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Thursday, 10 October, 2002, 16:40 GMT 17:40 UK
Cameroon awarded oil-rich Bakassi
Offshore oil rig
Border disputes can hinder oil developments
The International Court of Justice (ICJ) has awarded the disputed oil-rich Bakassi peninsula to Cameroon, rejecting Nigeria's claims.

The court based its decision on a 1917 document between colonial powers Britain and Germany.

The two countries have clashed several times over the peninsula and Cameroon referred the dispute to The Hague in 1994.

The ruling cannot be appealed and both sides have agreed to respect the court's judgement.

Pride

Cameroon has hailed the court's decision as "a victory for international law".

"This conflict was ripe for resolution," Professor Ngole Ngole, the Minister for Special Duties at the presidency, told the BBC's Focus on Africa programme.

"As a Cameroonian, it feels great, we are that much prouder that we are Cameroonian," he said.

But the BBC's Geraldine Coughlan in The Hague says that handing over the peninsula could be embarrassing for Nigeria's President Olusegun Obasanjo ahead of elections next year.

Nigerian troops in the peninsula were placed on high alert ahead of the decision, reported Reuters news agency.

The BBC's Francis Ngwa Niba in Yaounde says that the people in the Bakassi peninsula, mostly fishermen, want to belong to a country which will take care of them.

Long history

The dispute dates back more than 100 years, when the colonial powers in the region left the status of the area undecided after agreeing on the rest of the border between their colonies.

Equatorial Guinea intervened in the dispute in 1999, and asked the Court to protect its rights in the Gulf of Guinea.

The verdict ends eight years of legal battles between both countries, one of the longest in the history of the ICJ.

Agreement

Last month the United Nations said the countries' presidents had agreed to respect the decision the ICJ would reach on the Bakassi Peninsula.

Mr Obasanjo and his Cameroonian counterpart, Paul Biya, also agreed at talks in Paris to discuss the demilitarisation of the peninsula.

Meeting in the presence of UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan they agreed not to make inflammatory statements on the issue, and to consider the possibility of deploying international monitors.

Oil

The Bakassi peninsula is in itself a swampy strip of land with little value, but its ownership has implications for fishing and oil rights offshore.

Large numbers of Nigerian and Cameroonian troops are reported to be in the area and tensions there have been high for years.

The British Foreign Office website says travellers should avoid the area, as "the situation could escalate at any time."

More than 150 Nigerians arrested in the Bakassi region by Cameroonian forces were reportedly freed last month.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
BBC's Francis Ngwa Niba
"We are talking about oil"
Geraldine Coughlan talking to BBC Focus on Africa
"It could be politically embarrassing for the Nigerian president"
 VOTE RESULTS
Cameroon / Nigeria border ruling: Was it the right decision?

Yes
 44.91% 

No
 55.09% 

11050 Votes Cast

Results are indicative and may not reflect public opinion

See also:

10 Oct 02 | Talking Point
09 Oct 02 | Africa
16 Jan 02 | Business
06 Jun 00 | Africa
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