Emerging Challenges to the African Boundary Treaties with a particular focus of the Application of Principle of uti possidetis

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Addis Ababa Universty


The adoption of territorial integrity principle by the Organization of African Unity was not an easy decision. Since the continent was extremely divided by the limitless interests of European colonialists, there were politicians and scholars who were calling for revising and redefining these boundaries. With assumption of the tangibility of colonial boundaries and the commitment to save the continent from disintegration during independence, the organization adopted the principle which accepts colonial administrative boundaries as international boundaries of African newly independent states. The principle however did not escape from criticism in the past decades for its failure to prevent boundary conflict and ensure peace and stability as it was initially aspired. In this paper, the researcher has endeavoured to examine the general nature of African boundary related treaties, the shortcomings of the application of the principle and the new challenges of the boundaries and the principle. The finding of the research shows that the African colonial boundary treaties are questionable as to their tangibility and certainty. The boundaries are results of continuous multilateral and bilateral treaties of colonialists. Their certainty is very questionable. The purposes and objectives of the treaties of the boundaries were ensuring competing interests of colonialists against the interest s of Africans and their legality is also challengeable. Implementing these over century old boundary related treaties at these days are becoming difficult due to their vagueness and contradiction to the practical situation of borders. The application of territorial integrity /uti possidetis principle adapted by OAU to identify and transfer the colonial boundaries found to be illusive, incomplete and vulnerable to unrestricted interpretation of ICJ. The principle is critically tested by new challenges such as secession and demarcation in its failure to accommodating new developments around borders since independence. The issue is continental and further research is very necessary. The practice of the application of the principle (ut ipossidetis) should not be the only boundary establishing mechanism and it need to be equally supported by other asserting mechanisms principle such as effective control, public administration, etc. Expanding democracy and encouraging the application of internal self- determination is critical to avoid secession before it became threat of boundary. The need to border integration should not be postponed not only to reduce boundary problems but it is a base for other integrations. ICJ’s interpretation trend focusing only on seeking the purpose and intention of parties of the treaty need intervention and change. There has to be a kind of effective type of interpretation since the disputants of boundaries were not parties of the treaties. Key terms: boundary, uti possidetis, ICJ, critical-date, secession, territorial integrity



Boundary, uti possidetis, ICJ, Critical-date, Secession, Territorial integrity