African Border Dispute Settlement: The User’s Guide
Peace and Security Department
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Borders, which constitute a core security interest of the State, determine the extent of the geographical area under the exclusive jurisdiction of a State. The absence of clearly defined territorial control and the ill management of border zones favour the eruption of grave disputes, especially when the said entities are rich in natural resources, which are subjected to conflicting claims. The structural prevention of disputes is one of the central axes of the AUBP’s activities; the publication of this Guidebook is fully part of this dynamic. In accordance with the spirit of the Constitutive Act of the AU, the AUBP has published this Guidebook in order to assist Member States to evaluate the tools at their disposal to peacefully settle their border disputes. As has been seen in recent history, the imprecision of international borders that were inherited from colonization has often been the source of violent conflicts in Africa. However, let it be emphasized that the obligation to observe the interdiction of the use of force and the obligation to peacefully solve conflicts are essential components of international and continental law. These principles have been enshrined in the UN Charter [Art.2 (3) and 33(1)] as well as in the Constitutive Act of the AU [Art4 (f)]. These obligations are corollaries of the unlawfulness of the use of force as established in the UN Charter. Therefore, the signatories of these legal instruments should resort to the various peaceful mechanisms of dispute resolution. This document has a practical purpose, and is addressed to national decision makers in charge of border issues. We expect this Guidebook to contribute to the collective effort to prevent violent border disputes by promoting awareness of judicial and non-judicial dispute settlement methods as defined by the UN Charter and the AU Constitutive Act. Each of these dispute resolution mechanisms is presented in the chapters of this Guidebook with case studies to illustrate their advantages and disadvantages, their costs and implementation time frames. In conformity with the States’ sovereignty, the authors have scrupulously avoided to explicitly influence the decision makers’ choice of dispute settlement mechanisms. The AU Commission, through the Peace and Security department, hopes that the publication of this AUBP Guidebook will allow AU Member States to resolve their border disputes in a peaceful manner to the benefit of African peoples.