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

Border delimitation and demarcation

Date | 10 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,


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

Border delimitation and demarcation

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.