Settlement swap: Burkina Faso and Niger are exchanging 18 towns

Burkina Faso and Niger have agreed to exchange 18 towns as part of a deal seeking to settle the neighbouring countries’ long-running border dispute and end years of litigation.

Burkina Faso are the clear winners of the unprecedented amicable settlement, gaining 14 towns, while Niger will receive four. Permanent secretary of the Burkina Faso national border commission Joséphine Kouara Apiou/Kaboré announced the news last week, saying that the two African nations had between now and the end of 2016 to redraw the planned new boundaries.

As well as a past as a former French colony, Niger and Burkina Faso also share a 620 mile frontier, of which only a third has been mapped out at ground level.

The other two thirds of the border were hotly contested by both countries before finally being redefined in 2013 following a ruling by the international court of justice in the Hague.

The ruling decreed that the two countries should exchange vast chunks of territory, 303 square miles to Burkina Faso and 107 square miles to Niger. Now that the countries have agreed to implement that decision, a roadmap for town and citizenship swapping has been set out by authorities.

The Guardian quote Kourara Apiou as declaring that once the chunks of territory have been exchanged, authorities will undertake a census enabling affected locals to pick which nationality they would like to hold.

“They will have five years to make their choice,” she added.

Niger’s justice minister and government spokesman, Marou Amadou, also ratified the deal, saying that the old borders dated from as far back as 1926.

“The borders were drawn by non-Africans. Now we have settled this,” Amadou told AFP.

Image via European Commission DG ECHO / cc

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