PSC Ministerial on Implementation of Aspects of Peace and Security related to the AU Border Governance Strategy

Border Demarcation and Delimitation

Date | 19 August, 2021

Tomorrow (19 August) the African Union (AU) Peace and Security Council (PSC) is scheduled to hold a ministerial meeting on the ‘Implementation of Aspects of Peace and Security related to the AU Border Governance Strategy’.

Following the opening remark by MBELLA MBELLA, Minister of External Relations of Republic of Cameroon and Chairperson of the PSC for August, a statement will be delivered by Christophe Lutundula, Vice-Prime Minister, Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Democratic Republic of Congo. It is also expected that the AU Commissioner for Political Affairs, Peace and Security (PAPS), Bankole Adeoye, will make a presentation.

Tomorrow’s ministerial session will deliberate on the Continental Strategy for Better Integrated Border Governance. It is to be recalled that the strategy was initially adopted in 2019 by the Specialized Technical Committee (STC) on Defence, Safety and Security and further endorsed by the 33rd ordinary session of the AU Assembly in February 2020. The AU Border Program (AUBP) has launched the strategy in March 2021 to popularize the instrument and ‘to enhance peace and security initiatives, bilateral cooperation as well as borderland development between and among neighbouring countries’.

The strategy is anchored in five pillars including development of capabilities for border governance; conflict prevention and resolution, border security and transnational threats; mobility, migration and trade facilitation; cooperative border management and borderland development and community engagement. The session may be utilized to build ownership and sensitize member states on the continental strategy. Moreover, in line with the theme of the ministerial session, the deliberations are expected to particularly focus on the security pillar of the strategy. In this context the session may highlight the importance of dialogue, negotiation and reconciliation for peaceful settlement of border disputes, best practices of handling emerging border disputes and effective border management. It may further underline the importance of utilizing judicial actions only after exhausting options related to negotiation and dialogue.

As indicated in the strategy the security threats due to borders mainly emanate from two sources. The first is related to boundary disputes between states or communities. Currently, only one third of Africa’s 170,000 km inter-state borders have been demarcated and this has been a major security challenge. The AU is currently seized with 27 cases of border disputes. While the AUBP provides technical support to member states, the resolution of these cases primarily requires political will of disputing parities. This also implies that both disputing parties have to agree to involve the AU and submit joint request in order for the AU to offer support.

The second form of border insecurity is caused due to crimes and security threats along borderlands, which then have effects on the stability of countries and more broadly on regions. Poor border governance and porous borders have been particularly linked to security threats including transnational organized crimes, flow of illicit weapons and violent extremism and terrorism. Non-states actors have exploited the limited control along borders to intensify their operations as witnessed in various conflict hotspots in the Lake Chad, Sahel and Horn of Africa regions.

In addition to land borders, maritime boundary dispute has also become a concerning security area. The PSC during its 873rd session has considered the maritime dispute between Somalia and Kenya. Although the case was being considered by the International Court of Justice (ICJ), the PSC has called on both parties to find amicable and sustainable solution.

In terms of the roll out and implementation of the strategy the session offers an opportunity to reflect on the role of various actors including the AUC, member states and Regional Economic Communities (RECs)/Regional Mechanism (RMs). RECs/RMs may play a significant role in bringing closer members states and the AU. To leverage from such coordination it is imperative to ensure policy harmonization and coordination between member states and RECs towards the realization of the continental border strategy. In this regard the PSC may reiterate its previous call made during its 930th session, which requested the ‘AUC to develop an AU training curricula on border governance and to convene regional training programs’.

Although not articulated in the strategy, the session may also deliberate on the impact of COVID19 on border management and cross border cooperation. The fight against the pandemic has limited cooperation between communities across borders and it also affected diplomatic initiatives that aimed at resolving border disputes. On the other hand poor border governance may also be a risk in the spread of public health threats such as COVID19.

