INTERNATIONAL RIVERS AS BOUNDRIES- Salman M.A. Salman– The International Court of Justice recently (1999) gave its determination on rivers which serves as a boundary between two states as illustrated in the case of Botswana and Namibia regarding the Kasikili-Sedudu island and the Chobe River system based on the Anglo-German treaty of July 1, 1890, 31 years after our August 30, 1859 Belize-Guatemala treaty.
The ICJ after intense research, confirmed what has been known to us regarding rivers which are boundaries between states. Because the treaty between Britain and Germany regarding Botswana and Namibia did not have the word “boundary”, the ICJ had to include that in their argument regarding the case, the language of the treaty also had to be brought up to date for modern usage to assist in their ruling, for example, the thalweg which is the German term meaning “the way downward” had to be explained that it not only means “main channel” or “center of the river”.
The Chobe River flows through six (6) countries (i.e. six independent states) on its way to the Indian Ocean, therefore, the ICJ had to be specific in a ruling which would affect all those states.
From my research these are some requirements:
a) Maximum depth of the river had to be done through sounding.
b) Width and river bed profile had to be determined.
c) Configuration to be done scientifically by satellite photography.
d) Manageability and water flow characteristics had to be studied.
The total cost of taking the dispute to the ICJ was US 64 million dollars.
The ICJ under its President, Judge Stephen Schwebel voted 11 to 4 to award Botswana with a victory in the case, the court ruled that the flags of both nations (e.g. Belize and Guatemala) should enjoy equal national treatment along the river. The BDF (Botswana Defense Force) and the Namibian troops MUST obey this judgement. My good friends from Namibia, to their credit, shook hands with officials from Botswana on receiving the verdict of the ICJ and went on with their lives.