125- Frontier Dispute (Benin/Niger)

Benin and Niger signed a Special Agreement on June 15th,2001 in which the two countries agreed to submit to the International Court of Justice (ICJ) their dispute concerning “the definitive delimitation of the whole boundary between them”. On May 3rd, 2002, they notified the Court which, in an order dated November 27th, 2002 agreed to hear the case.

The ICJ delivered its judgment on the merits of the case on July 12th, 2005. After a brief historical and geographical review, it focused on the issue of the applicable law. Classically, it noted that the principle of uti possidetis juris should apply. It is a Latin expression generally translated as ”you will possess what you already possessed”. This refers to the legal principle whereby, upon independence, new States inherit the territories and boundaries of the former colonial provinces. The question was therefore to delimit the borders which were in effect at the end of the French colonisation.

The ICJ was particularly interested in the course in the River Niger sector. Since no conventional title could definitively define where the border was located, the Court sought ”effectivites”, that is to say acts constituting a manifestation of the authority of a State over a given territory. At the end of that examination, the Chamber concluded that the boundary between Benin and Niger in that sector follows the main navigable channel of the River Niger as it existed at the dates of independence. Consequently, Benin had title to the islands situated between the boundary thus defined and the right bank of the river and Niger had title to the islands between that boundary and the left bank of the river.

The Court also concluded that in the in the River Mekrou sector, the boundary between Benin and Niger was constituted by the median line of that river.

Judgment of 12-07-2005.pdf

This summary of the facts of this case and the proceedings is only proposed for informational purposes, does not engage Dome in any way and cannot replace the careful reading of the judgments and orders of the case.