In previous PSC sessions on border management, the AUBP has presented the report of its activities. However for tomorrow’s session the intervention from the Commission is prepared along three main objectives. The first is to seek extension of the deadline for the completion of the delimitation and demarcation of all African inter-state borders, which will expire in 2022. The Commission is set to request additional five years and extend the deadline to 2027. It is to be recalled that in 2016 during PSC’s 603rd session the Commission has made a similar request to extend the deadline from 2017 to 2022. It would be of interest of PSC members to also seek clarification on the factors that continue to impede the realization of this goal. It would also be important to see how the extension will also fit into new timeframe for Silencing the Guns by 2030.

Given that the session is the first one after the official launch of the new AUC structure, the second main objective of the briefing is expected to explore mechanisms on how to integrate the AUBP in the new PAPS Department as a standalone program. The AUBP report presented during PSC’s 930th session has indeed expressed concern over the fate of the program within the new structure. Hence the session will offer an opportunity to address this institutional challenge and based on the mandate and scope of the program may provide guidance on the program’s position in the new structure. Beyond this, the sustainability of the program also requires boosting its capacity so that the program can effectively respond to requests from member states and discharge its mandate.

The third objective is to call for more member states to ratify the AU Convention on Cross Border Cooperation (the Niamey Convention). With Guinea being the latest country to ratify the Convention, a total of six member states have ratified it so far including Benin, Burkina Faso, Mali, Niger and Togo. For the instrument to enter into force it requires the ratification by at least fifteen member states.

The expected outcome is a communiqué. The PSC may call on the AUC to further promote and popularize the Continental Border Governance Strategy. It may urge member states and RECs/RM to develop national and regional border policies based on the AU Border Governance Strategy. The PSC may reiterate the importance of negotiation and reconciliation in settling border disputes. It may underline the importance of border management in the fight against transnational crime, violent extremism and terrorism. The PSC may state the importance of keeping the AUBP as a standalone unit within PAPS. It may extend the deadline for the completion of the delimitation and demarcation of African inter-state borders to 2027. It may call on member states to ratify, domesticate and implement all relevant instruments including the Niamey Convention and the African Charter on Maritime Security and Safety and Development in Africa (Lome Charter).


Insights on the PSC - Commemoration of the African Border Day within the framework of the AU Master Roadmap on Silencing the Guns in Africa

Border Demarcation and Delimitation

Date | 11 June, 2020

Tomorrow (11 June) the African Union (AU) Peace and Security Council (PSC) is scheduled to have its 930th session on ‘Commemoration of the African Border Day within the framework of the AU Master Roadmap on Silencing the Guns in Africa’.

The briefing on the agenda of the session prepared by the Department of Peace and Security is circulated to all PSC members via email. The Chairperson of the PSC for June has also circulated the concept note for the session. It is expected that PSC member states will conduct the session remotely via email exchanges. Following receipt of their input via email, the PSC Secretariat together with the Chairperson are expected to draft communiqué and circulate for its adoption through silence procedure.

The African Border Day is commemorated annually in line with the decision of the 17th Ordinary session of the Executive Council. As in the past, this year’s commemoration is linked with the annual theme of the year. As highlighted in the concept note, the AU Master Roadmap on Silencing the Guns identifies non-completion of border delimitation and demarcation processes, porous borders and the lack of borders control and security systems as posing challenge to peace and security in Africa.

This session is accordingly expected to provide updates to PSC member states on the progress made and challenges faced in implementing the practical steps set out in the AU Master Roadmap for overcoming the peace and security challenges arising from the conditions of the borders of African states. As various developments during the course of the past year, including the upsurge in violence in the Sahel – on account of both terrorist attacks and inter-communal fighting which have become more fatal due to easy access to and circulation of weapons – and the destruction that terrorist networks caused in Mozambique, have shown, porousness of African borders and the lack of effective control of borders continues to create the context for insecurity and violence.

