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Bakassi: Nigeria Still Under Pressure

Posted by FROM LAOLU AKANDE, NEW YORK on 2006/06/18 | Views: 490 |

Bakassi: Nigeria Still Under Pressure

THE United Nations, United Kingdom, France, Germany and the United States have continued to mount intense diplomatic pressures on Nigeria to quickly hand over the disputed Bakassi Peninsula to Cameroun.

Indeed, extreme pressures from these powerful nations and the UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan were largely responsible for the concession of President Olusegun Obasanjo to an agreement, last week, for the withdrawal of Nigeria from the Bakassi Peninsula.

Even as matters stand, with last Monday's signing of the agreement between Nigeria and Cameroon, diplomats have explained that a Follow-Up Committee set up to monitor the 'Greentree Accord' was created to forestall any further delay from the Nigerian side regarding the implementation of the agreement.

Nigeria had held back on the implementation of the ICJ ruling granting Cameroon sovereign rights over Bakassi, especially in September 2004 when the hand-over and withdrawal of troops did not happen as planned.

But an untiring pressure mounted by the UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan resuscitated the dialogue between Nigeria and Cameroon, although the Cameroonians appeared disappointed by Nigeria's last minute reluctance.

A Cameroonian journalist pointedly asked President Paul Biya of Cameroon, shortly before last Monday's agreement, if there were any guarantees that Nigeria would fulfil its obligations in the new agreement.

After a seemingly diplomatic response that the presence of Obasanjo was a guarantee, Biya added that the new agreement was itself a legal guarantee. He then pointed to the fact that there was now in place a committee, including the four influential and powerful countries invited to witness the signing of the agreement.

Another French-speaking journalist Annan if he would consider it a personal failure if the agreement failed again, considering that Annan would be leaving office by the end of the year.

Annan replied that three quarters of the issues have been resolved and the outstanding issue would be resolved before the end of the year. Annan had noted in his opening remarks at the press briefing that "agreements covering three of the four disputed sectors have been reached."

Sources disclosed that the presence of representatives from those four countries - US, UK, France and Germany - was enough indication of the kind of pressure piled on President Obasanjo to sign the agreement and ensure its faithful implementation.

Annan, who asked the international community to ensure that the new agreement is implemented as soon as possible, said the presence and involvement of those four countries " has been crucial in bringing the two parties to this point. And their continued involvement will help ensure a lasting end to this dispute."

Diplomats said the pressure was far heavier on the Nigerian side since it was from that side that previous distruptions to the implemetation of the ICJ ruling had occured.

In its official response to the agreement released in Abuja, the French government said it "will accompany the parties in their implementation of this agreement in a climate of mutual confidence, particularly through the follow-up committee, which was set up by this agreement."

At the Monday meeting in at Greentree estate in Long Island, the bilateral meeting between Annan and Obasanjo went on beyond the alotted 15 minutes and the eventual signing of the agreement did not take place until almost two hours after the 11am time scheduled. Annan had discussed with President Biya the previous weekend at the same venue.

According to modalities of the implementation of the new agreement, the role of the four countries that witnessed the signing, and would serve on the Follow-Up committee, is seen as key. It is seen by diplomats as a long but gentle notice to Nigeria that it can no longer be reluctant in the implementation.

" The Agreement will take effect immediately upon the signature of the parties. The Secretary-General intends to follow closely the implementation of the Agreement, and his good offices will be available at all times should either or both parties request it," the document said.

For instance Nigeria is to pull out her troops within 60 days, with a possible extension on the discretion of the UN Secretary General for another 30 days.

The document also stated that the Follow-Up Committee will be composed of "10 representatives, two each from Cameroon, Nigeria and the United Nations, and one from each of the witness states."

Top diplomats representing their countries as witnesses at the signing on Monday are: from the US mission to the UN, Ambassador Jackie Sanders; Germany's Permanent Representative (PR) to the UN, Gunter Pleuger, UK's deputy PR, Ms. Karen Pierce and Mr. Michel Duclos, the deputy PR from France.

According to the document, "within one month of signing the agreement, the Secretary-General will present a progress report to the parties and also to the witness states on the status of its implementation." After that initial progress report, monthly reports would follow.

It was also agreed that the first progress Report will contain information about "the timely implementation of the Agreement," and also contain information relating to Nigerian off-shore oil installations presently located in what is regarded as Cameroonian territorial waters.

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