The Sultanate of Oman is an Arab nation situated in the Arabian Peninsula which occupies a land area of 119,500 square miles. The two countries with which Oman shares a land border are the UAE and Yemen, with the UAE being situated north of Oman while Yemen is situated south of the Sultanate. In the early 21st century, the international border of Oman has been grappling with insecurity challenges, particularly its border with Yemen and as a result, a large section of the border features border fences or border walls to contain illegal cross-border activities.
Yemen is situated south of Oman and is one of the two countries that Oman shares a land border with. The border between the two countries is 187 miles in length. The tri-point connecting Saudi Arabia, Oman, and Yemen represents the start of the border from where it moves southwards until it reaches the Arabian Sea. The border was delineated in 1992 after the merging of North Yemen and South Yemen, and was formalized after the two countries (Oman and Yemen) signed the agreement. The agreement provided for the movement of people and livestock across the border, the use of water sources on the border, and grazing rights. As a gesture of goodwill, Oman provided the Yemeni government with a $21 million loan to construct a road that would link the two countries.
Completed in the 2000s, the road has been instrumental in boosting the international trade between the two countries, as well as the legal cross-border movement of people. Oman also set up the Al Mazyouna economic hub near the border in 1999 to tap into the growing bilateral trade between the two countries. There are several sensitive international facilities found near the border, one being the Royal Air Force of Oman airbase. The airbase is situated about 50 miles from the international border and is one of the largest in Oman. The Royal Air Force of Oman airbase has been used by the United States for many years as a result of a diplomatic agreement between the two countries. Yemeni and Omani residents living along the border have deep ties on either side of the border through marriages. Many people residing in Al Mahrah province in Yemen hold Oman citizenship as proof of the deep ties shared across the border.
Yemen: Border Insecurity
The AQAP (an acronym for the Al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula) is the most significant security threat along the Yemen-Oman international border. Yemen has been battling the terrorist group for years, and the effects of the ongoing war against the group have spilled over to neighboring Oman. Unlike the rest of the country, the province of Al Mahrah is relatively peaceful and therefore acts as a buffer safeguarding Oman from the violent extremists from the AQAP. Thousands of people fleeing the carnage caused by the Yemeni war have fled to Al Mahrah where Oman has been sending humanitarian assistance in the form of medical supplies, food, and tents. However, there have been concerns that the AQAP fighters could infiltrate into Oman disguised as refugees, as they flee military offensive from the Yemeni government. As a remedy, Oman has embarked in a controversial project that involves the construction of a wall along the porous northern part of the border, delimiting the Omani governorate of Dhohar and Yemen’s province of Al Mahrah.
The UAE: Border
The UAE is the other country with which Oman shares a land border. The country is situated north of Oman. The international border between the UAE and Oman starts at the tri-point connecting the two countries with Saudi Arabia and extends northward reaching the Gulf of Oman. The two bordering countries signed an agreement on the delineation of the border in 1999. Recently, the UAE claimed that there was an increase in drug and human trafficking across the border. To counter the illegal cross-border activities, the UAE decided to construct a border fence spanning the length of the international border. The border fence is expected to affect the tourism industry in Oman, with such effects already being felt in Kithnah and Wadi Madbah. The border towns of Buraimi (in Oman) and Al Ain (in the UAE) have been traditional sister towns, with the two towns having deep ties. For many years, Al Ain and Buraimi have experienced informal cross-border activities, since the international border delimiting the two towns was invisible. However, the construction of the border fence has restricted the cross-border activities between the two border towns.
The Madha Exclave
Oman also has land territory within the UAE in the form of an exclave known as Madha. The exclave covers an area of 29 square miles is governed as part of the Musandam governorate. The exclave is situated inside the UAE’s Emirate of Sharjah and has a population of about 3,000 inhabitants. Interestingly inside the Madha exclave is a counter-exclave known as Nahwa which forms part of the UAE. There is low economic and infrastructural development in Madha, with the only area with considerable development being New Madha, which is also where the majority of the exclave’s population resides.