By Tesfa-Alem Tekle
January 24, 2013 (ADDIS ABABA) - Ethiopia and South Sudan have signed an agreement to work jointly on measures aimed at combating regional security threats and ensuring peace along their shared border.
The agreement was reached after senior army officers from the two neighbouring countries held security talks in Ethiopia’s western Gambella state, which borders South Sudan.
Ethiopian delegation head Brigadier General Zewdu Belay and South Sudanese delegation leader Major General Gebriel Jock signed the agreement on Tuesday following the talks.
After the signing ceremony, Gambella state chief Umod Ubong stressed the two armies’ joint collaboration is a crucial strategy for maintaining sustainable peace and stability.
Ensuring peace and security, he said, will in time enhance the social and economic ties between the two East African nations, as well as boosting future benefits for both peoples.
The chief underscored the two countries have undertaken successful measures in extraditing wanted criminals and anti-peace elements hostile to both Ethiopia and South Sudan.
Zewdu said integrated activities are currently being executed by the two countries to ensure durable peace and security along their common border, while Jock said “Ethiopia and South Sudan have not only people-to-people ties but also economic and cultural relations, among others”.
Jock also reaffirmed South Sudan’s commitment to implement the signed agreements, adding his country is keen to further boost existing multilateral ties with Ethiopia.
The joint security measures will be targeted at defusing the threat of armed groups and controlling the illegal movement of people in shared border areas.
The Gambella region has a history conflict between communities mainly over natural resources. Last March, a number of South Sudanese, predominantly from Jonglei state, crossed the border to escape a government disarmament campaign following tribal clashes.
The two countries held their first Ethiopia-South Sudan Joint Ministerial Commission in March last year, signing eight memoranda of understanding to strengthen economic and political ties.
The signed agreements covered issues related to transit, communications, trade exports, education, transport and capacity building.
A month later, Addis Ababa and Juba also agreed to undertake a range of joint activities, including cooperation on security and development, after delegations from South Sudan’s Jonglei, Upper Nile and Eastern Equatoria states met in Gambella.