Thursday, 15 August 2013
Cameroon extends full sovereignty over Bakassi peninsula
Cameroon took full control over the disputed Bakassi peninsula today, marking the end of the five-year transitional period given to both Cameroon and Nigeria to implement the ICJ verdict in 2002. The ruling, which found that sovereignty rested with Cameroon, gave the Nigerian government a ten-year window to appeal against the decision. President Goodluck Jonathan declined to do so, a move praised by the UN but condemned by many Nigerian politicians, who called it a political blunder.
The 40,000-strong population of the peninsula is over 90% Nigerian. They have had more than a decade to decide whether to keep their identity as it is, migrate to Nigeria or accept Cameroonian nationality. Cameroon has had troops stationed in the area since August 14 2008 and established several military bases, under the pretext of combating Nigerian piracy in the supposedly oil-rich waters off the coast of the peninsula.
The government in Cameroon has remained largely silent in the lead-up to this significant day. As small pockets of resistance from armed militia groups across the Bakassi territory have opposed Cameroon's full takeover of peninsula, it is likely this tactic by the authorities in Yaoundé has sought to prevent any further outbreaks of nationalist sentiment or inflame locals who might have chosen this day to make their voices heard in the streets.
The dispute between Cameroon and Nigeria rumbled on for decades, and the two sides almost went to war over the peninsula in 1981. The case was taken to the ICJ in 1994 by Cameroon following further armed clashes in the early 1990s. What followed was a complex case based on colonial-era correspondence and diplomatic agreements drawn up by the imperial powers Britain and Germany. Nigeria finally handed over control in 2008.