Pluralism of pluralisms [Post 14]

Africa: natives and settlers

There are several issues at stake in any situation that involves the intersection between sovereignty and cosmopolitanism. They may center on any of the elements that characterize a political community—i.e.  territory, population, government and law. For instance, in the particular case of territorial disputes, they may be characterized by reference to territorial sub-elements such as strategic location, territorial integrity and natural resources, to name a few. Yet, territorial disputes may be as well based on population—e.g. bordering minorities, refugee’s crisis, common ethnicity, etc. —government and law—e.g. political unification, leader’s prestige, legal entitlement. Similar to the Americas, territorial disputes in Africa [1] include several agents including (but not limited to) states.


Africa presents several territorial disputes[2] that are are either a) international differences, between African and non-African parties; or b) regional differences, between African parties only. The usual current causes have to do with natural resources and bordering minorities.

Resembling the cases in the Americas, they all share a common origin: European colonialism. The times of colonialism and Empire are long gone. Surprisingly, former colonial powers have still presence in Africa and dictate directly or indirectly the internal and international agenda in what geographically is a different continent, and legally and politically, a different entity. Currently, France—e.g. Banc du Geyser, Basas da India, Europa island, Juan de Nova island, Glorioso islands, Spain—e.g. Ceuta, islas Chafarinas, Melilla, and the United Kingdom—e.g. pervasive direct or indirect interference in many African regimes and direct right-peopling in Chagos islands—have a presence in these disputes.

Locally and regionally, whether autocracies or democracies, all governments face similar incentives.[3] With an estimate of more than 600 million people, Africa’s population growth rate is the highest in the world.[4] Africa’s population characteristics are tightly linked to natural resource conflicts. That is to say, although Africa is rich in natural resources there are significant challenges in terms of their management that might engender disputes and potential escalation into conflicts.[5]

Moroccan settlers in Western Sahara includes traits of both colonial past and socio-political more modern elements.[6] More precisely, since taking control of former Spanish Sahara, Morocco has encouraged migration into what is nowadays known as Western Sahara where we find the indigenous Sahrawi population. This results in tension between natives and settlers. Moreover, Frente POLISARIO (Frente Popular para la Liberación de Saguia el-Hamra y Río de Oro) counts with Algerian support in the area.

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Middle East: natives and settlers

Author of:

Territorial Disputes and State Sovereignty. International Law and Politics (London and New York: Routledge, Taylor and Francis Group, 2020).

Sovereignty Conflicts and International Law and Politics: A Distributive Justice Issue (London and New York: Routledge, Taylor and Francis Group, 2017).

Thursday 29th April 2021

Dr Jorge Emilio Núñez

Twitter: @DrJorge_World

[1] For a detailed account about territorial disputes in the Africa and Middle East see Jorge E. Núñez, Territorial Disputes and State Sovereignty: International Law and Politics (London and New York: Routledge, Taylor and Francis Group, 2020), chapter 8.

[2] For a brief, yet informative account see Alan Day, ed., Border and Territorial Disputes, London: Longman, 1987, 95-96; David Downing, An Atlas of Territorial Border Disputes, London: New English Library Limited, 1980, 58. For a complete and updated detail of territorial disputes in Africa see CIA’s Factbook (country by accessed 29/04/2021country)  available at accessed 29/04/2021.

[3] Christopher Macaulay and Paul R. Hensel, “Natural Resources and Territorial Conflict,” Department of Political Science, University of North Texas, 2014, available at accessed 29/04/2021.

[4] The Demographic Profile of African Countries, United Nations, Economic Commission for Africa, 2016, available at accessed 29/04/2021; Dilek Aykut and Monika Blaszkiewicz-Schwartzman, “Shaping the Future of Africa: Markets and Opportunities for Private Investors,” International Finance Corporation, 2018, available at accessed 29/04/2021

[5] Abiodun Alaw, Natural Resources and Conflict in Africa: The Tragedy of Endowment, University of Rochester Press, 2007.

[6] Jacob Mundy and Stephen Zunes, “Moroccan Settlers in Western Sahara: Colonists or Fifth Columns?” in Oded Haklai and Neophytos Loizides, eds., Settlers in Contested Lands. Territorial Disputes and Ethnic Conflicts (Stanford, California: Stanford University Press, 2015), 40-74.

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