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THE IMPACT OF BORDER COMMUNITY CONFLICTS ON INTER-STATE RELATIONS IN WEST AFRICA: A CASE STUDY OF LOLO AND MADECALI COMMUNITIES OF NIGERIA AND BENIN REPUBLIC
1.0 Background to the Study
Border conflicts have been a regular feature of state interactions in West Africa. The pattern of state-making in West Africa clearly explains why territorial entities go into war with one another. The reason for this is that the whole of West Africa (with the exception of Liberia), was colonized by the European states particularly Britain, France and Portugal. These colonialists separated socio-communal settings and their ethno-linguistic groupings as well as their socio-political structures and institutions that regulate inter-communal relations. This led to the creation of numerous intra and inter-states boundaries that gradually emerged from a series of agreements and conventions between the colonial powers (Ahmad, 2014).
The origin of the Nigeria-Benin boundary was from the Anglo-French Conventions of 1889, 1896 and 1898 (Brownlie, 1979:166).This provides the basis for the delimitation of their respective possessions to the West of the River Niger and of their respective possessions and spheres of influence to the East of the River. The Nigeria-Benin boundary was demarcated (by the Whiteman) in the southern (the Onigbolo Sector) from the River Niger up to the Sea using pillars and geographical features. In the Northern (the Illo-BorguSector), the border however, was not fully demarcated.
These colonial origin of political frontiers in West Africa led to cross-border conflicts which mostly revolve around the legal status of nationhood or the identity, being and belonging syndrome; the reterritorialization of communities in terms of migration and the mass movement of people through trans-border processes; clandestine activities; disputes over land, vital interest or territorial waters; problems of boundary demarcation, etc.
Despite the incessant cross-border conflicts and the fractured pattern of socio-communal interactions in West Africa, inter-state relations across territorial borders in the sub-region have taken a new dimension particularly from the 1970s onwards. The leaders of the West Africa sub-region (through the formation of the Economic Community of West African States ECOWAS) recognized in the early seventies that promoting strong inter-states relations among member-states would have an impact on the structure of the Western-imposed boundaries and would provide a new approach for peaceful cohesion among ethno-communal settings for better relations along border zones in the entire region (ECOWAS Annual Report, 2000:105).
The Lolo-Madecali border of Nigeria and Benin Republic is one of the busiest socio-economic routes for inter-state relations between the two states in the Western axis. Although, the border is not a major route, socio-economic activities (fishing, farming and trading as well as cross-border trade) and inter-communal marriages between the two communities has a long historical origin.
However,as a result of the vagueness in the definition of the international boundary between Nigeria and Benin, the area between Lolo and Madecali became the source of disputes by the two communities. Based on the Anglo-French convention of 1898 (the General Delimitation Instruments between the British and French), the Lolo-Madecali border is define by a line from “pillar 35” (which is on top of a hill about 2 km south of Madecali) to River Niger (National Boundary Commission, 2006:6).Thus, the area remain undefined, while the mathematical lines of the two countries by which the spheres of influence of the colonial powers as were defined by the Anglo-French conventions are variously modified.
Due to the absence of clear boundary separating the two communities, issues relating to farmland remain the major bone of contention. Claims and counter-claims to the disputed area of
Tungan-Kungi were laid by the two communities attributed to values embedded in identity, citizenship and territorial question.There is deep sentimental attachment to oral traditions handed over from one generation to another.
Although, neither Benin nor Nigeria has contested the alignment,an area called “Tungan-Kungi” straddling the two communities is the main area of contention. At a point in 2009, the people of Madecali raized down the village and chased out all the farmers in that area. This led to communal conflicts, demolition of houses and destruction of propertieswhich affected the nature of interactions between the two communities. This study therefore, unearths the nature of the 2009 border community conflict between Lolo and Madecali and its impact on inter-states relations between Nigeria and Benin.
1.1 Statement of Research Problem
Many of the borders in West Africa were imprecise due to the haphazard natureof the West African boundaries designed arbitrarily by European colonialists. Some of these boundaries were drawn as straight lines, while others often cut across ethnic and linguistic lines. In other words, communities who are previously related and politically united found themselves on opposite sides of the boundary lines. This creates room for community cross-border conflicts along the border regions in West Africa.
As such, Lack of clearly demarcated boundary between Lolo and Madecali over Tungan-Kungi area presents a challenge to cross-border relations between Nigeria and Benin Republic. The British and French Colonialists dividedthe two entities unilaterally without taken into cognizance the dynamics of the affected communities. Based on the Anglo-French convention
of1898, the Lolo-Madecali border is defined by a line from “pillar 35” (which is on top of a hill about 2 km south of Madecali) to River Niger.
The two towns remain undefined while the mathematical lines dividing the two communities are variously modified bytheAnglo-FrenchAgreement of October 1906; the Demarcation Agreement of July 1912; the Exchange of Notes of February 1914 and the 1960 Description. However, claims over farmland became an issue of great concern for both communities. Both communities lay claims to the disputed area of Tungan-Kungi. While Lolo residents cited both historical sentiments, migration trends and marital linkages to justify their claims; Madecali residents on the other hand attached factors which include land rights and original occupancy as well as administrative control of the area.
Strong patriotic zeal and the expression of nationalist philosophy further complicate tension in the border area of the two entities. This led to community cross border conflict between Lolo and Madecali in 2009 over the actual boundary demarcation, the legal status of nationhood, and the claim of ownership of the territorial land.
Other factors which include: socio-economy (agricultural and food insecurity, poverty and decrease flow of trans-border traders, as well as unemployment and significant increase in prices of imported goods); humanitarian consequences (forced displacement, problem of reintegration and upsetting of civilians); as well as educational factor and lack of clear policies to administer the border (underdevelopment, shortage of infrastructure and disorganization of the family system) threatened the living standard of the border residents.
However, these affected the nature of cross-border relations between the two communities despite the strategic location of the area for cross border activities. This research
therefore examines the nature of the 2009 border conflict between Lolo and Madecali and its impacts on inter-state relations between Nigeria and Benin.
- What are the factors responsible for community cross-borderconflicts in West Africa?
- What are the causes of the border community conflict between Lolo and Madecali communities of Nigeria and Benin?
- What are the impacts of the Lolo and Madecali border community conflict on Nigeria and Benin inter-state relations?
- How effective are the mechanisms put in place for resolving the conflict between Lolo and Madecali?
1.3Objectives of the Study
The objectives of this study are:
- To examine the factors responsible for community cross-border conflicts in West Africa.
- To examine the causes of the border community conflict between Lolo and Madecali communities of Nigeria and Benin.
- To examine the impacts of the Lolo and Madecali border community conflict on Nigeria and Benin inter-state relations.
- To assess the effectiveness of the mechanisms put inplace for resolvingthe conflict between Lolo and Madecali.