Nigeria & Cameroon Takes Measures to Prevent Border Dispute

The presidents of Nigeria and Cameroon met in Geneva on Friday at the invitation of U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan. The two sides are trying to resolve their dispute over the Bakassi Peninsula. This is the first meeting between the two leaders since the International Court of Justice last month awarded the Nigerian-controlled Bakassi peninsula to Cameroon.

In a joint statement read out to reporters in Geneva, Annan said he welcomed a "renewed commitment" by Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo and Cameroon's Paul Biya to "renounce the use of force...and pursue peaceful ways for the settlement of their boundary differences".

There have been repeated skirmishes over the years for the 400 square mile peninsula in the Gulf of Guinea.

The mixed commission, to be chaired by Annan's special envoy to West Africa, Ahmedou Ould-Abdallah, will "consider ways of following up on the ICJ ruling and moving the process forward", according to the carefully worded statement, which did not use the word "implementation". The body will try to demarcate the land boundary, recommend additional confidence-building measures and oversee troop withdrawal, as well as the eventual demilitarization of the peninsula. International personnel could be deployed to observe the withdrawal, the statement added.

Annan called the result a "very good beginning", adding that he was "very encouraged by the goodwill of the two leaders and their determination to resolve this issue. The commission will hold its first meeting in Yaounde on December 1. The two presidents also pledged to meet as soon as possible to discuss defense and security issues.

95% of the Bakassi population is made up of Nigerian citizens. The area offshore the Bakassi peninsula is estimated to hold approximately 10 billion barrels of oil. French, American and Swiss oil companies are active on both sides of the maritime border.