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Africa disputes over land and maritime boundaries

Africa disputes over land and maritime boundaries

Delimitation and demarcation of land and sea boundaries in Africa’s 54 countries leads to disputes over land and maritime boundaries when money and safety are involved. The creation and maintenance of National boundaries in Africa on land and sea is not always agreed upon since Africa straddles the equator, and is the second largest landmass on earth.

Africa disputes over land and maritime boundaries

Stats and information in Africa disputes over land and maritime boundaries.

Clear property lines identify the land and sea boundaries belonging to a country but in many circumstances, these lines are blurred. Moreover, even when a permanent marker can be located and agreed upon the boundary dispute may not be settled for years.

Land boundary markers
In many cases, one African country accuses another of moving boundary markers or borders are porous leading to an influx of refugees. Boundary stones or markers are a physical marker that identifies the start of a land boundary or the change in a boundary.

Many African countries such as Liberia and Ghana have a government branch that oversees Lands Commission Act centered on Land Commission’s policy recommendations for land rights, the land sector is orderly, just, and contributes to economic growth and development. The Government is responsible for administering and managing land within the region in the public interest.

Maritime boundary lines
A maritime boundary is the water’s surface bounds areas of exclusive national rights over mineral and biological resources, encompassing maritime features, limits, and zones. Normally, a maritime boundary is set at a particular distance from a territory's coastline.

Maritime boundaries do not encompass lake or river boundaries, which are considered within the context of land boundaries. The outlining of maritime boundaries has financial and environmental implications in Africa.

Facts and information on disputes over land and sea borders in Africa.

List of African countries and the disputes over land and maritime boundaries


Algeria
Algeria and many other states reject Moroccan administration of Western Sahara; the Polisario Front, exiled in Algeria, represents the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic that Algeria recognizes; the Algerian-Moroccan land border remains closed.

Angola
The Democratic Republic of Congo accuses Angola of shifting boundary monuments.

Benin
Benin retains a border dispute with Burkina Faso near the town of Koualou.

Botswana
None

Burkina Faso
Adding to illicit cross-border activities, Burkina Faso has issues concerning unresolved boundary alignments with its neighbors; demarcation is currently underway with Mali; the dispute with Niger was referred to the ICJ in 2010, and a dispute over several villages with Benin persists; Benin retains a border dispute with Burkina Faso around the town of Koualou.

Burundi
Brunei claims a maritime boundary extending as far as a median with Vietnam, thus asserting an implicit claim to Louisa Reef.

Cabo Verde
None

Cameroon
Cameroon and Nigeria agreed on maritime delimitation in March 2008; sovereignty dispute between Equatorial Guinea and Cameroon over an island at the mouth of the Ntem River; only Nigeria and Cameroon have heeded the Lake Chad Commission's admonition to ratify the delimitation treaty, which also includes the Chad-Niger and Niger-Nigeria boundaries.

The Central African Republic
Periodic skirmishes persist over water and grazing rights among related pastoral populations along the border with southern Sudan.

Chad
Since 2003, ad hoc armed militia groups and the Sudanese military have driven hundreds of thousands of Darfur residents into Chad; Chad wishes to be a helpful mediator in resolving the Darfur conflict and in 2010 established a joint border monitoring force with Sudan, which has helped to reduce cross-border banditry and violence.

The Democratic Republic of the Congo
The location of the boundary in the broad Congo River with the Republic of the Congo is indefinite except in the Pool Malebo Stanley Pool area. Uganda and DRC dispute Rukwanzi Island in Lake Albert and other areas on the Semliki River with hydrocarbon potential. Boundary commission continues discussions over Congolese-administered triangle of land on the right bank of the Lunkinda River claimed by Zambia near the DRC village of Pweto. DRC accuses Angola of shifting monuments.

Republic of the Congo
Dispute with its neighbor DRC over the boundary in the Congo.

Cote d'Ivoire
Disputed maritime border with Ghana. Over 9,000 square nautical miles of sea and seabed were disputed. Cote d'Ivoire lost claim in 2017.

Djibouti
Djibouti maintains economic ties and border accords with Somaliland leadership while maintaining some political ties to various factions in Somalia; Kuwait is chief investor in the 2008 restoration and upgrade of the Ethiopian-Djibouti rail link; in 2008, Eritrean troops moved across the border on Ras Doumera   peninsula and occupied Doumera Island with undefined sovereignty in the Red Sea.

Egypt
Sudan claims but Egypt de facto administers security and economic development of Halaib region north of the 22nd parallel boundary; Egypt no longer shows its administration of the Bir Tawil trapezoid in Sudan on its maps; Gazan breaches in the security wall with Egypt in January 2008 highlight difficulties in monitoring the Sinai border; Saudi Arabia claims Egyptian-administered islands of Tiran and Sanafir.

