Wednesday, August 14, 2013 went into the annals of history as the day Cameroon got total sovereignty over the Bakassi Peninsula from Nigeria. Indeed, it marked the end of the transitional five-year period President Paul Biya of Cameroon and President Olusegun Obasanjo of Nigeria signed on June 12, 2006 within the framework of the United Nations brokered Greentree Agreement in which leaders of the two countries set out the timetable of the withdrawal of Nigeria from Bakassi leading to Cameroon’s full ownership. This was a way of effectively implementing the International Court of Justice ruling of October 10, 2002 declaring Bakassi part of Cameroon in the border dispute between Cameroon and Nigeria.
Celebrations marking the total transfer of sovereignty over Bakassi to Cameroon on August 14, 2013 were solemn at the Ministry of External Relations in Yaounde with the hallmark being a toast and dinner. The event brought together some cabinet ministers, with the highest being the Vice Prime Minister, Minister Delegate at the Presidency in charge of Relations with the Assemblies, Amadou Ali who had been leader of the Cameroon delegation in Cameroon-Nigeria Mixed Commission on handling the border crisis. Diplomatic heads of witness countries to the Greentree Agreement such as United Kingdom, France, United States of America, Germany as well as UN representative were present for the event.
The future between Cameroon and Nigeria in the new era of their relations promises to be bright should the declarations of their representatives during the ceremony be anything to go by. “As far as the Nigerian populations that live in Bakassi are concerned, I must solemnly on behalf of President Paul Biya reassure them that this country has hosted more than four million Nigerians for decades and Nigeria does host more than one million Cameroonians for decades,” the Minister of External Relations, Pierre Moukoko Mbonjo said. He further stated that, “We don’t have any problem with our brothers and sisters living in Bakassi. They will continue to live and do their businesses peacefully and in security in this country which is theirs.”
The Nigerian High Commissioner to Cameroon, Hadiza Mustapha paid tribute to the leaders of the two countries, stating that Cameroon and Nigeria have great potentials in all spheres of life. She declared that, “We in Nigerian look forward to expanding and taking the peace dividends, to take the opportunities to grow our economies, develop our nations and give our people all the opportunities this peace can bring.”
Speaking for the witness countries, the British High Commissioner to Cameroon, Bharat Joshi, said the celebration was testimony of commitment to peaceful resolution of conflicts. While commending the leaders of Cameroon and Nigeria, he said the end of the remarkable peace process was an example on how to settle border conflicts.