The Halayeb Triangle (map), also sometimes called the Hala’ib Triangle is an area of disputed land located on the border between Egypt and Sudan. The land covers an area of 7,945 square miles (20,580 square kilometers) and is named for the town of Hala’ib which is located there. The presence of the Halayeb Triangle is caused by the different locations of the Egypt-Sudan border. There is a political boundary that was set in 1899 that runs along the 22nd parallel and an administrative boundary that was set by the British in 1902. The Halayeb Triangle is located in the difference between the two and since the mid-1990s Egypt has had de facto control of the area.
History of the Halayeb Triangle
The first border between Egypt and Sudan was set in 1899 when the United Kingdom had control over the area. At that time the Anglo-Egyptian Agreement for Sudan set a political boundary between the two at 22nd parallel or along the line of 22̊ N latitude. Later, in 1902 the British drew a new administrative boundary between Egypt and Sudan which gave control of the Ababda territory that was south of the 22nd parallel to Egypt. The new administrative boundary gave Sudan control of land that was north of the 22nd parallel. At that time, Sudan controlled about 18,000 square miles (46,620 sq km) of land and the villages of Hala’ib and Abu Ramad.
In 1956, Sudan became independent and the disagreement over the control of the Halayeb Triangle between Sudan and Egypt began. Egypt considered the border between the two as the 1899 political boundary, while Sudan claimed that the border was the 1902 administrative boundary. This led to both Egypt and Sudan claiming sovereignty over the region. In addition, a small area south of the 22nd parallel called Bir Tawil that was formerly administered by Egypt was claimed by neither Egypt nor Sudan at this time.
As a result of this border disagreement, there have been several periods of hostility in the Halayeb Triangle since the 1950s. For example in 1958, Sudan planned to hold elections in the region and Egypt sent troops into the area. Despite these hostilities however, both countries exercised joint control of the Halayeb Triangle until 1992 when Egypt objected to Sudan allowing exploration of the region’s coastal areas by a Canadian oil company (Wikipedia.org). This led to further hostilities and an unsuccessful assassination attempt on Egypt’s then president Hosni Mubarak. As a result, Egypt strengthened control of the Halayeb Triangle and forced all Sudanese officials out.
By 1998 Egypt and Sudan agreed to begin working on a compromise as to which country would control the Halayeb Triangle. In January 2000, Sudan withdrew all forces from the Halayeb Triangle and ceded control of the region to Egypt.
Since Sudan’s withdrawal from the Halayeb Triangle in 2000, there are often still conflicts between Egypt and Sudan over control of the region. In addition, the Eastern Front, a coalition of Sudanese rebels, states that it claims the Halayeb Triangle as Sudanese because the people there are more ethnically related to Sudan. In 2010 the Sudanese President Omer Hassan Al-Bashir said, “Halayeb is Sudanese and will stay Sudanese” (Sudan Tribune, 2010).
In April 2013 there were rumors that Egypt’s President Mohamed Morsi and Sudan’s President Al-Bashir had met to discuss a compromise of control over the Halayeb Triangle and the possibility of giving control of the region back to Sudan (Sanchez, 2013). Egypt denied those rumors however and claimed that the meeting was simply to strengthen cooperation between the two nations. Thus, the Halayeb Triangle still remains in Egypt’s control while Sudan claims territorial rights over the region.
Geography, Climate and Ecology of the Halayeb Triangle
The Halayeb Triangle is located on the southern border of Egypt and the northern border of Sudan (map). It covers an area of 7,945 square miles (20,580 square kilometers) and has coastlines on the Red Sea. The area is called the Halayeb Triangle because Hala’ib is a large city within the region and the area is shaped roughly like a triangle. The southern border, about 180 miles (290 km) follows the 22nd parallel.
In addition to the main, disputed portion of the Halayeb Triangle there is a small area of land called Bir Tawil that is located south of the 22nd parallel at the triangle’s westernmost tip. Bir Tawil has an area of 795 square miles (2,060 sq km) and is not claimed by Egypt or Sudan.
The climate of the Halayeb Triangle is similar to that of northern Sudan. It is normally very hot and receives little precipitation outside of a rainy season. Near the Red Sea the climate is milder and there is more precipitation.
The Halayeb Triangle has a varied topography. The highest peak in the region is Mount Shendib at 6,270 feet (1,911 m). In addition the Gebel Elba mountain area is a nature reserve that is home to Elba Mountain. This peak has an elevation of 4,708 feet (1,435 m) and is unique because its summit is considered a mist oasis because of intense dew, mist and high levels of precipitation (Wikipedia.org). This mist oasis creates a unique ecosystem in the region and also makes it a biodiversity hotspot with over 458 plant species.
Settlements and People of the Halayeb Triangle
The town major towns within the Halayeb Triangle are Hala’ib and Abu Ramad. Both of these towns are located on the Red Sea coast and Abu Ramad is the last stop for buses bound for Cairo and other Egyptian cities. Osief is the closest Sudanese town to the Halayeb Triangle (Wikipedia.org).
Because of its lack of development most of the people living with the Halayeb Triangle are nomads and the region has little economic activity. The Halayeb Triangle is however said to be rich in manganese. This is an element that is significant in the production of iron and steel but it is also used as an additive for gasoline and is used in alkaline batteries (Abu-Fadil, 2010). Egypt has currently been working to export ferromanganese bars to produce steel (Abu-Fadil, 2010).
Due to the ongoing conflict between Egypt and Sudan over control of the Halayeb Triangle it is clear that this is an important world region and it will be interesting to observe whether it will remain in Egyptian control.