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Egypt Still Upset with Sudan, Tightens Security on Border

August 29, 1992

CAIRO, Egypt (AP) _ Tensions between Egypt and Sudan over a border dispute haven’t stopped camel traders and other Sudanese from trekking to markets in Cairo.

Hundreds of camels milled around the market Friday in the Cairo suburb of Imbaba as owners cracked their whips and negotiated deals with potential buyers.

″So long as I have an official permit as a camel dealer, there’s no problem,″ said Abdallah Ahmed, a young Sudanese who marched for about a month from northern Sudan through the desert to the Egyptian border.

″Sure, there are stricter security checks now, but that’s all right,″ he said. ″It’s to be expected, and Egypt has the right to do so.″

The tension between Egypt and Sudan began in late 1991, when Iranian President Hashemi Rafsanjani visited Khartoum in a show of friendship with Sudan’s fundamentalist government, led by Lt. Gen. Omar Hassan el-Bashir. El- Bashir has imposed Islamic law in Sudan since taking power in 1989.

At the time of the visit, a long-standing border dispute between Egypt and Sudan heated up. The dispute involves Halaib, a triangular enclave along the eastern end of their common border overlooking the Red Sea.

Egypt says Halaib belongs to it under a 1899 agreement that set the frontier along the 22nd parallel. It says it gave Sudan administrative powers in the area only because Sudanese tribes lived there.

Talks were held last spring on the problem, but a second round of border talks has been repeatedly delayed.

Starting early this year, Islamic militants in southern Egypt went on a spree of violent attacks against Christians and the police. Sectarian-related incidents and police crackdowns have resulted in 58 deaths this year.

President Hosni Mubarak’s government has claimed that Khartoum, with Iranian backing, is supporting and training Egyptian extremists.

″The Halaib issue is not as hot as the danger of supporting militants,″ said Hussein Ameen, a retired Egyptian diplomat. ″The danger is real; it has been proven that Sudanese fundamentalists are moving the militants in southern Egypt, with inspiration by Iran.″

Security authorities now keep a close watch on Sudanese visitors, often turning them back at border posts and strictly barring them from passage at the checkpoint on the Libyan frontier to the west.

The measures have affected thousands of Sudanese who work in Libya and prefer taking the cheaper land route back home. They now have to pass through Egypt’s sea or airports, which are better equipped for security checks.

″I would have to pay at least four times as much to go by ship as by car,″ said Shehab el-Deen Mohammed, who until recently was in Libya, selling goods from Egypt, Syria and Sudan.

From an average income of about $50 a day in the bazaars of Tripoli, Mohammed is resigned to selling fancy daggers and camel whips at the Imbaba market, earning him about $8 a day.

He said he managed to coax and pay his way through the Libyan border at Salloum three months ago, but it took four rough days and nights.

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