The principles of Uti Possidetis and its implication on border demarcation in Africa
The problem of border conflicts in Africa has been a setback to the enjoyment of peace and security in the continent. These conflicts presented themselves immediately newly independent states came into existence. To handle the conflict the Organization of Africa Unity and later the African Union adopted the principle of uti possidetis to avoid conflicts over the location of international boundaries and curtail secessionist claims which would open a Pandora's Box of secessionist claims in other parts of the continent. Nevertheless, secessionist claims in Africa continued to be witnessed as did conflicts over borders. This study set out to assess the validity of the principle in African diplomacy and assessing the implication of the right to selfdetermination on border diplomacy. To guide the study, the theoretical framework used was based on international law on territory and treaties. The study focused on Africa more so highlighting case studies of countries that had made secession claims and those that had conflicts over borders. Qualitative research method was adopted to collect the data which was both primary and secondary. Presentation of the findings was contextualized to fit in the content discussions. The conclusion of the study is that the principle of uti possidetis was misplaced as the rationale of dealing with secession claims. It also showed that the OAU ought to have interrogated further the root causes of those claims which would have resulted in the correct solution to the problem. Also, the study concludes that for as long as minorities were not guaranteed of their rights, then the question of internal selfdetermination would not go away. In addition, the study showed that the principle of uti possidetis was also not the appropriate solution to border conflicts and hence should not be used as the guiding framework in the demarcation of borders. It further found that as a principle held dear in African diplomacy, it needs to be revisited taking into account that it plays no role if at all in the current state of affairs. Finally, it concludes that conflicts over borders are due to the uncertainty on the ground and hence concerted efforts should be put in place to demarcate and delineate the borders hence legitimize them The study concludes by proposing various suggestions including doing away with the principle, encouraging states to adopt good governance practices in their countries and demarcation efforts are spearheaded by sub-regional organizations with the assistance of the AU through encouraging bilateral treaties, adoption of the diplomacy of bon voisinage and adoption of a holistic approach when handling the conflict.
University of Nairobi, Kenya