4 Chi.-Kent J. Int'l & Comp. L. 1 (2004)

handle is hein.journals/chkjicl4 and id is 1 raw text is: 






                               The  Marouini River Tract And Its
                               Colonial Legacy in South America


                                      Thomas W.  Donovan*


I. Introduction


        In perhaps the most desolate and under-populated area in the South America lies one of the most
lingering boundary conflicts of modern nations. Suriname and French Guiana (an overseas colony of
France) dispute which of the upper tributaries of the Maroni River was originally intended to form the
southern extension of their border. The Maroni River exists as the northern boundary between the two
bordering nations on the Caribbean coast, and was intended to serve as the boundary to the Brazilian
      23
border. The disputed area, deemed the Marouini River Tract,3 is today administered by France under the
Overseas Department. Most modern maps, except those produced by Suriname, indicate that the land is a
possession of French Guiana. However, Suriname claims that it has always been the rightful owner of the
region and that France should relinquish it to them.
        The territory covers approximately 5,000 square miles of inland Amazon forest and apparently
contains significant bauxite, gold, and diamond resources and potential hydroelectric production. The area
has remained undeveloped and subject to dispute for over 300 years. It has received scant international
                                                                                  4
attention. And today it remains one of many borders in the Guianas that has resisted solution.  It is a
continuous reminder of the troubled colonial legacy in Latin America and the Caribbean.
         This paper will describe the historical roots of the dispute, the different claims over time, and the
legal precedents to support such claims. The paper will indicate that French Guiana would be more likely
to perfect title to the Marouini River Tract if the issue were ever referred to an international tribunal. Its

* B.A., M.A., American University; J.D. New York Law School; Intensive Arabic Institute, American
University in Cairo. All Dutch Translations are done by the author and should not be used as authoritative.
The author may be reached at tomdonovan @hotmail.com.

1 The Marouini River should not be confused with the Maroni River. The Marouini River is Suriname's
claim for its southeastern boundary with French Guiana. The Maroni River is used to describe the northern
boundary on the Caribbean coast, which is often labeled the Marowijne River. Ivan Sanderson, A
Journey in Dutch Guiana, GEOGRAPHICAL J., June 1939, at 472.

2 id.

3 The Marouini River Tract has also been labeled the Marouini River Triangle, or the Itany-Marouini
Triangle. For purposes of this paper, the Marouini River Tract is defined as the area between the Itany
and Marouini Rivers, bordered on the South by Brazil.

4 For a more complete discussion of the other border disputes in the Guianas see Thomas W. Donovan,
Challenges to the Territorial Integrity of Guyana: A Legal Analysis, GA. J. INT'L & COMP. L. (Spring
2004); Thomas W. Donovan, Suriname-Guyana  Maritime and Territorial Disputes: A Legal and Historical
Analysis, 13 FLA. ST. J. TRANSNAT'L L. & POL'Y 41, 41-98 (2003).


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