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Ethiopian prime minister visits border region with South Sudan

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April 30, 2014 (ADDIS ABABA) – Ethiopian prime minister Haile Mariam Desalegn has visited the south-western region of Gambella which borders South Sudan on security matters.

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Ethiopian prime minister Haile Mariam Desalegn (Photo: Getty Images)

Tuesday’s visit is the premier’s first since he came to office in 2012 following the death of former prime minister Meles Zenawi.

Sources close to the office of the Gambella regional governor, Gatluak Tut Khot, told Sudan Tribune on Wednesaday that the Ethiopian leader had discussed a wide range of issues, including development and security, with regional leaders.

“The meeting with the prime minister also discussed security issues as the region is strategic,” said a senior official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, without providing further details.

However, observers said his visit, which also coincided with the celebrations of the 100 years anniversary of the founding of Gambella as an administrative unit, could be related to the current crisis in neighbouring South Sudan.

Ethiopia is hosting and mediating the negotiations between the South Sudanese government of president Salva Kiir and trebels led by former vice-president Riek Machar.

Last month, a soldier from the South Sudanese army (SPLA), who was armed with a rifle and grenades, was shot dead in Gambella town after he killed an Ethiopian soldier while resisting searches.

Gambella region borders Upper Nile, Jonglei and Eastern Equatoria states of South Sudan. It has 13 counties, nine of which are inhabited by the Nuer and Anyuak ethnic groups who share cultures and languages with their neighbouring communities in South Sudan.

While the Nuer constitute the largest ethnic group in the region, the Anyuak are the second largest. Other minority ethnic groups include Mejenger, Komo, Oppo and highlanders who come from the other regions of Ethiopia.

The region has had many attachments to the people of South Sudan as former rebels groups and refugee camps were based in the area.

The former military base of Bilpam, as well as Itang, Dimma and Pinyodo, former refugee camps where hundreds of thousands of South Sudanese were sheltered during the 21 years of the civil war with Sudan, all fall within the jurisdiction of the Gambella regional government.

The area is also endowed with various natural resources, including gold and a recently discovered oil reserve.

(ST)

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  • 1 May 2014 10:20, by Majongdit

    I was in Gambella region in 1986. It is a beautiful place. The Dinka and the Nuer lived there peacefully. The problem was the Nuer Nyagaat that used to ambush us on our way to Gambella as recruits and alwYs when our way back fully armed they tend to join us. We struggle for so long. For us it was face Murle, face Anywak, face Nuer before you reach the Arabs. Out of every battalion, we used to lose

    repondre message

    • 1 May 2014 13:25, by Mi diit

      Majong-ngoth,
      Bil-pam which means Rocky-hill in Nuer language is our land established by Anya-nya-II. And when the SPLM/A was formed in Itang in 1983 the Dinka were only 75 with John Garang while the Nuer were over 2,000. So don’t lie. I am happy that your lies will end this year with Salva Kiir Kuethpiny. The Nuer fed you in their lands but you vomit on them and bite their hands that fed you.

      repondre message

      • 1 May 2014 18:19, by Majongdit

        Mi Diit,
        I am not lying my friend. It exactly happened as I told you. The Nuer of Gambella are good people, but our Nuer of South Sudan are not. I can count to you a thousand names killed on our way to Bilpam. From anya II to SPLA, nyagatism was a common thing. Our recruits used to breathe only upon reaching Gambella but to pass the Nuer areas in the South was always a danger. The whole world kno

        repondre message

      • 1 May 2014 18:50, by Majongdit

        Mi Diit,
        I am not lying my friend. It exactly happened as I told you. The Nuer of Gambella are good people, but our Nuer of South Sudan are not. I can count to you a thousand names killed on our way to Bilpam. From anya II to SPLA, nyagatism was a common thing. Our recruits used to breathe only upon reaching Gambella but to pass the Nuer areas in the South was always a danger. The whole world kno

        repondre message

      • 1 May 2014 20:37, by Rommel

        Mi diit:
        Isn’t this just another one of these figures that only you credit? Why doesn’t an impartial third party ever back up your laughable claims. How long were the Nuer supposedly the majority in the SPLA? One month? Two months? That’s nothing to the decades in which we were the majority.

        repondre message

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