13 June 2006

Cameroon: Presidents Obasanjo And Biya Shake Hands On Disputed Bakassi Peninsula

Dakar — A decades-long border dispute over sovereignty of the Bakassi peninsula was officially resolved when President Olusegun Obasanjo of Nigeria agreed to hand the narrow strip of land over to neighbouring Cameroon.

Talks to resolve the sometimes violent dispute were attended by Obasanjo and President Paul Biya of Cameroon and lead by UN Secretary General Kofi Annan.

"With today's agreement on the Bakassi peninsula, a comprehensive resolution of the dispute is within our grasp," said Annan after the ceremony in New York late Monday. "The momentum achieved must be sustained."

Nigeria now has 60 days to withdraw troops stationed in the area, and the handover of the 1,000 sq km finger of land must be completed within two years.

The International Court of Justice awarded the peninsula to Cameroon in 2002 but Nigeria contested the decision, saying that the ruling was based on colonial maps from 1913 and had not taken into account the opinion of the people living on the land today.

The Bakassi peninsula is home to several thousand farmers and fishermen, most of whom fervently support continued Nigerian ownership of the territory. Community leaders, who have previously led demonstrations against Cameroonian control of Bakassi, have yet to react to the new agreement.

[ This report does not necessarily reflect the views of the United Nations ]

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