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Last Updated: Wednesday, 15 September, 2004, 14:49 GMT 15:49 UK
Q&A: Bakassi Peninsula
Fishing boats in Bakassi
Most of Bakassi's fishermen consider themselves Nigerian
BBC News Online explores what is behind the delay in transferring the Bakassi Peninsula from Nigeria to Cameroon

What is happening there?

Not a lot.

The potentially oil-rich coastal region was to have been handed over to Cameroon on 15 September following a ruling by the International Court of Justice (ICJ) in the Hague, but the United Nations body overseeing the negotiations has indicated that technical problems have delayed the transfer of sovereignty.

What are these difficulties?

Nigeria's defence minister told the BBC it was connected to problems connected with mapping out the border over sea.


But the current delay almost certainly masks more intractable political issues hindering any successful handover of the disputed peninsular.

The overwhelming majority of the inhabitants of the swampy area, who live in scattered fishing communities on the peninsular, consider themselves to be Nigerians.

And even more problematic, much of the region is under Nigerian military control.

Nigeria's parliament has renewed its demands for a referendum on the issue saying any handover would be unconstitutional.

The peninsula juts into the oil-rich Gulf of Guinea, so the stakes are potentially very high for both countries.

So why did Nigeria say it would hand it over?

Cameroon had taken its sovereignty claim to the international court following border skirmishes in the early 1990s, and after an eight year battle, had won.

Although Nigerians were deeply unhappy with the court ruling, both sides eventually agreed to abide by it.

The ICJ ruling was complex and involved a series of relatively uncontroversial adjustments to the border along its length.

But the hotly disputed Bakassi Peninsular was adjudged to belong to Cameroon on the basis of old colonial treaties dating back almost 100 years.

When Nigeria resisted implementing the ruling two years ago, the UN Secretary- General Kofi Annan personally interceded, bringing the Nigerian and Cameroonian presidents together in Geneva to thrash out a deal.

At that point it looked like the matter had been resolved.

Over 35 villages along the lengthy common border have already change hands.

But popular Nigerian feeling is firmly against a transfer of power to Cameroon of Bakassi and the government in Abuja is now dragging its heels on this emotive issue.

So what happens next?

Everyone is waiting for the announcement of another handover date - with indications that this will be soon.

If that doesn't occur then the UN and Cameroon will want a clear statement from President Olusegun Obasanjo on Nigeria's position.

At present Nigeria's government is still taking the line that the handover will take place.

The UN will be acutely aware of the continuing problems it faces in trying to police and resolve another hotly contested area in the Horn of Africa after Ethiopia rejected a ruling awarding a prized area to Eritrea.




SEE ALSO:
Nigeria downplays Bakassi delay
15 Sep 04  |  Africa
Nigeria seeks Bakassi referendum
03 Sep 04  |  Africa
Doing time in a Cameroon 'cell'
24 Aug 04  |  Africa
Nigeria hands Cameroon villages
19 Dec 03  |  Africa
'My home is in another country'
19 Jan 04  |  Africa
Nigeria stalls on Bakassi
07 Aug 03  |  Africa


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