Equatorial Guinea
The UN urged Equatorial Guinea and Gabon to resolve the sovereignty dispute over Gabon-occupied Mbane and lesser islands and to create a maritime boundary in the hydrocarbon-rich Corisco Bay

Eritrea
Eritrea and Ethiopia agreed to abide by 2002 Ethiopia-Eritrea Boundary Commission's (EEBC) delimitation decision, but neither party responded to the revised line detailed in the November 2006 EEBC Demarcation Statement; Sudan accuses Eritrea of supporting eastern Sudanese rebel groups; in 2008, Eritrean troops moved across the border on Ras Doumera peninsula and occupied Doumera Island with undefined sovereignty in the Red Sea.

eSwatini
In 2006, Swati king advocated resorting to ICJ to claim parts of Mpumalanga and KwaZulu-Natal from South Africa.

Ethiopia
The undemarcated former British administrative line has little meaning as a political separation to rival clans within Ethiopia's Ogaden and southern Somalia's Oromo region; Ethiopian forces invaded southern Somalia and routed Islamist Courts from Mogadishu in January 2007; Somaliland secessionists provide port facilities in Berbera and trade ties to landlocked Ethiopia; civil unrest in eastern Sudan has hampered efforts to demarcate the porous boundary with Ethiopia.

Gabon
Only dispute is with Equatorial Guinea with the sovereignty dispute over Gabon-occupied Mbane Island and lesser islands and to establish a maritime boundary in hydrocarbon-rich Corisco Bay.

The Gambia
Attempts to stem refugees, cross-border raids, arms smuggling, and other illegal activities by separatists from southern Senegal's Casamance region, as well as from conflicts in other west African states.

Ghana
Won the court case in 2017 after fifteen years of a disputed maritime border with Cote d'Ivoire. The tribunal rejected Cote d'Ivoire's claim that the boundary should run to the southeast along an angle of 168.7 degrees.

Guinea
Sierra Leone considers Guinea's definition of the flood plain limits to define the left bank boundary of the Makona and Moa Rivers excessive and protests Guinea's continued occupation of these lands, including the hamlet of Yenga, occupied since 1998.

Guinea-Bissau
Longstanding conflict continues in parts of Casamance, in Senegal across the border; some rebels use Guinea-Bissau as a safe haven

Kenya
Kenya provides shelter to nearly 475,000 refugees and asylum seekers, including Ugandans who flee across the border periodically to seek protection from Lord's Resistance Army rebels. The boundary that separates Kenya's and Sudan's sovereignty is unclear in the Ilemi Triangle, which Kenya has administered since colonial times.

Lesotho
South Africa has placed military units to assist police operations along the border of Lesotho, Zimbabwe, and Mozambique to control smuggling, poaching, and illegal migration.

Liberia
Due to the Civil War, the peacekeeping force is being reduced to 434 soldiers and two police units; some Liberian refugees remain in Guinea, Cote d'Ivoire, Sierra Leone, and Ghana; Liberia shelters almost 15,000 Ivoirian refugees, as of May 2017.

Libya
Disputes include Libyan claims of about 32,000 sq km still reflected on its maps of southeastern Algeria and the FLN's assertions of a claim to Chirac Pastures in southeastern Morocco; various Chadian rebels from the Aozou region reside in southern Libya.

Madagascar
Claims Bassas da India, Europa Island, Glorioso Islands, and Juan de Nova Island, all administered by France; the vegetated drying cays of Banc du Geyser, which were claimed by Madagascar in 1976, also fall within the EEZ claims of the Comoros and France Glorioso Islands, part of the French Southern and Antarctic Lands.

Malawi
Dispute with Tanzania over the boundary in Lake Nyasa also known as Lake Malawi and the meandering Songwe River. Malawi contends that the entire lake up to the Tanzanian shoreline is its territory, while Tanzania claims the border is in the center of the lake; the conflict was reignited in 2012 when Malawi awarded a license to a British company for oil exploration in the lake.

Mali
Demarcation is underway with Burkina Faso as of 2019.

Mauritania
Mauritanian claims to Western Sahara remain dormant.

Mauritius
Mauritius and Seychelles claim the Chagos Islands; claims French-administered Tromelin Island.

