13 June 2006

Cameroon-Nigeria Boundary Agreement Crowns "Remarkable Experiment in Conflict Prevention" Says Secretary-General at Signing Ceremony

NEW YORK, 12 June (UN Headquarters) -- Following is UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan's statement at the Cameroon-Nigeria Boundary Agreement signing ceremony in New York on 12 June 2006

It gives me great pleasure to welcome all of you today.  The signing ceremony which has brought us together crowns a remarkable experiment in conflict prevention by Cameroon and Nigeria.

Many individuals have worked tirelessly to realize today's Agreement.  I am particularly proud of the United Nations role in supporting, from the beginning, this innovative process.

But we are here, first and foremost, thanks to the vision of Presidents Biya and Obasanjo, two leaders of uncommon courage and foresight.

Nearly four years ago, in an inspiring example -- that I hope will be emulated by others -- of African leaders coming together to resolve differences peacefully, they resolved to settle their countries' border dispute in accordance with international law.  On a continent with an abundance of conflicts, their decision was ultimately a victory for the rule of law, and for the idea that differences can be resolved peacefully.

Since then, these two statesmen have demonstrated patience, tenacity, flexibility and restraint, which has enabled them finally to arrive at today's milestone.

Working with the United Nations, they entrusted the implementation of the International Court of Justice's ruling on their border dispute to a new Cameroon-Nigeria Mixed Commission, chaired by my Special Representative, Ahmedou Ould-Abdallah.  The Cameroonian and Nigerian teams to the Mixed Commission were ably led by Prime Minister Amadou Ali and Justice Prince Bola Ajibola, respectively.

As many of you know, this unique entity has no international troops or peacekeepers.  Instead, it relies upon a small handful of core United Nations staff plus a dozen or so civilian observers to facilitate the transfer of authority, support affected populations and assist in the boundary demarcation.

The Mixed Commission has proved highly effective.  It has overseen the peaceful and orderly transfer of authority in some 40 villages on Lake Chad and along the land boundary.  Some 460 kilometres of land boundary have also been demarcated.  Agreements covering three of the four disputed sectors have been reached.

The entire process has been creative, low-cost and efficient.  Progress has been achieved at a fraction of the cost of comparable undertakings elsewhere. It has demonstrated that -- given political will and appropriate United Nations support -- countries can work together to settle disputes not only peacefully, but very cost-effectively for themselves and for the international community.

This compares highly favourably with, for instance, our efforts to demarcate the Eritrea-Ethiopia border.  There, the international community has, to date, spent $1.2 billion.  And this amount does not even include what the two countries themselves have spent on war; a war which has killed thousands upon thousands of people, destroyed a great deal of property, and caused tremendous sums of money to be wasted on weaponry.  Yet, not a single kilometre has been demarcated!  I think the contrast is telling.

With today's Agreement on the Bakassi Peninsula, a comprehensive resolution of the dispute is within our grasp.

I am confident that the two parties will continue to implement their agreements in a cooperative and constructive manner.  The momentum achieved must be sustained.  So, I have urged the international community to give its full support to Nigeria and Cameroon's efforts to implement today's agreement on the ground as soon as possible.

In this context I especially welcome the presence of senior representatives of the United States, Britain, France and Germany as witnesses to this Agreement. Their Governments' support and encouragement has been crucial in bringing the two parties to this point, and their continued involvement will help ensure a lasting end to this dispute.

Until that happens, the parties have my assurance that the United Nations will remain engaged in the process.  We are proud of what we have already achieved, and look forward to a speedy and successful end to the Mixed Commission's work.

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