Should African borders be rebooted?

VHS

Ad Honorem
Dec 2015
4,673
Florania
We all know these borders are NOT related to any ethnic or national boundaries; they were colonial borders.
Consequently, some states have become extremely unsustainable.
What can currently be done about African borders?
 
Apr 2017
1,654
U.S.A.
That's the thing, if you start redrawing borders every country will make overlapping demands. It will almost assuredly lead to war and ethnic cleansing. It would be like if you went to the Balkans and talked about redrawing the borders from scratch. Europeans understood this and that's why they figured it was best just to leave the colonial boundaries intact. Yes, minor adjustments could easily make things better but it would encourage more border adjustments that could lead to conflict. The current trend is if a certain region of a country can't function with the rest, it will simply declare independence (even if borders a similar region of another country).
 

Ighayere

Ad Honorem
Jul 2012
2,638
Benin City, Nigeria
That's the thing, if you start redrawing borders every country will make overlapping demands. It will almost assuredly lead to war and ethnic cleansing. It would be like if you went to the Balkans and talked about redrawing the borders from scratch. Europeans understood this and that's why they figured it was best just to leave the colonial boundaries intact. Yes, minor adjustments could easily make things better but it would encourage more border adjustments that could lead to conflict. The current trend is if a certain region of a country can't function with the rest, it will simply declare independence (even if borders a similar region of another country).
You have it pretty much completely backwards - the borders that exist have led to very real ethnic cleansing and ethnically based conflicts leading to wars.

Actually there is ethnic cleansing going on right now in Nigeria. And this case has a lot to do with groups with no cultural unity being forced into the same country.

As for the claim that "every country will make overlapping demands", it would help if you could give some examples of what you are referring to specifically.
 
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AlpinLuke

Forum Staff
Oct 2011
27,187
Italy, Lago Maggiore
We all know these borders are NOT related to any ethnic or national boundaries; they were colonial borders.
Consequently, some states have become extremely unsustainable.
What can currently be done about African borders?
I agree that some borders have been simply traced following colonial interests and geometrical methods [some borders are straight lines ...] and that probably something should be done. My opinion is that, being this an African matter, African countries should agree about creating a commission to study the problem. Anyway, any suggested modification should be matter of referendum in all the countries involved. If one population doesn't accept the modification on a side of the present border, nothing should be changed.
 
Apr 2017
1,654
U.S.A.
You have it pretty much completely backwards - the borders that exist have led to very real ethnic cleansing and ethnically based conflicts leading to wars.

Actually there is ethnic cleansing going on right now in Nigeria. And this case has a lot to do with groups with no cultural unity being forced into the same country.

As for the claim that "every country will make overlapping demands", it would help if you could give some examples of what you are referring to specifically.
Okay, this will be a long post. For simplicity I will exclude some of the north African border disputes and primarily concentrate on sub-Saharan Africa. Also keep in mind some of the existing states would cease to be as some of these peoples form their own states (leading to a war over the naming of these regions).
The Taureg of southern Algeria, niger and mali would claim independence.
The Fulani scattered across Nigeria, Guinea, Niger, Mali, Mauritania, Cameroon, Senegal, Burkina Faso, Ghana, Benin, Guinea-Bissau, Gambia, Ivory Coast and other countries would claim their own state, which would lead to ethnic cleansing with the other peoples there.
The Hausa of northern Nigeria and southern Niger could claim a state, this would overlap with Niger, Nigeria, the Fulani territory and others.
The Kanuri near lake Chad would claim their own state in Nigeria, chad and Niger, which would cut of access to lake chad for these countries (although its drying up anyway...).
The Yoruba of Nigeria, Benin and other countries would claim a state, which would destroy the state of Benin (look at an ethnic map).
The Songhai people of Mali and Niger may claim a state, dividing up those states.
The various Mande people of west Africa may split/merge from their countries (too many for me to list).
Chad could easily split between muslim north and Christian/pagan south but the ethnic borders of the northern peoples overlaps with Niger and Libya, the Sara people of southern Chad spill over into the Central African Republic.
The Ivory Coast would dissolve into four linguistic zones.
The Ewe people of Ghana and Togo may want to unite.
The Fon people of Nigeria and Benin may want to unite.
The non Ashanti people of northern Ghana may succeed.
Liberia, Senegal and Sierra Leone could dissolve into a dozen factions.
The Fulani of Guinea may want their own state, which would divide the country in half.
Ethiopia would dissolve into a dozen states, with fighting over mixed and border regions.
Somalia would claim eastern Ethiopia, northern Kenya and parts of Djibouti.
The Congo would dissolve into a dozen factions with possible overlaps from bordering states. Including Rwanda, Burundi and eastern Congo (pretty much a bigger version of the ethnic cleansing of Rwanda). The Congo's already been in effective civil war for decades, this would jack it up to 11.
The Caprivi strip of Namibia would succeed but then Namibia would lose access to important water source.
The Muslim half of Tanzania may succeed from the Christian/animist interior (brutal civil war easily possible).
Darfur in Sudan war again.
South Africa could dissolve into all kinds of factions, black, white, Zulu, Indian, Veda, Xhosa, Swazi (spill over to Swaziland), Tsonga, Sotho, Sesotho, Ndebele, Tsonga, Tswana (some of these spill over to Zimbabwe).
This is just the stuff off the top of my head, i'm not counting the various small populations of peoples who may claim independence or may prefer rule of a neighboring country. All of this would trigger wars by the countries losing such territories or breaking up. Neighboring states may try to claim the small regions to "protect" them from the oppressive states.
 