On the occasion of the celebration of the Africa Border Day on 7 June, the AU Commissioner for Peace and Security, Smail Chergui underlined borderland’s vulnerability to insecurity and socio-economic challenges and the importance of securing the stability of borderlands for the realization of the goals of Silencing the Guns initiative. Indeed, major consequences of weak system of governance of borderlands include the flow of illegal weapons and small arms, the movement of international organized crimes and terrorist groups as well human trafficking and irregular migration fueling violence and exacerbating insecurity.

Various factors including the presence of mineral and hydrocarbon resources, the rising demand for land and other resources due to population increase and climate change, the increasing need to secure borders from terrorist and criminal networks as well as the increasing interest for harnessing of maritime resources for development purposes have heightened the need for addressing existing problems in the governance of borders of member states in Africa.

Apart from land borders, maritime boundary dispute, often triggered by competing claims over natural resources, has also become a concerning area. Additionally, as the experiences in the Gulf of Aden and Gulf of Guinea have revealed, maritime domain have been highly volatile and exposed to piracy, organized crime and utilized for human and drug trafficking as well as illegal fishing and damping of waste by operations from developed countries. Towards protecting this particular area, the African Charter on Maritime Security and Safety and Development in Africa (Lome Charter) adopted in 2016 to prevent and control the wide range of transnational crime at sea and to ensure member states benefit from maritime resources. However, the charter is currently ratified only by one country.

The AU Border Program (AUBP) progress report is expected to highlight developments relating to policies, processes and initiatives relating to borders and to the implementation of the Program. The update presented in the report is organized and will be presented around the five areas of work of the AU Borders Programme– a) development of national border policies and strategies, b) delimitation and demarcation of borders, c) cross border cooperation, d) capacity building, and e) Implementation of AUBP at the regional level.

In terms of delimitation and demarcation, the AUBP has thus far contributed to the delimitation of more than 5000 km border in 25 countries. However, available data shows that only about 35% of the continent’s terrestrial international boundaries have been demarcated. As noted in the concept note for tomorrow’s session and highlighted in the AU Master Roadmap on Silencing the Guns as one of the practical steps, it is envisaged that the delimitation and demarcation of AU Member States borders have to be completed by 2022. Despite the amount of work done thus far and currently under way, there is concern that the new timeline of having African boundaries fully delimited and demarcated by 2022 would again be missed, as the progress report noted. In this respect, major issues that require attention in tomorrow’s session include the identification of the various factors that impeded delimitation and demarcation of borders making it impossible to meet the 2022 deadline and the development of a realistic plan to address them.

Other areas of work with respect of which the report highlights progress since the last report are capacity building, national and regional border policies and strategies, coordination within the AU and with RECs. The work done in these areas also show that the AUBP is serving as instrument for strengthening of the capacities of personnel in charge of border issues and in contributing towards the development of national and regional border policies and strategies. However, the progress report highlights a concern about the fate of the program under the new structure of the AU Commission, expected to come into effect in 2021.

Another item of particular importance covered in the AUBP progress report is cross border cooperation. This has been one of the issues that has been put under strain as member states of the AU out of an abundance of caution initiate closure of borders as part of the effort to contain the virus. In the context of the AU theme of 2020, the issue of cross border cooperation is key, as noted in the AU Master Roadmap, in terms of conflict prevention and controlling terrorism, other cross-border crimes and piracy, among others.
One of the most important legal and policy instruments of the AU for advancing cross border cooperation is the Niamey Convention on Cross Border Cooperation. While this Convention was adopted in June 2014, thus far 17 AU Member States have signed it and only five (Niger, Burkina Faso, Mali, Benin, and Senegal) have ratified it. The ratification of ten (10) more countries is required to bring the Convention into effect. The ratification and implementation of this Convention is critical not only for enhancing legitimate system of border governance and cooperation but also to support the implementation of some of AU’s instruments for regional integration notably the African Continental Free Trade Area (CFTA) and the Protocol to the Abuja Treaty on Free Movement of Persons, Rights of Residence and Establishment. In terms of normative developments, an important development is the AU Strategy for Better Integrated Border Governance adopted during the 33rd AU Summit in February 2020. The Assembly recommended that the implementation of the strategy should be undertaken in accordance with Article 4(b) of the AU ‘respect of borders existing on achievement of independence’ which is also echoed in the PSC protocol. The strategy covers a wide array of matters and it’s premised on five core pillars: development of capabilities for border governance, conflict prevention and resolution, mobility, migration and trade facilitation, cooperative border management and borderland development and community engagement.

