Experts meeting and 3rd Conference of African Ministers in charge of Border Issues, Niamey, Niger

The 3rd Conference of African Ministers in charge of Border Issues took place in Niamey, Niger, on 17th May 2012. It was preceded by the Meeting of government and African Union experts held from 14th to 16th May. The African Centre for the Study and Research on Terrorism was represented by Lieutenant-Colonel MOUAYA POUYI Christian Emmanuel, Specialist on Alert and Prevention, Analysis, Studies and Publication.

The debate focused on the three key components of the African Union Border Program (AUBP):

Delimitation and Demarcation of African borders;

Trans-Border Cooperation;

Capacity Building.

The AU Border Program was launched in June 2007. It constitutes an implementation measure of the Declaration adopted by the 1st Conference of African Ministers in charge of Border Issues.

Assessing the Program, the African Union Commission delegate presented a report on the implementation of the program. He noted that since its inception, the Border Program has made continues progress in  supporting the Member states in the delimitation and demarcation of borders, the promotion of the cross-border cooperation, as well as the elaboration and implementation of capacity-building programs.

Concerning delimitation and demarcation aspects, the presented results were less successful.  Assessment based on collected information concluded that only about 35% of African borders had been delimited and demarcated. Subsequently, the Conference urged member states to submit to the Commission, at the earliest opportunity the status of delimitation and demarcation of their borders. All member states had been asked to achieve the process of delimiting and demarcating their borders no later than 2017 year, which represents the new deadline set by the African Union.

A number of remarks and presentations pertaining to the different aspects of the Cross Border Cooperation, particularly the local initiatives of cross‐border cooperation, the Joint management of cross‐border resources, as well as the combating of cross‐border crime and terrorism were then made by different speakers including the ACSRT delegate.

The ACSRT delegate, after assessing the poor security situation on the continent, mainly due to armed conflicts, terrorism and organised crime highlighted the need to secure borders from terrorism, organised crime, arms and drug trafficking etc., by a strengthening cross border cooperation that will, inter alia reinforce collaboration between security forces and local populations and further involve the civil society in the prevention and combating of crimes.

He argued in favour of the need to adopt  the draft Convention of the African Union on Cross-Border Cooperation, which could constitute an excellent tool to reinforce measures aimed at impeding criminals from circulate freely from one State to the other.

The above mentioned convention aims at providing a legal framework for member states to enhance cross-border cooperation, and fulfil the idea of changing common boundaries from barriers to bridges, enabling more cooperation, integration and development, eliminating conflicts, particularly those related to borders disputes.

After rich fruitful discussions, the draft convention was adopted by the participants.

The participants welcomed the initiatives of the African Union Commission in support of cross-border cooperation. They also underlined the need for   complete the guidelines required to enhance and facilitate cooperation among member states mainly  in the areas of experience sharing, the prevention of and the combating of terrorism and other forms of cross border crimes, facilitation of licit cross-border economic activities, such as trade and transport, as well as the movement of peoples, and joint management of cross-border resources.

The participants emphasised the need for adequate human and material resources to effectively implement the program. They called for an inventory and a data base of experts on border issues, for training and research on border programs, and for the establishment of National Boundary Commissions by member states which have not yet done so.