UN-chaired commission on Cameroon-Nigeria Bakassi dispute holds first session

UN-chaired commission on Cameroon-Nigeria Bakassi dispute holds first session

A United Nations-chaired panel on the Cameroon-Nigeria border dispute over the Bakassi Peninsula held its first formal session today in Yaoundé.

The meeting of the "mixed commission" - so named because it comprises representatives from both sides - was set to focus on establishing a programme and a calendar of work, and followed an informal working session held on Sunday. The meeting was chaired by the Secretary-General's Special Representative for West Africa, Ahmedou Ould-Adballah.

The commission was formed in response to a ruling last October on the Bakassi dispute by the International Court of Justice (ICJ), which essentially awarded Cameroon rights to the oil-rich peninsula. Following the Court's decision, Nigeria asserted that the judgment did not consider "fundamental facts" about the Nigerian inhabitants of the territory, whose "ancestral homes" the ICJ had adjudged to be in Cameroonian territory.

Meeting with Secretary-General Kofi Annan in Geneva last month, Presidents Olusegun Obasanjo of Nigeria and Paul Biya of Cameroon agreed to set up the commission to handle their differences, mandating it to consider all the implications of the ICJ's decision, including the need to protect the rights of the affected populations in both countries.