The Tricky Issue of Africa’s Boundaries

Africa Review, 14 August 2013


By Dr. Kisiangani Emmanuel


Up to 11 Kenyan fishermen have died following recent attacks by suspected Ethiopian militia, while fishing on Lake Turkana which is shared by the two countries.


The incidence, just like several others in the past, has forced residents to flee from the area, fearing for their lives.


This indicates the complicated nature of African borders. Then there is the politics of secession.


Those who understand secession warn that the move, as a means of resolving intra-state conflict is demanding, but resolving the borderline political geography can be the most divisive issue holding a poisonous Pandora’s Box.


This is a poignant lesson from South Sudan’s protracted effort to delimit the Sudan-South Sudan border, around the Abyei region and was also a poisoned chalice in the aftermath of Eritrea’s separation from Ethiopia in 1993. Then the two countries fought a bloody and costly war, between 1998 and 2000, over the Badme boundary line in the Tigray region, despite the leadership of both countries then sharing a rich history.


Today, the menace of secession continues to loom over the continent with other groups such as the Mouvement pour l’Autonomie de la Kabylie in Algeria agitating for an independent state of Kabyle and Barotse Patriotic Front seeking an independent state of Barotseland in Zambia.


The Frente para a Libertação do Enclave de Cabinda (FLEC) and Forças Armadas de Cabinda (FAC) in Angola have been fronting for an independent Republic of Cabinda, there is also the Bakassi Peninsula disputed by Cameroon and Nigeria with claims for autonomy in both countries, while in Ethiopia there are the Gambela, Oromia and Ogadenia autonomy claims.


Elsewhere in East Africa, there is the Mombasa Republican Council (MRC) in Kenya and Zanzibar Island sections of whose population is claiming independence from the union with Mainland Tanzania.


There are also other protracted cases such as the Polisario Front fighting for an independent Western Sahara (Saharawi Republic), the Movement of Democratic Forces of Casamance in Senegal pursuing an autonomous Casamance region and a more recent case of the militant National Movement for the Liberation of Azawad seeking an autonomous Azawad state from Mali.

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