The diplomatic row that has seen Somalia take Kenya to the International Court of Justice over a disputed maritime border needs to be addressed soberly. Dilemmas over borders are commonplace in Africa, a continent that was bequeathed 103 border disputes by its former colonial rulers in 1884 and 1885. From the Gulf of Guinea to the Horn of Africa and the Great Lakes Rift valley, African maritime boundary disputes are expected to rise dramatically, potentially curbing ongoing and impending oil and gas explorations as countries seek to extend their continental shelf beyond the 200 mile economic exclusion zone. Over 90 billion barrels of oil have already been discovered, with potential for another 70-80 billion barrels.
A diplomatic row between Malawi and Tanzania ensued over the latter’s decision to publish a new map before the two countries resolved a dispute over the boundaries of the gas and oil-rich Lake Nyasa/Malawi. The governments of Tanzania and Malawi have not yet effectively resolved the dispute, hence a potential threat of instability in the region. A dispute between Cameroon and Nigeria over the Bakassi peninsula caused a lot of upheavals in the region. In the Great Lakes area, massive hydrocarbon finds in Lake Albert have caused unease.
It is urgent that Africa comes up with mechanisms that will address these disputes before they flare up and get out of hand.