tomar

Ad Honoris
Jan 2011
13,900
Perhaps the answer is not further division or subdivision but rather some supra national entity (such as the EU but not necessarily exactly similar).. But as Alpin Luke mentionned this is a matter to be decided among the countries themselves , not something imposed from the outside.. Of course if said countries feel they need an independent arbitrage, some non african entities could be called upon...
 
Apr 2017
1,654
U.S.A.
Perhaps the answer is not further division or subdivision but rather some supra national entity (such as the EU but not necessarily exactly similar).. But as Alpin Luke mentionned this is a matter to be decided among the countries themselves , not something imposed from the outside.. Of course if said countries feel they need an independent arbitrage, some non african entities could be called upon...
Indeed, trying to create ethnic states in Africa would be a never ending conflict, the best course would be some sort of unity. The east African Community (EAC) is a good start.
 

Ighayere

Ad Honorem
Jul 2012
2,638
Benin City, Nigeria
Okay, this will be a long post. For simplicity I will exclude some of the north African border disputes and primarily concentrate on sub-Saharan Africa. Also keep in mind some of the existing states would cease to be as some of these peoples form their own states (leading to a war over the naming of these regions).
The Taureg of southern Algeria, niger and mali would claim independence.
Did you miss the fact that this has already happened? And that there was already fighting, some of which is still ongoing? There was a war in northern Mali centered around precisely this issue.

I don't see how forcing them to stay in states that they don't want to be in would be a way to avoid violence.

But anyway, since they have sought Islamist or jihadist backing for their movement they are extremely unlikely to get their own country now.

The Fulani scattered across Nigeria, Guinea, Niger, Mali, Mauritania, Cameroon, Senegal, Burkina Faso, Ghana, Benin, Guinea-Bissau, Gambia, Ivory Coast and other countries would claim their own state, which would lead to ethnic cleansing with the other peoples there.
They already had their own states - the Tukulor empire and the Sokoto empire being the main states.

And they don't actually have that much land or such a substantial population in that many states. Because some of them were/are nomads, they migrated to some other areas in limited numbers, but outside of certain areas of Sahelian west Africa they do not actually have so much land in such amounts to where we can talk of so many actual Fulani states being created unless one is talking about city-states or micro-states, which is entirely possible.

Also, Fulani semi-nomadic pastoralists are currently carrying out ethnic cleansing in Nigeria. I can't fathom how keeping them restricted to their own state(s) would somehow be what would result in ethnic cleansing.

Rather the exact opposite would occur if Fulani states were created: those groups (such as the peoples of central Nigeria) who were or are at risk of ethnic cleansing at the hands of Fulani nomads would now be able to suppress their marauding activities properly, through the use of an army or other security forces to keep them restricted to their own designated states.

You have this completely upside down.

The Hausa of northern Nigeria and southern Niger could claim a state, this would overlap with Niger, Nigeria, the Fulani territory and others.
No.

The Fulanis in Nigeria - who had been migrating into the Hausa area of what is now Nigeria since the 15th or 16th century - have already intermarried extensively with the Hausas for a long time and most of them have a shared culture. For all intents and purposes we can talk of a "Hausa-Fulani" cultural group in Nigeria, in addition to a smaller number of pure Hausas and pure Fulanis. If the pure Hausas or the pure Fulanis want their own states, they might be able to have them if something is worked out - but the truth is that much of northwest and north-central Nigeria would just reconstitute itself into a state which bears a significant resemblance to the Sokoto empire, in which both Fulanis and Hausas had a shared culture.

The Hausa in Niger already had their own states prior to colonization - I can't see why they couldn't return to those.

This "overlapping claims" to territory that you imagine here is fictional.

