Nigeria has completed withdrawing its troops from the Bakassi Peninsula, beginning the next phase in the implementation of the pact signed under United Nations auspices in June that ensures the border area’s peaceful transfer to Cameroon.
The UN Office for West Africa (UNOWA) said in a statement issued in Dakar today that the two countries will use the next meeting of the Cameroon-Nigeria Mixed Commission to discuss how to delineate their maritime boundary.
The troop withdrawal follows the signing of the Greentree Agreement in New York in June in which Nigeria recognized Cameroon’s sovereignty over the territory, in accordance with a ruling by the International Court of Justice (ICJ) in 2002, and agreed to withdraw its forces and administration.
The accord was the culmination of the work of the Cameroon-Nigeria Mixed Commission, set up by Secretary-General Kofi Annan to peacefully resolve the Bakassi dispute and hailed as a dispute-resolution model for other conflicts in Africa.
The Secretary-General’s Special Representative for West Africa, Ahmedou Ould-Abdallah, who described the troop withdrawal as “a very important step forward,” also told the UN News Centre that the leaders of several other countries in the region have informed him they would now like to use a similar model to resolve their border disputes.
Mr. Ould-Abdallah said the UN will have at least a dozen civilian observers in place to monitor the situation on the Bakassi Peninsula following the troop withdrawal and to “give reassurance” to locals that there will be no retribution or revenge taken against them.
He said he was also confident that Cameroon and Nigeria would address the concerns of those locals who demonstrated last week about the recent changes.
Located on the Gulf of Guinea, the Bakassi Peninsula had been the subject of intense and sometimes violent disputes between the two countries for dozens of years when Cameroon referred the matter to the ICJ in 1994.