Since African countries gained independence, the borders – which were drawn during the colonial period in a context of rivalries between European countries and their scramble for territories in Africa, have been a recurrent source of conflicts and disputes on the continent. Most of the borders are poorly defined. The location of strategic natural resources in cross-border areas poses additional challenges
This challenge was taken up early enough by African leaders, who were inspired by the conviction that the achievement of greater unity and solidarity among African States and peoples requires the reduction of the burden that is imposed upon them by borders. Indeed, by transcending the borders as barriers and promoting them as bridges linking one State to another, Africa can boost the ongoing efforts to integrate the continent, strengthen its unity and promote peace, security and stability, through the structural prevention of conflicts.
Political and Legal Instruments guiding the AUBP
Member States adopted a number of political and legal instruments to guide their efforts in the management of border issues;
• Resolution AHG/Res.16(I) on border disputes between African States, adopted by the 1st Ordinary Session of the Assembly of Heads of State and Government of the Organization of African Unity (OAU), held in Cairo, Egypt, in July 1964;
• Article 4 (b) of the AU Constitutive Act;
• Resolution CM/Res.1069(XLIV) on peace and security in Africa through negotiated settlement of boundary disputes, adopted by the 44th Ordinary Session of the Council of Ministers of the OAU, held in Addis Ababa, in July 1986;
• Memorandum of Understanding on Security, Stability, Development and Cooperation in Africa (CSSDCA), adopted by the OAU Assembly of Heads of State and Government, held in Durban, South Africa, in July 2002 [Decision CM/Dec.666(LXXVI)], which provides for the delineation and demarcation of African boundaries by 2012 where such an exercise has not yet taken place;
• Decision of the 8th Ordinary Session of Heads of State and Government of the African Union, held in Addis Ababa in January 2007, encouraging the Commission to pursue its efforts towards the structural prevention of conflicts, especially through the implementation of the AUBP. As a follow-up to this decision, the Commission convened, in Addis Ababa, on 7 June 2007, the first-ever Conference of African Ministers in charge of Border Issues. The Conference adopted a Declaration on the AUBP and its Implementation Modalities, which was endorsed by the Executive Council in Accra, Ghana. On 25 March 2010 the Commission convened the 2nd Conference of African Union Ministers in charge of Border Issues held in Addis Ababa. The Ministers adopted the Declaration on the AUBP and its Implementation Modalities, which was endorsed by the Executive Council in Kampala, Uganda on 23 July 2010.
Justification for the Establishment of the AUBP
• To address the problems posed by the lack of delimitation and demarcation, which gives rise to ‘undefined zones’, within which the application of national sovereignty poses problems, and constitutes a real obstacle to the deepening of the integration process;
• To address cross-border criminal activities through pragmatic border management;
• To consolidate the gains made in the regional integration process, as demonstrated by the existence of the Regional Economic Communities (RECs) and of numerous large-scale cooperation initiatives; and
• To facilitate the development of cross-border integration dynamics, which are sustained by local stakeholders
A united and integrated Africa with peaceful, open and prosperous borders
The prevention and resolution of border-related disputes and the promotion of regional and continental integration, which constitutes a tool in the structural prevention of conflicts in Africa
The Strategic Objectives of the AUBP
• Facilitating and supporting the delimitation and demarcation of African boundaries where such exercise has not yet taken place;
• Reinforcing the integration process, within the framework of the RECs and other large-scale cooperation initiatives;
• Developing, within the framework of the RECs and other regional integration initiatives, local cross-border cooperation;
• Building the capacities of member states in border management, as well as in border studies and research; and
• Advising the Commission and other organs of the African Union on border-related matters.
AUBP Implementation Modalities
The AUBP is being implemented at national, regional and continental levels on the basis of the principle of subsidiarity and respect of the sovereignty of States.
• The delimitation, demarcation and management of boundaries depend primarily on the sovereign decision of the States. The AUBP is closely working with States to undertake and pursue bilateral negotiations on all issues relating to the delimitation, demarcation and management of their borders, while aiming to protect and promote the interests and rights of border populations. The AUBP is assisting the States in mobilizing the necessary resources and expertise needed to delimit, demarcate and manage their boundaries.
• Local stakeholders are the primary drivers and key players of cross-border cooperation. The AUBP is working closely with RECs to facilitate local initiatives that promote cross-border cooperation. The AUBP, in partnership with the RECs, is planning to establish regional funds to finance cross-border cooperation projects, and has prepared a convention on cross-border cooperation that is under consideration by the relevant AU organs. The AUBP is also taking the necessary steps to ensure that cross-border cooperation is included in the major international initiatives launched in favour of the continent, as well as play a coordination role and facilitate the exchange of information and good practices between the RECs.
• The AUBP is assisting African countries to develop their capacities in the areas of border delimitation, demarcation and management. It is doing this by carrying out an inventory of African institutions that offer training in these domains, exploring avenues for collaboration with relevant training centres outside Africa, and designing a capacity building programme.
• Since boundary making and maintenance are cooperative undertakings that require various stakeholders to work together, the AUBP is forging partnerships of locals, states and international partners particularly the United Nations, as well as the former colonial powers that have records on African boundaries. The AUBP is also building networks and establishing partnerships with research and training institutes to build the capacities of States to delimit demarcate and manage their boundaries.
• In view of the fact that the exercises of delimiting, demarcating and managing boundaries are very expensive and highly technical, the AUBP is working closely with States and RECs to mobilize the required resources and any other necessary support needed to delimit, demarcate and manage African boundaries.
As stated by Boileau Strassoldo, an expert on European borders: “Spatial boundaries have ambiguous features: they divide and unite, bind the interior and link it with the exterior, are barriers and junctions, walls and doors, organs of defence and attack and so on. Frontier areas/borderlands can be managed so as to maximize any of these functions. They can be militarized, as bulwarks against neighbors, or be made into areas of peaceful interchange”.
By adopting the AUBP, African leaders have clearly expressed their commitment to maximize the junction and bridge aspects of the African borders and ensure that they are managed in such a manner to contribute to the achievement of two key objectives of the AU, namely the structural prevention of conflicts and the deepening of the ongoing integration processes.
Check the African Union Border Information system (AUBIS) here