Soft border mechanism to dispel African border issues



The legacy of colonialism is still affecting African peace, prosperity and development in many dimensions. Most of the political, social and economic problems arising in Africa are the legacies of colonialism and the interest of colonial powers.

Border dispute remains among the top humiliating legacies of colonialism in the continent, though the Organization of African Unity (OAU), the predecessor of the current African Union (AU) had accepted the boundary demarcations during the colonial era to be accepted by all countries. Yet, many border disputes are up-and-coming among African states.

In 2015, The Conversation website reported that close to 100 active border disputes were exist across the continent at that time. In addition to the colonial legacy, rising nationalism, population and environmental pressures worsened the situation in the continent, according to The Conversation.

In 2015, around 58 potential secessionist territories in 29 out of the total 55 independent states were available in the continent, according to the research by The Conversation. These 29 states also have 83 political associations and pressure groups and the statistics is increasing which also is a reason to increase civil conflicts in the continent, which is also a top legacy of the colonial era.

Approached by The Ethiopian Herald, Tigistu Awolu, Regional Political Analyst said that almost all continental problems of Africa are the legacies of colonialism, within and beyond states. The sources of basic distrust, conflict and even nation building challenges in Africa are due to the remains of colonialism social fabrics, for him.

According to Tigistu, to dispel the legacies of colonialism and to withdraw from the circle of military chaos in Africa, continental integration and economic development of countries is vital. For him, in addition to the legacies of colonialism, economic backwardness, undeveloped social and economic integration, backward culture of democracy and the poor culture of negotiation to solve internal and external problems are additional factors to intra and enter state disputes.

For Tigistu, internal instability among countries is an additional factor for the outbreak of border disputes to divert internal attention. Hence, for him, the conflicts in the continent, intra and enter states, are due to poverty, poor culture of democracy and weak culture of diplomacy.

Investing on common economic development, bilaterally, regionally and continentally is the only solution to dispel the vicious circle of conflict in Africa and implementing common development strategy for border area communities is also the best mechanism to ease border tensions, according to Tigistu and an idea stated on The Conversation.

Developing Pan-Africanism and continental indigenous peace practice are also the best mechanisms to manage border problems throughout the continent.

To solve the continent’s border disputes, the African Union (AU) has been working with utmost commitment ever since its early years, yet scholars are calling for an increased role of the continental body and other regional blocs for the sustainable solution of the border issues in the continent.

In this case, Tigistu commented that the AU should increase its role in solving border issues before disputes escalate into military chaos and to follow the border and boundary related problems of the continent, AU should establish strong institutions than establishing committees to mediate countries after war happens. He added that under the umbrella of AU, strong institution should be established to research border related problems, to identify scientific solutions for boundary disagreements among countries and to follow the detail problems in this regard.

The AU on its 2007s border program stated that the regional economic communities and the AU should assist the states in mobilizing the necessary resources and expertise, including by facilitating exchange of experiences and promoting inexpensive border delimitation and demarcation practices.

But, according to Tigistu AU’s role should develop beyond assisting the states in mobilizing resources and expertise, the continental institution should establish strong institution in charge of border issues since it is a serious continental problem. According to him, researching the problems and providing scientific solutions for demarcation and delimitations and continues follow-up of the border issues should get serious attention.

In addition, Tigistu noted, the regional organizations like IGAD, ECOWAS, and ECOSOC have to develop their institutional strength to facilitate the integration of countries in their region. According to Tigistu these regional organizations are catalysts to create developed society, socially and economically, which helps to create strong integration between states and among the peoples of the regions.

Regional common development plays a crucial role in easing tensions and borders become source of wealth, economic development and integration than conflict and tension. In addition, strong regional organizations help to easily mediate problems within and among states peacefully.

“No border conflict has ever been solved through military action”, Tigistu stated adding that “After plunging into war and lose many lives, countries often resort to the table for discussion to solve the border issue through negotiation, mediation and arbitration”

Hence, for Tigistu to solve border disputes sustainably, using all peaceful means is the best way which helps to keep the harmony and brotherhood relation of states.

According to the article published on The Conversation, complete delimitation and demarcation of Africa is heavy task since it covers an area of approximately 6.1 million square km and 28,000 miles of international boundaries.

It added that the issue is what exactly was owned and passed over to African states from the colonial powers. Hence, it seeks to freeze all territories to a snap shot of the area states were given on the day of independence.

According to the article appreciation of local realities is one of the strong points to opt for resolution by indigenous means, involving pertinent interstate commissions, seeking the help of neutral study group to discover and delineate the issues, initiate technical studies and imitating direct negotiations.

When the situations worsen and develop into serious conflicts, allowing intervention by AU, implementing an ad hoc African arbitration mechanism and resorting to judicial mechanisms are among the common solutions, according to the journal.

Increasing the participation and role of indigenous experts, civil society organizations, elders and influential people of the border area are necessary in dealing with territorial disputes.

Developing the movement of Pan-Africanism and institutionalizing the indigenous peace practice of the continent are the lasting mechanisms to create stable, developed and prosperous Africa, Tigistu argued. For him, the efforts of establishing African Free Trade Area will boost the continent’s integration, interaction and working for common development.

For Tigistu instead of focusing on boundary disputes, the continent’s governments should give priority for such activities which develops the struggle against poverty. Regionally, Tigistu stated that Eastern Africa is known for puzzles emerged by boundary disputes.

According to the analyst, Ethiopia the biggest country interims of power and population have the responsibility to create stable region by working closely with all its neighbors. Ethiopia shares boundaries with six countries of the Horn of Africa and the border issue in the horn is even worse than the other areas.

Tigistu stated that this problem is due to the colonial legacy and the area is still under the eyes of external powers due to its strategic importance. For sustainable solutions, as started, Ethiopia should strengthen its brotherly/sisterly relations with its neighbors by strengthening and even institutionalizing the border committees it established almost with all its neighbors. In addition, protecting its internal peace, developing the culture of democratization, building strong economic capacity and developing its diplomacy are key issues.

Acting at Africa level and working for African prosperity is the soft mechanism to dispel the border disputes in Africa, he argued.