Journal Article

The Demarcation of Straddling Villages in Accordance with the International Court of Justice Jurisprudence: The Cameroon–Nigeria Experience

Gbenga Oduntan

in Chinese Journal of International Law

Volume 5, issue 1, pages 79-114
Published in print March 2006 | ISSN: 1540-1650
Published online February 2006 | e-ISSN: 1746-9937 | DOI:
The Demarcation of Straddling Villages in Accordance with the International Court of Justice Jurisprudence: The Cameroon–Nigeria Experience

Show Summary Details



Bi a ba ran eniyan ni ise eru ologbon afi ti omo je (Where instructions are insensitive and befitting of a slave, a reasonable fellow amends it sensitively and delivers it in a manner befitting the free).1

The existence of straddling settlements between Cameroon and Nigeria is one of the features of their geographical location as neighbouring West African States. Although the existence of these settlements did not constitute a central part of the boundary dispute between both States, implementation of the recent World Court judgment presents crucial dilemmas as to the treatment of straddling communities in particular and, to some extent, boundary villages as well. This article explores the alternatives that may be adopted in attaining a fair and just implementation of the Court's judgment in relation to straddling villages and boundary communities. The delimitation and demarcation of straddling villages and villages that fall into another State's territory are bound to be an increasingly common feature of the work of international courts and demarcation commissions as populations increase and the need to definitively specify borders increases. It is, therefore, necessary that a specialized jurisprudence is developed for this area of law. This article, therefore, attempts to highlight difficulties in the jurisprudence of the International Court of Justice in its work in this area and suggests a typology of factors that may be adopted in varying delimitation lines by adjudicators and demarcators. It also attempts a digest of what may represent good practice in the law of boundary delimitation and demarcation by examining similar cases around the world. The argument presented is that there is enough within the corpus of international law and international relations for courts to avoid splitting communities needlessly or subjecting populations to the whims and caprice of hostile States' territorial jurisdiction, particularly in relation to a continent such as Africa, which has suffered a long and unfair history of balkanization of its peoples and civilizations. The article makes the case that the World Court needs more law elaboration if not judicial activism in its delimitation work to avoid inadvertent complicity in the abuse of peoples' rights and to attain a more robust resolution of boundary disputes. The view advanced is that where aspects of the Court's delimitation may be unsatisfactory and contrary to the mutual interests of disputants, those charged with the task of implementing the Court's judgment must not be slavish in their appreciation of the spirit of judicial resolution. Where there is the danger that human and generational rights would be needlessly compromised, nothing apart from an unimaginative and unco-operative approach prevents demarcators from independently adopting a more holistic resolution of the dispute in the interest of human justice, such as by (within very strict limits) varying delimitation lines suggested by the Court in particular sectors.

Journal Article.  21017 words. 

Subjects: International Law

Full text: subscription required

How to subscribe Recommend to my Librarian

Users without a subscription are not able to see the full content. Please, subscribe or login to access all content. subscribe or login to access all content.