Also of note, during tomorrow’s session is the relationship between public health and effective and legitimate border governance in Africa in the context of the novel coronavirus (COVID19) pandemic. As AU Commissioner for Peace and Security noted in his statement ‘the impact of COVID19 places the issue of governance of African borders at the heart of the response to the pandemic’. Within the current pandemic, border management and governance are particularly critical to monitor, detect and prevent the spread of the virus across and in between countries. While member states have adopted closure of borders as one of the measures for containing the spread of the virus, Chergui also pointed out in his statement the efforts undertaken so far through AUBP towards limiting the spread of virus through cross border cooperation and stabilization of border areas. He also underscored the need for strong cross border cooperation for cross border management of public health in Africa.

The expected outcome is a communiqué. The PSC may welcome and call on member states to implement the AU Strategy for Better Integrated Border Governance. It may urge governments to scale up their efforts in strengthening border governance to prevent conflicts, enhance cross-border cooperation and to better harmonize efforts in responding collectively for mutual interest. Particularly in light of the current challenges in relation COVID19 it may underline the importance of coordination and cooperation among member states on border management. It may further call on member states to ratify all the relevant frameworks including the Niamey Convention and the Lome Maritime Charter to ensure the security of borderlands as well as maritime boundaries. The PSC may underscore the important role of the AUBP in advancing the various goals of the AU including peace and security and regional integration through supporting peaceful settlement of border disputes, capacity building support for enhancing border governance and in advocating for speeding up the ratification and implementation of the various instruments. In terms of conflict prevention, it may underscore the need to monitor and identify major risks of border conflicts for timely deployment of preventive measures. With respect to the 2022 deadline for the completion of the delimitation and demarcation of African borders, the PSC could task the AUBP to submit a report with analysis of the issues impeding delimitation and demarcation and proposal on how these can be addressed and on the additional time required for completing this project.


Insights on the PSC - Briefing on the delimitation and demarcation of boundaries in Africa to resolve inter-state conflict in Africa

Border Demarcation and Delimitation

Date | 31 May, 2018

Delimitation and demarcation of boundaries

Tomorrow (1 June) the Peace and Security Council (PSC) will have an open session under the theme ‘Delimitation and demarcation of boundaries in Africa the way forward to resolve interstate conflict in Africa’. The PSC is expected to receive a briefing and report on the theme from Frederic
Gateretse-Ngoga, Acting Head of the Conflict Early Warning and Prevention Division of the African Union (AU) Peace and Security Department (PSD).

This session aims at providing members of the PSC update on the work being undertaken by the AU Borders Programme (AUBP), which was established in 2007 on the basis of the Declaration on the African Union Border Programme. It is also a session that is convened to mark the Africa Border
Day that is annually marked on 7 June.

The briefing from Gateretse-Ngoga is also expected to highlight not only the increasing importance of African borders for peace and security and regional integration but also the challenges facing the PSD in implementing the mandate of the AUBP. The briefing providing update on the progress in
the implementation of the AUBP is organized and will be presented around the five areas of work of the AUBP, with emphasis on the theme of the agenda for the session. The first, which is the main focus of tomorrow’s session, is delimitation and demarcation of boundaries.

As an instrument for promotion of peace and structural prevention of conflicts, Gateretse-Ngoga’s update is anticipated to highlight the work of the AUBP in supporting increasing numbers of AU
member states in the delimitation and demarcation of their interstate borders. While it is reported
that only a third of Africa’s 83,000 km of African interstate land borders are demarcated, it is interesting to note that since 2016, some 1592 km of borders have been delimitated and demarcated within the framework of the AUBP. Currently, more than 20 Member States are conducting operations to clarify their common boundaries whether they are lake, river, land or maritime borders. As its work on the border issues between Sudan and South Sudan shows, the AUBP also supports conflict resolution efforts. In support of the AUHIP, the technical team of the AUBP completed in March 2018 the first phase of the process of the marking of the ten crossing points along the Safe Demilitarized Border Zone (SDBZ) between South Sudan and Sudan with the marking of three crossing points.

