African Nations Moving to Close Their Own Borders

A number of African nations including Nigeria, Kenya, Rwanda, and Sudan have closed their borders in recent months just as Europe is relaxing its own external borders.

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Last Monday, Nigeria’s customs agency confirmed that it had closed its land borders indefinitely, preventing any movement of goods in an attempt to limit smuggling. “The export and import of goods across land borders is forbidden to ensure total control over what arrives,” said Abuja Hameed Ali, general controller of the Nigerian customs service.

Mr. Ali’s announcement was the first official confirmation of a Nigeria’s move to seal its borders, which had been reported by local media since August.

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“We are developing strategies on how to best manage goods when we are ready, the block will gradually cease,” Ali said.

Last week, a Nigerian bishop said he is in favor of border walls because they protect the lives of citizens and allow for controlled, legal migration. Bishop Matthew Kukah of Sokoto said that sealed borders ensure that migration is carried out in an orderly fashion and protect law-abiding citizens from criminals.

“For me as a Nigerian, I would gladly recommend walls especially for the northern parts of Nigeria where thousands of murderers, bandits and outlaws have invaded and claimed the lives of hundreds of citizens, destroyed hundreds of communities and so on,” the bishop said.

For its part, Sudan has closed its borders with Libya and the Central African Republic for “security reasons,” officials have declared. A statement issued by the Sudanese authorities said that any vehicle crossing the border between these two nations does so illegally.

In June, Kenya closed its border with Somalia and suspended cross-border trade as part of security operations against the al-Shabaab terrorist group. “In addition to safety concerns, we are also aware of human trafficking and narcotics, which must cease,” said police chief Kioi Muchangi, adding that “the border will remain closed until further notice.” Kenya has repeatedly closed its border with Somalia, either for security or diplomatic reasons.

In August, Uganda and Rwanda agreed to reopen borders between the two countries and pledged to resolve a diplomatic dispute that had raised fears of hostility. Rwanda had closed a busy border crossing with Uganda in February, accusing the neighbor of having carried out excessive checks on its citizens and supporting the rebel groups against the Kigali government.

Rwanda also recently briefly closed its border with the Democratic Republic of Congo for health reasons, following the confirmation of a third death from Ebola in the Congolese city of Goma. The city is located just opposite the Rwandan city of Gisenyi and many residents of the two cities cross the border for work and other activities.

Equatorial Guinea announced plans in August to build a wall along its shared border with Cameroon. Equatorial Guinea has accused Cameroon of having illegally brought Western Africans into its territory.

As one of Africa’s wealthiest nations, Equatorial Guinea has been particularly attentive to border security following the arrest of 30 heavily armed men from Chad, Sudan and CAR along the border in what it perceived as an “attempted coup d’état by mercenaries.”

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