ruling council, will be in the capital for two days to meet “several Ethiopian officials”, Sudan’s state news agency SUNA and Ethiopia’s Fana reported.
He was met at Addis Ababa airport by Ethiopian Defense Minister Abraham Belay, a statement from Sudan’s ruling council said. He was also welcomed by senior officials from Ethiopia’ government and intelligence services, it added.
Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed tweeted on Saturday to express his “appreciation for the deep historical bonds that bind our two people”.
Daglo is head of the Rapid Support Forces (RSF), a much feared and powerful paramilitary unit that is accused of atrocities in the western region of Darfur.
Relations between Khartoum and Addis Ababa deteriorated due to a territorial conflict over the disputed Al-Fashaqa border region, where Ethiopian farmers cultivate fertile land claimed by Sudan.
There have been sporadic deadly clashes between the two sides in recent years.
Al-Fashaqa also borders Ethiopia’s troubled Tigray region, and tens of thousands of Ethiopian refugees have crossed into Sudan fleeing fighting.
In November, Sudan’s armed forces said six soldiers were killed in an attack by armed groups and militias linked to the Ethiopian military, a report denied by Addis Ababa, who blamed rebels from Tigray.
Sudan, along with Egypt, is also locked in a bitter dispute over Ethiopia’s mega-dam on the Blue Nile.
The two downstream countries, dependent on the river for most of their water, see Ethiopia’s Renaissance Dam as an existential threat.
Both Khartoum and Addis Ababa are mired in crises.
Sudan has been rocked by weeks of mass demonstrations since an October 25 military takeover that derailed the country’s fragile transition to civilian rule, with at least 73 anti-coup protesters killed in a bloody crackdown.
Ethiopia still seeks to end a conflict that broke out in November 2020 following months of mounting rancor between Abiy’s government and the former ruling party of the northernmost Tigray region, the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF).
The fighting has displaced millions, and, according to UN estimates, driven hundreds of thousands to the brink of starvation.