- A UN Trust Fund has awarded the government's of Benin and Niger US$ 350,000 each to help defray the costs of settling their border dispute at the International Court of Justice (ICJ). The neighbours two year ago jointly asked the ICJ to settle their border conflict peacefully.
The Beninese and Nigerien government went to the The Hague-based Court in May 2002, asking that it determine the course of the boundary between them in the River Niger and the River Mekrou.
They want the ICJ to spell out which state owns each of the islands in that river, particularly the larger Lété Island. They are also seeking a determination on the boundary between Benin and Niger in the River Mekrou, flowing into River Niger. The entire Niger-Benin border is defined by these two rivers.
Most international maps show the entire Niger and Mekrou Rivers as part of Niger's national territory, but Benin holds that several river islands are indeed Beninese, referring to old district border documentation, set up by the former French colonial power.
The governments of Niger and Benin previously had met in Cotonou to seek to reach an agreement on their border, which has been a matter of peaceful dispute for decades. Not finding common ground in Cotonou, the two neighbours decided to leave the final decision to the ICJ.
According to this Cotonou Agreement of April 2002, it was now up to the Court to "determine the course of the boundary" between Niger and Benin. Further, the agreement says the two foes are to "undertake to preserve peace, security and quiet among the peoples of the two states" while the case is pending.
These peaceful ambitions have now been rewarded by a UN Trust Fund, the UN today reports from News York. The UN Trust Fund, which was set up in 1989 specifically to encourage states to take their disputes to the ICJ, has so far made grants to six countries.
- Taking a case to the ICJ can be especially expensive for poorer countries, the UN admits. "The trust fund grants are made on the condition that the money is strictly used to defray those expenses incurred," it added. The grants follow the recommendation of a three-member international panel of experts to approve the applications of Benin and Niger.
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