Emergence of New States in Africa and Territorial Dispute Resolution: The Role of the International Court of Justice

Article excerpt

This article examines the potential contribution of the International Court of Justice ('Court') in resolving current and emerging territorial disputes in Africa. The article contends that the Court as the principal judicial organ of the Charter of the United Nations ('UN Charter') has had a significant role in resolving territorial disputes on the continent. An in-depth discussion of various disputes the Court has addressed in the past demonstrates the unique role and capability of the Court to address potential disputes of a similar nature. The article further argues that the decision by some African countries to voluntarily submit their disputes to the Court and the willingness of those nations to implement the outcomes of such referrals demonstrates the growing belief among these countries in the pivotal role of the Court in furthering the principles and goals reflected in the UN Charter. On the basis of this positive contribution of the Court, this article contends that current and potential territorial disputes, such as those in Ethiopia and Sudan, should be referred to the Court for determination. The involvement of the Court in such disputes will not only contribute to the maintenance of international peace and security in Africa but will also enhance the international rule of law by encouraging countries to resolve their disputes peacefully.


I   Introduction
II  The UN Charter and Peaceful Settlement of Disputes
III The Court and Dispute Settlement in Africa
IV  The Contribution of the Court in Territorial Disputes in Africa
      A Continental Shelf (Tunisia v Libyan Arab Jamahiriya)
      B Continental Shelf (Libyan Arab Jamahiriya v Malta)
      C Arbitral Award of 31 July 1989 (Guinea-Bissau v Senegal)
      D Frontier Dispute (Burkina Faso v Republic of Mall)
      E Territorial Dispute (Libya Arab Jamahiriya v Chad)
      F Kasikili/Sedudu Island (Botswana v Namibia)
      G Maritime Boundary between Cameroon and Nigeria
        (Cameroon v Nigeria)
V   Evaluation of the Court's Contribution in Territorial Dispute
    Settlement in Africa
VI  Potential Contribution of the Court in Territorial Disputes in
    Emerging States in Africa
VII Conclusion


Since the League of Nations was founded, the quest to preserve 'peace among nations' has been the primary objective of the United Nations. (1) It is in pursuit of this goal that the Covenant of the League of Nations and the Charter of the United Nations ('UN Charter') made the peaceful settlement of disputes the defining feature of their mission. (2) However, the founding of these institutions did not completely prevent the use of force among nations as an important mechanism to attain foreign policy objectives. Indeed, it was the failure of the member states to honour the founding objectives of the League of Nations to resolve disputes peacefully that led to the devastation caused by the Second World War. (3)

In the aftermath of the Second World War, during the negotiations and eventual adoption of the UN Charter in San Francisco, the negotiators decided to incorporate the Statute of the International Court of Justice ('ICJ Statute') as an integral part of the UN Charter. (4) This decision was important in two aspects--namely reaffirming the pivotal role of peaceful settlement of disputes among nations and also providing a mechanism within which states could resolve their differences peacefully. (5) The incorporation of the ICJ Statute as an integral part of the UN Charter demonstrated the willingness of states to create a forum where disputes could be resolved peacefully bearing in mind the devastating consequences of the Second World War.

The primary goal of this inquiry is to examine the potential role of the International Court of Justice ('Court') in resolving territorial disputes in emerging states in Africa and consider the extent of the Court's contribution to the maintenance of international peace and security in Africa. …


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