Various factors including the presence of mineral and hydrocarbon resources, the rising demand for land and other resources due to population increase and climate change, the increasing need to
secure borders from terrorist and criminal networks are increasingly making delimitation and demarcation of boundaries key to preventing border conflicts and implementing cross border cooperation. Despite this, the level of member states’ engagement in delimitation and demarcation of their joint borders remains unsatisfactory. The percentage of the delimitation and demarcation of African borders remain low. Additionally, the AUBP intervenes only when all the states concerned agree to it.

Despite the amount of delimitation and demarcation work that has been done thus far and currently under way, there is concern that the new timeline of having African boundaries fully delimited and demarcated by 2022 would again be missed. Underscoring the importance of delimitation and demarcation for both security and regional socio-economic cooperation, member states would be encouraged to deliminate and demarcate their common border. In this respect, major issues that require attention in tomorrow’s session include the identification of the various factors that impeded delimitation and demarcation in the previous deadlines and the development of a realistic plan to address them.

Apart from sharing their experience, PSC members are expected to recognize the increasing risks associated with non-delimitation and demarcation of borders and the challenges arising from the
porous nature of the borders of many AU member states. In this context, issues requiring attention
include the need for initiating conflict prevention measures with respect to those borders facing
major threats and the beefing up of not only border security but also over all border management
capacities that ensure secure cross border cooperation and regional integration.

Tomorrow’s session and this year’s celebration of the Africa Border Day have come at a time when the AU witnessed landmark legal and policy developments. Notably, The adoption at the
extraordinary summit of the AU held in March 2018 in Kigali, Rwanda of the African Continental
Free Trade Area (CFTA) and the Protocol to the Abuja Treaty on Free Movement of Persons, Rights
of Residence and Establishment is major development that brings African borders to the center of
AU’s push for regional integration. Indeed, key to the successful implementation of these instruments is the management by member states of their borders including in terms of delimitation and demarcation, policing, cross border cooperation and infrastructural development. It is thus of interest to PSC member states how the AUBP contributes for addressing the security, border policing and management capacity and other issues that can impede the CFTA and the Protocol on Free Movement of Persons.

Within the framework of its work on cross border cooperation, the AUBP supports various initiatives including the establishment of bilateral border agreements, facilitation of dialogue,
security cooperation and local development activities and cross border service infrastructure in the
common border areas of member states. The AUBP also promotes the ratification, domestication
and implementation of the AU Convention on Cross-border Cooperation (Niamey Convention) of
2014. The briefing will note that the Convention have been signed by fifteen countries and ratified
by only five. In this context, the importance and necessity of ratifying and implementing the Niamey
Convention as key instrument for pursuing the objectives of the CFTA and the Protocol on Free
Movement of Persons are issues that also deserve attention during the deliberation in tomorrow’s
session.

Other areas of work with respect of which the report highlights progress since the last report of June 2017 are capacity building, national and regional border policies and strategies, coordination within the AU and with Regional Economic Communities/ Regional Mechanisms (RECs/RMs). The work
done in these areas also show that the AUBP is serving as instrument for strengthening of the
capacities of personnel in charge of border issues and development of national and regional border
policies and strategies.

The expected outcome of tomorrow’s session is a press statement. The statement is expected to urge member states to ratify and domesticate the Niamey Convention as key instrument of regional
integration including for the effective implementation of the CFTA and the Protocol on Free
Movement of Persons. It would also underscore the role of the AUBP to address the various security
and border related issues for speeding up the ratification and implementation of these instruments.
In terms of conflict prevention, it may underscore the need to monitor and identify major risks of
border conflicts for timely deployment of preventive measures.