When we discuss border walls, the first ones that come to mind are the Berlin Wall, but in Africa, some border walls create controversies, and people somehow do not discuss them.
Although in some African countries, the proposed walls have generated arguments and counterarguments, no one seems to notice the other barriers that have been in existence for decades.
There are more walls dividing nations than we think
1. The Moroccan Wall
The Moroccan wall (or “Berm”) is a wall of 2600 kilometers that runs through Western Sahara. The wall is made of 3 meters high (10 feet) desert sand and is protected by barbed wire, radar, electric fences, Moroccan soldiers, and about seven million land mines. This makes it the longest minefield in the world and one of the most heavily guarded borders in the world.
This is because Western Sahara is a controversial area. However, most of us consider southern Morocco, the people that are part of the mostly unrecognized Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic. The Polisario Front, which also fights for independence and struggles for the recognition of the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic, controls the other half of Western Sahara just outside the wall.
The wall hasn’t prevented the Polisario Front from carrying out attacks on Moroccan troops across the border. Polisario Front fighters will easily dig under the edge to bypass the wall. The biggest losers of the conflict between Morocco and Polisario are the inhabitants of Western Sahara, who are captured on both sides of the fence. The landmines have murdered many of them.
2. The Electric Fence of Botswana – Zimbabwe
Botswana and Zimbabwe are separated by a 500-kilometer and 2-meter (6 ft) high electric fence built by Botswana. Botswana says the wall is needed to stop the spread of FMD (Food-and-mouth disease) brought in by cattle smuggled from Zimbabwe.
If that is correct, it is understandable why Botswana was worried about the disease. When the wall was proposed in 2003, Botswana was faced with a foot-and-mouth epidemic that caused farmers to kill thousands of cattle. This threatened her economy, in which livestock farming was the second primary source of income.
Zimbabwe, on their side, claims that the fence has nothing to do with the outbreak of the disease. Instead, Botswana attempts to keep Zimbabweans out. Zimbabwe experienced inflation and serious unemployment at the time the fence was proposed, causing many to cross the border into neighboring Botswana illegally.
Oddly enough, Botswana never activated the electric fence and did not patrol to stop people or animals from crossing illegally.
3. The Electric Fence of South Africa – Mozambique
South Africa has an electric fence on its borders with Zimbabwe and Mozambique. In 1990 the Mozambique part of the wall, which the locals referred to as the “snake of fire”, was designated for the death of hundreds of civilians who fled the Mozambican Civil War. The electric fence gave a deadly 3,500 volt shock to any person who get in contact with it.
Electric fences are usually available in lethal and non-lethal versions. The non-lethal ones can deliver shocks of up to 10,000 volts in milliseconds. This is enough to prevent people from trying to break the fence. But given the short period of contact, it’s not enough to take one’s life. The lethal variant, the type used in South Africa, delivers continuous shocks that will kill a person. Lucky survivors usually had severe burns or lost body parts.
The South African Catholic Refugee Agency claimed that the fence killed more than 200 civilians a year. Meanwhile, the South African Defense Forces contended that only 89 people died in three years. Whatever it is, the fence has killed more people than the Berlin Wall in 28 years. An entire industry even crawled around to avoid the wall with Mozambique citizens paying guides to show them the routes.
An alternative was to walk through the ruthless area leading directly to South Africa’s Kruger National Park, known for its pride of lions. A typical journey through the park to South Africa took 24 hours, enough time to be hunted and eaten by hungry lions. Soldiers guarding the park often saw the remains of people eaten by lions.
Some lions even turned into man-eaters, leaving behind their typical game for human flesh. They became so brutal that they attacked and killed reservists for food. The fence still exists, but it’s no longer electrified or guarded. It’s been cut in several places and has mostly fallen into disrepair.
4. The border wall of Egypt – Gaza
Unlike the other border walls we mentioned above, the barrier between Egypt and Gaza is underground. It was erected and constructed to stop the smuggling of weapons to Gaza through underground tunnels from Egypt. Israel has a strict blockade on Gaza and strictly controls what can and cannot be imported. This has generated controversies and caused problems for people who import products such as food.
To cross the borders, people have to smuggle stuff through tunnels from Egypt. Hamas controls these tunnels, and it provides relief and imposes taxes on the smuggled products. Hamas also has the secret tunnels that it uses to transport weapons. Although the wall was constructed to attack these secret tunnels, it will also affect the ordinary tubes used to transport food and similar essential items.
Egypt stated that the underground wall is 10 kilometers long and cannot be cut or melted. It was erected with the help of the US. Israel itself is constructing an underground wall above and below its 64-kilometer border with Gaza. The underground wall is meant to counter the tunnels that Hamas uses to launch attacks in Israel.