Friday, October 17, 2008

Fate of the Bakassi Returnees

Brenda Ofunne Ogosi

The resource rich Bakassi Peninsula on the Cameroun-Nigeria border, at the SE end of the Gulf of Guinea. The swampy peninsula and associated small islands controlling access to the Nigerian port of Calabar, the surrounding waters are rich in fish and submarine oil deposits. The traditional inhabitants are mainly Efik fishermen with ties to Nigeria

Among the many border disputes that Cameroun and Nigeria have had in the years since independence, the Bakassi Peninsula stands out as the most serious dispute of all because the peninsular is very rich in oil and gas. In 1961, the south British Cameroun [a former German colony] became part of Cameroun while the northern potion joined Nigeria, the control of the peninsula has been in dispute and this culminated in mounting hostilities and sporadic military clashes in the region.

The dispute between the two countries was brought in 1994 by Cameroun to International Court of Justice [ICJ] also known as the world court to settle the dispute over its boundary with Nigeria, especially the question of sovereignty over the Bakassi peninsula and over island in Lake Chad, to specify the course of the land and maritime boundary between the two countries. On 10 October 2002, the ICJ awarded the disputed area to Cameroun, the judgment was largely based on the 1913 Anglo-German Agreement that defined the borders of those nations colonies.

On June 12, 2006 in New York, Nigeria and Cameroun signed the ‘Green Tree Agreement’ under which Nigeria agreed to cede the peninsula to Cameroun in compliance with the verdict of the International Court of Justice at the Hague which held that the territory belonged to Cameroun and that Cameroun was to assume full sovereignty over the peninsula.

In Article 3 of the Green Tree Agreement, both countries agreed that Cameroun after the transfer of authority to it by Nigeria guarantees Nigerian Nationals living in the Bakassi Peninsula the exercise of their fundamental rights and freedom enshrined in international human rights law and in other relevant provision of international law, in particular Cameroun shall

a.Not force Nigerian Nationals living in the Bakassi Peninsula to leave the zone or to change their identity.
b.Respect their culture, language and beliefs
c.Respect their rights to continue their agricultural and fishing activitie
d.Protect their property and customary land rights
e.Not levy in any discriminatory manner any taxes and other dues on Nigerian nationals living in the zone
f.Take every necessary measure to protect Nigerians living in the zone from any harassment or harm

Against this background the rights of the Bakassi people ought to be paramount in the territorial dispute between the two countries because the characteristics of a state in political science includes the people or population and not limited to possession of a mapped out territory.

Due to the hostilities and killing of some Nigerians by the Camerounian Gendarmes, no fewer than 37,000 Nigerians have been displaced from the disputed Bakassi Peninsula and are being resettled in Ibaka in akwa Ibom state. In makeshift camps, very poor sanitary conditions, no proper resettlement centre, poor health care and no basic needs for these displaced persons.

Finally On August 14, 2008, Bakassi peninsula went to Cameroun bearing in mind that the Bakassi people do not share anything in common with the people of Cameroun, that they have been forcefully merged with, like language, educational system, culture etc. this could tend toward wiping out the entire Bakassi race because obviously the Camerounian government prefers the Bakassi oil to the people and has tried on several occasion to quiet the people from that area through their gendarmes , on the other hand the Director General of the Nigerian Boundary Commission Mr. Sadiq Marafa Diggi, said that Cameroun was not happy with what they got as the area did not cover our oil reserves. Sincerely, ‘Oil is all that matters’ to the two countries in the disputed Bakassi Peninsula.

What we legally owe to the displaced persons is captured under Article 15 of the universal declaration of Human rights which states that:

Everyone has the right to a nationality

No one shall be arbitrarily deprived of his nationality nor denied the right to change his nationality and also in Article 12:2 of the African Charter on Human and peoples right which guarantees the right to Nationality, it states that “ every individual shall have the right to leave any country including his own, and to return to his country” because the Bakassi people have been forcefully lumped with Cameroun it has created untold hardship for the displaced persons who are going through the trauma of losing their loved ones and properties and to compound their problems they are yet to be resettled in Nigeria

1 comment:

Andrew Parker said...

It speaks to the desperate plight of Bakassi's people, that no one has commented on this subject in the 7 months since it was posted.

I tire of this seeming systemic lack of concern for the victims of diplomacy, as though they are somehow of lesser value than the victims of war or natural disaster. Why was Article 3 even included in the Accord, if not one of the signatories cares to honor or enforce it?

This is a travesty being played out in obscurity. Where is Bono? Where is Angelina Jolie? Is this not "Blood for Oil?" Where are the chants of "Free Bakassi!", or, "Bakassi Libre!", in the streets of the West? Surely there are enough rebels without causes languishing with boredom in their dorm rooms or coffee houses to lend support to these people? Perhaps poor africans are out of fashion, now that we have polar bears to worry about?

How do we go about saving these innocent victims of Hurricane Kofi, displaced by the floods of arrogance, greed and indifference? I have tried for the past three years, but I am only one man, without power or influence.

Andrew Parker
Salt Lake City, Utah, USA