Nigeria-Cameroun Debacle on Bakassi peninsula – Epitome of an African diplomacy

  • 0

How the peaceful and quick resolution of the Nigeria-Cameroon dispute over the Bakassi peninsula was achieved is worthy of note in diplomatic classes where amicable dispute resolution is key.

The natural resources-rich Bakassi is a peninsula in the Gulf of Guinea howbeit close to Calabar, in Cross River, Nigeria. Since the 1880s, when the British Empire controlled the territory around Calabar in Nigeria, including the peninsula, Bakassi had hitherto been referred to as a part of Nigeria.

Even with the exit of Southern Cameroonians from Nigeria in 1961, Bakassi remained under the Calabar administration in Nigeria but not without various contests until the Peninsula was finally ceded back to Cameroon in 2002 through a court judgement.

This piece will explore the major incidents that led to the court judgement which made Nigeria give up the Bakassi Peninsula to Cameroon.

The Bakassi Peninsula is currently being governed by the government of Cameroon following a ruling by the International Court of Justice which transferred sovereignty of the peninsula from Nigeria to Cameroon.

Before this became a reality, many clashes had occurred with several deaths and injuries.

Origin of the Nigeria/ Cameroon conflict on Bakassi

The Bakassi dispute between the two West African countries dates back to after independence when the two countries couldn’t lay claim to proper border demarcation between them in some regions among which the peninsula was. With time, the tension increased and worsened the dispute on the border issue.

The tensions got to their peak in early 1994 after the Nigerian troops moved into the area causing severe clashes, a situation which led Cameroon to the International Court of Justice to seek a permanent resolution to the border dispute.

The Court’s verdict

Though the dispute was reported in 1994, it took eight years of investigations and deliberations before the International Court of Justice ruled on the case in 2002.

The ICJ judgement ruled in favour of Cameroon affirming that the existing border made by the British and Germans was the international border thereby giving Cameroon sovereignty over Bakassi.

Based on that, the Court gave an order for Nigeria to withdraw its troop, machinery and other official paraphernalia from the area thereby bringing an end to the long-time conflict between the two countries.

Eventual handover of Bakassi to Cameroon

Following the court judgement, the then Nigerian President, Olusegun Obasanjo and his Cameroonian Counterpart, Paul Biya on June 12, 2006, signed the Greentree Agreement which was the formal treaty on the withdrawal of troops and transfer of authority in the disputed area- the Peninsula.

Under the treaty, the Nigerian troops had 60 days to withdraw with the possibility of a 30-day extension while Nigeria was allowed to keep its civil administration and police in Bakassi for another two years.

Though the judgement wasn’t as expected, the Nigerian government complied and withdrew its forces.

Nigeria’s signing of the Green Tree Agreement showed that it had recognised and accepted Cameroon’s authority over the disputed area thereby giving part of the disputed territory to Cameroon.

Two years after the signing of the treaty, the remaining part of the Bakassi Peninsula was ceded to Cameroonian authorities by the Nigerian government putting an end to the age-long crisis between the two countries.

The Final Straw from Nigeria

Many Nigerians from within and outside the country including Nigerians resident in the Bakassi area had expected authorities in the country to challenge the court ruling given that Nigeria had until 2012 then to appeal the ICU ruling with fresh facts.

However, the Nigerian government had kept its cool by obeying the court orders to the letter and rather than pursue any legal redress, it focused on engaging the Cameroon government within the existing framework on the protection of the rights and livelihoods of Nigerians turned Cameroonians.

According to the government, it decided not to pursue the review of the case as it could bring about more diplomatic rows If Nigeria failed in her quest for an appeal.

The government had based its decision on the advice of a committee set up by Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan warned against appealing the judgement stating that there was no fresh fact unknown to the ICJ before the October 2022 verdict.

Having established the no-appeal stance, Nigeria finally put an end to the drama surrounding the ICJ ruling.

It’s been years since the historical ICJ verdict and the final handover of Bakassi to Cameroon but the story behind it remains as fresh as ever.

However, it wasn’t all a gloomy situation as it afforded both sides some opportunities.

One major thing that came out from it was the Nigeria- Cameroon Mixed Commission which still exists to date and whose mandate outside of the Bakassi dispute was to effectively ensure the demarcation of the land and maritime boundary between the two countries.

The Bakassi-Penisula saga is exemplary to all nations across the world that are currently engaged in territorial disputes. They should learn from the exemplary display of peace over war for the betterment of humanity in general.































Madagascar’s Finance Minister Rabarinirinarison Receives Commendation as Top 25 African Finance Leader 2023
Prev Post Madagascar’s Finance Minister Rabarinirinarison Receives Commendation as Top 25 African Finance Leader 2023
African Leadership Organization holds Exclusive African Finance Leaders Forum in Washington DC
Next Post African Leadership Organization holds Exclusive African Finance Leaders Forum in Washington DC