Annan pledges UN support to Nigeria, Cameroon in Bakassi Peninsula ruling

Annan pledges UN support to Nigeria, Cameroon in Bakassi Peninsula ruling

The United Nations Secretary-General, Kofi Annan, today called on Nigeria and Cameroon to respect and implement the decision by the International Court of Justice (ICJ) to award sovereignty rights over the disputed Bakassi Peninsula to Cameroon.

In a statement released by a UN spokesman in New York, Mr. Annan commended the two countries for resorting to the ICJ for a peaceful settlement of their territorial dispute, "and for the steps they have recently taken to restore the fraternal and neighbourly relations that have traditionally existed between them."

The statement also reaffirmed the UN's readiness to help the two countries in the implementation of the Court's decision.

Citing a 1913 agreement between Germany and the United Kingdom, the ICJ today settled the issue of sovereignty over the oil-rich Peninsula and delineated the boundaries between Cameroon and Nigeria. Located at the border area in southeastern Nigeria, the Peninsula has been a subject of intense, sometimes violent, disputes between the two countries for dozens of years.

Apart from the 1913 document, the ICJ also based its decisions on an old colonial agreement, the Thomson-Marchland Declaration of 1929-1930 that was incorporated in another colonial document, the Henderson-Fleuriau Exchange of Notes of 1931 between Great Britain and France.

In its ruling today, which is final, binding and cannot be appealed, the ICJ requested Nigeria to "expeditiously and without condition withdraw its administration and military or police forces from the area of Lake Chad falling within Cameroonian sovereignty and from the Bakassi Peninsula." The Court also asked that Cameroon "expeditiously and without condition" remove its forces from the land boundary which, according to its ruling, fell within the sovereignty of Nigeria.

The ICJ noted Cameroon's promise to continue to protect Nigerians living in the Bakassi and Lake Chad areas and dismissed both countries' claims regarding "State responsibility."

In 1994, Cameroon asked the ICJ to rule on the dispute relating to the question of sovereignty, alleging that part of the territory was under military occupation by Nigeria. It also urged the Court to determine the maritime boundary between the two countries.

At a meeting on 5 September in Paris with the Secretary-General, President Olusegun Obasanjo of Nigeria and President Paul Biya of Cameroon gave their assurances that they would respect and implement the ICJ decision.

The two leaders also agreed on the need for confidence-building measures, the demilitarization of Bakassi, a visit to Nigeria by President Biya and the avoidance of inflammatory statements over the issue.