The Kanuri near lake Chad would claim their own state in Nigeria, chad and Niger, which would cut of access to lake chad for these countries (although its drying up anyway...).
The Kanuri near lake Chad "cutting off access to lake Chad" for Nigeria, Chad, and Niger does not make sense. The Kanuri did have their own state for centuries; it was called Kanem and later called the Bornu empire. At no time in those centuries did water cease to flow in the rivers in the region, nor did other peoples near the lake cease to have access to the lake. Please explain clearly what you are talking about here.

The Yoruba of Nigeria, Benin and other countries would claim a state, which would destroy the state of Benin (look at an ethnic map).
How would "destroying" the completely made-up artificial state of Benin (The Republic of Benin) be some sort of huge problem? I have a pretty good idea of the ethnic distribution, and I don't see what the real problem is with splitting it up, unless one believes (for some strange reason) that the Republic of Benin must be preserved at all costs.

The Songhai people of Mali and Niger may claim a state, dividing up those states.
And? That would be the entire point, so how is this even an argument against redrawing borders?

The various Mande people of west Africa may split/merge from their countries (too many for me to list).
The Mande people of west Africa would form their own states; yes, so what? Some of the Mande people had already done this (with the Wassoulou empire) when the French invaded in the 19th century. What is the controversy here?

It's somehow controversial that Mande (or predominantly Mande) states should exist?

Chad could easily split between muslim north and Christian/pagan south but the ethnic borders of the northern peoples overlaps with Niger and Libya, the Sara people of southern Chad spill over into the Central African Republic.
Yes. . .and? What is wrong with splitting up Chad? They have had two civil wars. The 2005-2010 civil war was along religious/cultural lines - north vs south, Muslim vs. Christian.

The Ivory Coast would dissolve into four linguistic zones.
So what?

Is it mandatory that the Ivory Coast exist as one unit?

They also had a civil war along north-south and cultural/religious lines just like Chad did, and there was a second crisis that would have led to a civil war (sometimes called Ivory Coast's second civil war) even after that.

The Ewe people of Ghana and Togo may want to unite.
And why would this be a problem?

The Fon people of Nigeria and Benin may want to unite.
Yes, and? So what? There was already a Fon kingdom historically, called Dahomey. So this would be controversial because. . .?

And when this Fon kingdom is created, the Bariba of the Republic of Benin can join those of Nigeria, while the Yoruba of the Republic of Benin can join the Yoruba of Nigeria, and the Zarma people of the Republic of Benin can join those of Nigeria and Niger, and so on.

The non Ashanti people of northern Ghana may succeed.
So what. . .why is this controversial? There were already independent states there in the past.
 
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Ighayere

Ad Honorem
Jul 2012
2,638
Benin City, Nigeria
Liberia, Senegal and Sierra Leone could dissolve into a dozen factions.
Senegal is mainly composed of the Wolof, Serer, Fulani, and Mande. That makes up the vast majority of the population. The much smaller groups could form city states or smaller states. There need not be "a dozen factions" when four major countries could be formed (and two of those groups - the Fulani and the Mande - could instead join co-ethnics from other countries in west Africa, making there only two new major countries) with a few much smaller states in addition to those.

The Casamance conflict suggests to me that the Jola people should be given their own state as well.

The Fulani of Guinea may want their own state, which would divide the country in half.
So what is the controversy in dividing it in half?

Anyway, the Fulani in Guinea could be joined to the Fulani in Senegal, and the Mande in Guinea likewise could be joined to other Mande groups, while some other smaller groups could get their own states or join whatever group they get along better with.

Ethiopia would dissolve into a dozen states, with fighting over mixed and border regions.
This depends on whether cultural links and shared historical ties keep them together or not.

But anyway, parts of Ethiopia were forcibly united into one state by the leaders of the Ethiopian empire in the 19th century, not by Europeans, and that smaller state might still continue to exist even if modern Ethiopia is broken up. However if some groups want independence then they would have to win wars of rebellion or some consensus would have to be achieved by Ethiopia's government allowing some groups to leave under the ethnic federalization policy that they have adopted.

Somalia would claim eastern Ethiopia, northern Kenya and parts of Djibouti.
And?

The concept of a "Greater Somalia" has actually driven some of the conflict that has gone on in that region (the Horn of Africa) in the relatively recent past.

Why would just giving them the Greater Somalia that some of the Somali nationalists want necessarily be some great problem? Even some sort of Somali federation of autonomous republics could be created if a single unified and centralized state wasn't able to be created.

Kenya would probably save some money here, since they would have fewer rebels (or "freedom fighters") of Somali origin to fight against, and also have a smaller refugee population.

