Cameroon and Nigeria face challenges in border demarcation exercise
(19 February 2014)
Twelve years after the International Court of Justice (ICJ) established the Cameroon-Nigeria border, the United Nations has begun to implement physical demarcation on the ground.
Since 2011, United Nations teams have laid down concrete pillars to form the Cameroon-Nigeria border. The Cameroon-Nigeria Mixed Commission (CNMC) is responsible for physically demarcating the land and sea boundaries spanning 2,100 km across mountains, deserts, dense forests, and the Atlantic Ocean. A member of the United Nations team commented, “The climatic conditions present unprecedented challenges in the demarcation process. The project was longer than the sum of UN-led demarcation projects between Ethiopia and Eritrea, Indonesia and East Timor, and Iraq and Kuwait”.
In 2002, the ICJ ruled that the Bakassi region, in the Gulf of Guinea spanning an area of approximately 1,000 square kilometres of rich hydrocarbon resources, would be assigned to Cameroon. It is reported that the biggest challenge for the Cameroonian and Nigerian authorities will be developing this region, harmonising the requirements of the fishing industry with those of the potentially environmentally hazardous oil industry.
Cameroon’s largest commercial partner in Sub-Saharan Africa is Nigeria. The two governments are in the process of building cross-border transportation links in an attempt to support the fishing trade and are negotiating an agreement for joint management of oil resources in the Bakassi region. A former UN based observer commented, “The most important thing now is to make people understand that the border is not a barrier but a bridge between them”. Projects to enhance cross-border inter-community relations are planned as part of an effort to encourage social cohesion. Martin Edang, a trader and resident of Ija-Bato 1, commented, “Many [residents] are still confused over which country they want to belong”.
Consequently, reports claim that Cameroon has annexed the Obudu Ranch Resort, along with approximately twenty other Cross River villages. Allegedly, some of the 1913 Anglo-German beacons have been altered, including those at Obudu, Boki, Ikom and Obanlikwu. The community leaders from each village have called on the Nigerian government to intervene immediately and stop what has been labelled an ‘illegal demarcation exercise’.
It is estimated that just 30% of Africa’s borders are precisely demarcated.
“Nigeria: Hope dims for Nigeria, Cameroun cross border oil wells exploration”, Chika Amanze-Nwachuku, This Day, 10th February 2014. http://allafrica.com/stories/201402100251.html.
“Nigeria: Anxiety in cross river as UN demarcates border with Cameroon”, Vanguard, 11th February 2014. http://www.vanguardngr.com/2014/02/anxiety-cross-river-un-demarcates-border-cameroon/.
“Cameroon claims Nigeria’s Obudu Ranch in demarcation exercise”, Nigerian Bulletin, 11th February 2014. http://www.nigerianbulletin.com/threads/cameroon-claims-nigerias-obudu-ranch-in-demarcation-exercise.44106/.
“Cameroon-Nigeria border settlement faces tough development challenges”, The Guardian, 16th February 2014. http://www.theguardian.com/global-development/2014/feb/16/cameroon-nigeria-border-settlement-development-challenges.