Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Progress in Implementing the ICJ's Ruling in Cameroon-Nigeria Dispute Over the Bakassi Peninsula

A topic of special interest to readers of this blog is how international court decisions are implemented.  The excerpt below (adapted from a UN Press Release) describes steps that the nations of Cameroon and Nigeria are taking to implement a 2002 decision of the International Court of Justice on the demarkation of the Bakassi Peninsula.  In the past, nations would easily go to war over similar boundary disputes.  Instead, nations can go to court for the settlement of these disputes.  This must be seen as a victory of international law and diplomacy.

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has congratulated Cameroon and Nigeria for progress in implementing the ruling of the International Court of Justice (ICJ) on their dispute over the Bakassi Peninsula, saying the process had demonstrated that preventive diplomacy can succeed.  The peninsula, located on the Gulf of Guinea, had been the subject of intense and sometimes violent disputes between the West African neighbours for decades until they agreed to a United Nations-backed process to settle the matter.

The ICJ resolved the issue with a ruling in 2002. The verdict was followed by the 2006 Greentree Agreement – signed under the auspices of former Secretary-General Kofi Annan – under which Nigeria recognized Cameroonian sovereignty over Bakassi peninsula.

“The commitment of Cameroon and Nigeria to peacefully resolve their border dispute should be a source of inspiration for countries around the world that face similar challenges,” said Mr. Ban at the meeting of the Cameroon-Nigeria Mixed Commission and Follow-up Committee on the Greentree Agreement.  “As we look ahead, one main challenge will be to protect the livelihoods and human rights of the affected populations, whether they are Cameroonian or Nigerian, and whether they live along the boundary or in the Bakassi Peninsula,” said Mr. Ban. “These men and women should be able to build a peaceful and prosperous future for themselves and their children.”  Important tasks remain regarding the demarcation of the border, he said, adding that “the continued commitment of all will be essential in completing this final chapter in the implementation of the court’s ruling.”

He pointed out that the international community had “noted with relief” the progress achieved by the Mixed Commission, including the withdrawal and transfer of authority in the Lake Chad area and in the Bakassi Peninsula, the final agreement on the maritime boundary, the 1,700 kilometres of already agreed land boundary, as well as the absence of border incidents since the beginning of the process.  He also took note of the fact that Cameroon and Nigeria had agreed to discuss the exit strategy of the Mixed Commission.  “I am confident that your two countries will continue to work together to allow both peoples to live in peace along the international dividing line,” he said. “In order to ensure the successful completion of the exercise, I encourage you to maintain the same forward-looking approach that has helped you to overcome delicate legal and administrative obstacles,” he added.

The Secretary-General’s Special Representative for West Africa, Said Djinnit, told UN Radio in an interview that the meeting was an opportunity to brief the UN chief on progress so far.  “Our intention in taking this initiative was to bring the parties to reiterate their commitment to finalize the [border] demarcation process as soon as possible, and actually the challenge they set for themselves is by the end of 2012,” said Mr. Djinnit.

During the meeting, both countries welcomed UN readiness to support the assessment of the remaining 250-kilometre land border, as well the consideration of outstanding issues of disagreement.  Cameroon’s delegation was led by Maurice Kamto, the Deputy Minister of Justice, while the Nigerian team was headed by Mohammed Bello Adoke, the Minister of Justice and Attorney-General.


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