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Sudan and Ethiopia are nearing a fight over land and water

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Humanitarian agencies and the international community have rightly decried the growing conflict within Ethiopia as a humanitarian disaster. Last November, conflict broke out between the federal government of Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed and the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF), the governing party of the northern Tigray region that dominated Ethiopian politics until being sidelined by Abiy. Nearly 10 months later, the conflict has grown into a de facto civil war. As the fight spreads across the country, it is bringing with it famine, massive refugee flows, widespread civilian deaths and sexual assaults, and fears of ethnic cleansing.

With so much death and destruction coming from the Tigray crisis, there is a danger that too little attention is being paid to the potential for a second deadly conflict to engulf Ethiopia, this one stemming from growing tensions with its neighbour Sudan. While the details are sometimes complex and technical, at its core, the brewing conflict between Sudan and Ethiopia has the most basic of motivations: control over land and water.

The land dispute between the two countries dates back more than a century to colonial-era agreements demarcating the border between the two countries. The greatest dispute is over a portion of land known as al-Fashqa, which both countries have claimed as their own. The most recent settlement of the territorial dispute came in 2008, when the TPLF-led Ethiopia agreed to recognise formal Sudanese sovereignty over the area in exchange for Sudan, led by longtime dictator Omar al-Bashir, allowing Ethiopian settlers to remain in the area. Since then, however, both governments have fallen, and with them the agreement. When Ethiopian forces were diverted from defending al-Fashqa to go fight in Tigray, the Sudanese military moved back into the........

© Al Jazeera

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