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Water Wars in the Horn of Africa

The war over water is the greatest war that will dominate the world in the future because water is the most important resource for natural life on Earth. After all, without water, Earth has no advantage over the rest of the planets that fill our vast universe. There is no life without water. Therefore, the war over water is a war of existence and survival. The conflict in southeastern Africa over the Renaissance Dam built by Ethiopia is a real conflict that may lead to significant turmoil and have long-lasting repercussions on both the region and the world. Unlike previous conflicts we’ve witnessed in the Horn of Africa — which had limited global impact — the conflict over the Nile water is one whose effects will be felt for many years to come. A few days ago, Egypt and Uganda announced the signing of a military intelligence agreement — another practical step in Egypt’s preparation for the worst-case scenario in which it has to go to war with Ethiopia. Arab support for Egypt and Sudan is strong. No one in the region wants to see this conflict escalate. All eyes are set toward the negotiations and discussions between the parties, with the hope that a political solution could bring an end to the crisis and guarantee the rights of all parties involved. The Arab world still remembers the wars experienced in Iraq and Syria over their rights to the waters of the Tigris and Euphrates rivers, which have been subjected to attacks by Turkey. The alarming truth is that no matter how brutal the consequences of a war between Egypt and Ethiopia may be, they will still be significantly less costly than tolerating the violation of the former’s legitimate right to the Nile waters. Is Ethiopia seeking to antagonize Sudan, Egypt, and the Arab world? While the official Ethiopian statements don’t say so, it is important to understand some of the motives that have led to Ethiopia’s intransigence on the issue. Internal disputes between social, religious, and tribal elements within Ethiopia put tremendous pressure on the country’s leadership. This is understandable and Arab aid can be provided to Ethiopia to overcome these challenges and pursue significant development projects. While we can understand these motives and be empathetic to Ethiopia’s domestic crisis, it cannot be a justification for exporting the country’s problems abroad by violating the rights of other states and peoples. War is a costly option, from which Ethiopia only stands to lose. –Abdullah Bin Bajad Al-Otaibi (translated by Asaf Zilberfarb)