Morocco
Claims and administers Western Sahara whose sovereignty remains unresolved. Morocco protests Spain's control over the coastal enclaves of Ceuta, Melilla, and Penon de Velez de la Gomera, the islands of Penon de Alhucemas and Islas Chafarinas, and surrounding waters. Both countries claim Isla Perejil Leila Island and discussions have not progressed on a comprehensive maritime delimitation, setting limits on resource exploration and refugee interdiction. Since Morocco's 2002 rejection of Spain's unilateral designation of a median line from the Canary Islands Morocco serves as one of the primary launching areas of illegal migration into Spain from North Africa. Algeria's border with Morocco remains an irritant to bilateral relations, each nation accusing the other of harboring militants and arms smuggling; the National Liberation Front's assertions of a claim to Chirac Pastures in southeastern Morocco is a dormant dispute.

Mozambique
South Africa has placed military units to assist police operations along the border of Lesotho, Zimbabwe, and Mozambique to control smuggling, poaching, and illegal migration.

Namibia
Concerns from international experts and local populations over the Okavango Delta ecology in Botswana and human displacement scuttled Namibian plans to construct a hydroelectric dam on Popa Falls along the Angola-Namibia border. The governments of South Africa and Namibia have not signed or ratified the text of the 1994 Surveyor's General agreement placing the boundary in the middle of the Orange River. Namibia has supported and in 2004 Zimbabwe dropped objections to, plans between Botswana and Zambia to build a bridge over the Zambezi River, thereby de facto recognizing a short, but not clearly delimited, Botswana-Zambia boundary in the river.

Niger
Libya claims about 25,000 sq. km in a currently dormant dispute in the Tommo region; location of Benin-Niger-Nigeria tripoint is unresolved; only Nigeria and Cameroon have heeded the Lake Chad Commission's admonition to ratify the delimitation treaty that also includes the Chad-Niger and Niger-Nigeria boundaries; the dispute with Burkina Faso was referred to the ICJ in 2010.

Nigeria
Location of Benin-Niger-Nigeria tripoint is unresolved.

Rwanda
Burundi and Rwanda dispute two sq km (0.8 sq mi) of Sabanerwa, a farmed area in the Rukurazi Valley where the Akanyaru/Kanyaru River shifted its course southward after heavy rains in 1965.

Sao Tome and Principe
None

Senegal
Cross-border trafficking in persons, timber, wildlife, and cannabis; rebels from the Movement of Democratic Forces in the Casamance find refuge in Guinea-Bissau.

Seychelles
Mauritius and Seychelles claim the Chagos Islands, UK-administered British Indian Ocean Territory.

Sierra Leone
Sierra Leone opposes Guinean troops' continued occupation of Yenga, a small village on the Makona River that serves as a border with Guinea. Guinea's forces came to Yenga in the mid-1990s to help the Sierra Leonean military to suppress rebels and to secure their common border but have remained there even after both countries signed a 2005 agreement acknowledging that Yenga belonged to Sierra Leone; in 2012, the two sides signed a declaration to demilitarize the area.

Somalia
Puntlan and Somaliland regions seek international support in their secessionist aspirations and overlapping border claims; the undemarcated former British administrative line has little meaning as a political separation to rival clans within Ethiopia's Ogaden and southern Somalia's Oromo region.

South Africa
The governments of South Africa and Namibia have not signed or ratified the text of the 1994 Surveyor's General agreement placing the boundary in the middle of the Orange River.

South Sudan
South Sudan and Sudan; periodic violent skirmishes with South Sudanese residents over water and grazing rights persist among related pastoral populations along the border with the Central African Republic; the boundary that separates Kenya and South Sudan's sovereignty is unclear in the Ilemi Triangle, which Kenya has administered since colonial times.

Sudan
The effects of Sudan's ethnic and rebel militia fighting since the mid-20th century have penetrated all of the neighboring states. Sudan accuses South Sudan of supporting Sudanese rebel groups; Sudan claims but Egypt de facto administers security and economic development of the Halaib region north of the 22nd parallel boundary; final sovereignty status of Abyei Area pending negotiations between South Sudan and Sudan.

Tanzania
Malawi contends that the entire lake up to the Tanzanian shoreline is its territory, while Tanzania claims the border is in the center of the lake.

Togo
In 2001, Benin claimed Togo moved boundary monuments - joint commission continues to resurvey the boundary; talks continue between Benin and Togo on funding the Adjrala hydroelectric dam on the Mona River.

Tunisia
None

Uganda
Uganda is subject to armed fighting among hostile ethnic groups, rebels, armed gangs, militias, and various government forces that extend across its borders; Ugandan refugees as well as members of the Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) seek shelter in southern Sudan and the Democratic Republic of the Congo's Garamba National Park; LRA forces have also attacked Kenyan villages across the border.

Zambia
Not a clear delimited, Botswana-Zambia boundary in the Zambezi River.

Zimbabwe
South Africa has placed military units to assist police operations along the border of Lesotho, Zimbabwe, and Mozambique to control smuggling, poaching, and illegal migration.

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