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Bakassi Handover A Good Model

The transfer of a long-contested area in West Africa played out this week, showing what two nations can accomplish when they commit themselves to resolve a border dispute through diplomatic and peaceful means.

For years, Cameroon and Nigeria each have claimed title over the Bakassi Peninsula, a neck of land and surrounding islands that jut into the Gulf of Guinea on both nations' common border. Rich fishing grounds off the Bakassi coast and potentially richer oil reserves believed to lie below those waters have raised the stakes in the dispute well beyond those of national sovereignty.
In 1981, war almost broke out over the region and more armed clashes broke out in the early 1990s.

In response, Cameroon took the dispute to the International Court of Justice in 1994, which ruled in 2002 that based on colonial-era agreements sovereignty rested with Cameroon. With mediation by the United Nations, agreement was reached in 2006 for a two-year transition to Cameroonian rule. Final implementation of the handover occurred August 14 with a ceremony in Calabar, Nigeria.

While discontent continues among some groups who would like to see the region split off as its own nation, the governments of Nigeria and Cameroon have fulfilled their commitment to the international judicial process begun 14 years ago. Their efforts to resolve their differences peacefully serve as a welcome and positive example of international conflict resolution sorely lacking amid border disputes elsewhere in Africa and the world.