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Practice and Prospects of Boundary Delimitation in Africa: The ICJ Judgment in the Burkina Faso/Niger Frontier Dispute Case

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AbstractOn 16 April 2013, the International Court of Justice (icj) rendered an unanimous Judgment in the case regarding the boundary dispute between Burkina Faso and the Republic of Niger. This note will review the findings of the Court against the background of the previous judgments which the icj has rendered regarding land boundaries in this region, formed by the former French colonial territories of West Africa (Burkina Faso/Mali and Benin/Niger). It will also examine current trends and future prospects for the delimitation of frontiers in Africa, where it is estimated that at present only 35% of land boundaries have been subject to delimitation and demarcation. Many African frontiers, while theoretically defined by means of treaties, are insufficiently (if at all) demarcated on the ground, which causes confusion concerning the actual physical location of (or at least parts of) boundaries. In the recent period, several factors have contributed to a greater awareness of concerned States and stakeholders of the urgent need for the completion of outstanding delimitations. The author argues that the icj is likely to remain a popular venue for African States willing to settle boundary disputes.


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