The Congo would dissolve into a dozen factions with possible overlaps from bordering states. Including Rwanda, Burundi and eastern Congo (pretty much a bigger version of the ethnic cleansing of Rwanda). The Congo's already been in effective civil war for decades, this would jack it up to 11.
The argument you're making here is very unclear to me.

You're claiming that giving separatists what they want (their own states) would lead them to carry out a civil war to separate?

What sense does that make?

The Caprivi strip of Namibia would succeed but then Namibia would lose access to important water source.
Even if it were independent of Namibia, some resource sharing agreement could still be worked out.

And there are multiple rivers in Namibia that the other people in Namibia could still get some of their water from. Plus there's also this:

Africa: Massive water source found under Namibia could last 400 years

Vast African water source found

The Muslim half of Tanzania may succeed from the Christian/animist interior (brutal civil war easily possible).
This doesn't make sense.

Why would splitting along religious lines (if that is even what the Tanzanians want) somehow lead to a "brutal civil war"? On the contrary, splitting up is exactly what would prevent it (assuming that the background tensions for such a war would ever develop there).

Anyway, in real life, Tanzanians were unified, mostly by Nyerere's efforts, and also by a common language (Swahili), so this breakup isn't likely to happen.

Darfur in Sudan war again.
There was a kingdom of Darfur.

Those people in Sudan that are fighting in the ongoing war against the government are doing so in order to free themselves from the oppression that they have faced. How would giving the people of Darfur their own state - which is what existed in the past anyway - be such a huge problem? In fact the conflict that is occurring could be avoided by just giving those groups their own state, so I don't see how redrawing the border here would create a problem. Clearly it would solve a huge problem.

South Africa could dissolve into all kinds of factions, black, white, Zulu, Indian, Veda, Xhosa, Swazi (spill over to Swaziland), Tsonga, Sotho, Sesotho, Ndebele, Tsonga, Tswana (some of these spill over to Zimbabwe).
A Tswana country already exists - it's called Botswana. If the Tswana in South Africa wanted to unite with Botswana, or form a second Tswana state, they could just do so. What is the controversy here?

Any Basotho people in South Africa could join Lesotho.

Zulu, Xhosa, and Ndebele fall into one linguistic group, and they may not be so culturally incompatible. But if these groups can't get along with each other despite their shared struggles in the previous century, then just let them have their own states.

The Tsonga could be joined with those of Mozambique. The Venda can get their own states, and the Khoisan and other groups can do as they like with whatever territory is left I suppose.

All of this is even assuming that SA is actually having the scale of dissension that countries like Nigeria or Chad or the Central African Republic have had or are having - which isn't the case, since there is actually a shared struggle among many groups and a unifying political history in the 20th century.

All of this would trigger wars by the countries losing such territories or breaking up.
I think that we have different interpretations of the premise of the thread.

To me, the premise of this thread was not whether Africans should do what Europeans did in the 19th and 20th centuries and fight multiple wars that leave many millions of people dead, in order to resolve disputes about territory and form more appropriate borders for distinct cultural groups, but rather whether the borders should be literally redrawn (without groups just unilaterally declaring independence and attempting an armed secession) by consensus and new countries created that correspond to national or cultural groups.

Almost nothing listed above by you makes any sense as an argument against redrawing borders. Instead, you have just provided a list that shows how arbitrary and pointless many of the borders that actually were created are. Trying to make these examples seem like controversies is strange. Most of these are not controversies at all and they do not constitute a valid argument against redrawing borders. Mande states are not controversial and they have historical precendents, a Yoruba state is not controversial, a Fon state is not controversial, and so on. All of these are made to seem like controversies only when viewing things from the warped and perverse viewpoint that all of the existing states absolutely have to be preserved at all cost (for whatever reason).

If the issue you sought to address with your post is whether all of the people in all of these cases should unilaterally declare independence and foment armed rebellions to achieve it, then it's obvious that such actions would be very destructive and take a huge toll and anyone can agree with that. But that is not what the thread starter asked about. VHS simply asked what can be done, not whether all groups should declare independence unilaterally and fight wars to achieve independence, without any peaceful talks among multiple states about creating countries with borders containing only distinct or compatible groups. And anyway, the only reason in many of these cases that they might even have to do something like that (declare independence and try to carry out separatist rebellions) is because of the bizarre borders that were drawn up in the first place to make the current countries. It would not be easy at all, but if some agreement were to be reached among African countries about actually redrawing borders along cultural lines then that would end or prevent a lot of present and future conflicts.
 
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Tulius

Ad Honorem
May 2016
5,972
Portugal
Hi Ighayere,

Let me ask you strait forward, what is your opinion about a possibly redraw of the country borders in Africa?

I must say that personally I am sceptic about the benefits, but with the events in the last decade or two, I am receptive to the possible benefits of different perspectives.