Cablegate: Cameroon and Nigeria Begin Historic Border

DE RUEHYD #0005/01 0061149
R 061149Z JAN 10



E.O. 12958: N/A

1. (U) Summary: On December 14, Cameroon and Nigeria laid
the first pillar to demarcate their land border, in
compliance with a 2002 International Court of Justice ruling.
In remarks at the event, Cameroonian Minister of Justice
Amadou Ali called the border a "bridge" rather than a
"separation wall" between Cameroon and Nigeria and praised
bilateral ties as "united by destiny." According to the
local UNDP Resrep, this demarcation (which has taken seven
years of difficult work) is a first for a UN-led peaceful
resolution of a border dispute in Africa and one of the only
such cases in the world. It should further strengthen
Cameroonian-Nigerian relations, which have improved since the
handover of the Bakassi Peninsula in 2008; nonetheless, there
is a long way to go to complete the installation of pillars
along the 2,000 kilometer border. The UN and Minister Ali
highlighted the need for more funding to complete the effort.
The USG might consider providing Section 1207 or other
assistance. End summary.

Laying Pillars of "Neighborhood and Friendship"
--------------------------------------------- --

2. (U) On December 14, Vice Prime Minister and Minister of
Justice Amadou Ali presided over a ceremony in the Far North
Region to lay the first symbolic pillar demarcating the 2,000
kilometer Cameroon-Nigerian land border. This launched the
final stage in implementing a 2002 International Court of
Justice ruling which called for the demarcation of the border
under the auspices of a UN-led bilateral Mixed Commission.
Among those attending the ceremony, which took place in
remote Amchide, near the town of Kousseri, were a
representative of Nigerian Prince Bola Adjibola, Special
Representative of the Secretary General of the United Nations
for West Africa and Chairman of the Mixed Commission Said
Djinnit, and Ambassadors from the European Union, U.K.,
Canada, France, Germany and the United States (donor and
"witness" countries).

3. (U) In his remarks, Minister Ali highlighted that "the
laying of border pillars does not in any case mean to
separate the Cameroonian populations from their Nigerian
counterparts, as in most cases, they are of the same ethnic
group and from the same family. It is just meant to let each
and every administration know the limits of its sphere of
competence, considering the border, which is far from being a
separation wall, should be a bridge that causes the revival
of neighborhood and friendship links among the Cameroonian
and Nigerian populations." He concluded by affirming that
"Cameroon and Nigeria are two countries united by history and
geography and their respective people are united by destiny."
Ali thanked the international community for its diplomatic
and financial support and underscored the positive roles
played by Cameroonian President Paul Biya, Nigerian former
President Olusegun Obasanjo and current President Umar
Yar'adua and the current and former UN Secretaries General.

UN Seeks More Funding

4. (SBU) After the event, UNDP Resrep in Cameroon Thierry
Mertens highlighted to Pol/Econ Chief the unique significance
of this border demarcation, claiming it was the first time in
Africa and one of the few cases in the world of such a border
dispute being resolved peacefully through a UN-led process.
He pointed out that the Commission's work over the past seven
years has been logistically and financially very challenging.
Those demarcating the border had to master difficult
terrain, which in some remote areas required helicopters to
access. They had to deal with climate extremes and some
tricky security situations. They had to help negotiate
disputes and sensitize local populations. The key to
success, according to Mertens, was the fact that the
governments of Cameroon and Nigeria were both determined to
succeed and committed to a peaceful process.

5. (U) Mertens and Ali, in his remarks, both pointed to the
need for additional funding to complete the installation of a
total of about 2,400 pillars. Mertens acknowledged that
substantial funds still remain in the pipeline from the
donors to the effort - the European Union, and the
governments of Canada and the United Kingdom. Nonetheless,
he anticipated the need for an additional $6 million and said
the UN would organize a donor roundtable on the outstanding
financial needs some time in 2010.


YAOUNDE 00000005 002 OF 002

6. (SBU) The laying of border pillars should further cement
the improved relations between Cameroon and Nigeria following
the handover of the Bakassi Peninsula in 2008. As Ali noted
in his remarks, an estimated three million Nigerians live in
Cameroon and about one million Cameroonians reside in
Nigeria, creating people-to-people and commercial ties which
should increasingly bond these two neighbors in friendship.
The Government of Cameroon's excitement about this historic
moment was underscored by the size of its delegation -
Minister Ali chartered a plane and transported about 100
people to the event and then to his nearby village for a
celebration. According to Martin, the Nigerians are also
enthusiastic about the laying of pillars; he dismissed some
Cameroonian press speculation that Prince Adjibola's absence
from the December 14 event signified a lack of Nigerian
commitment, saying that the Prince did not travel because of
serious illness.

7. (SBU) While December 14 drew attention to an historic,
rare peaceful resolution of a long-festering border dispute,
the process is far from over. A senior official at the
European Union (the largest donor to the demarcation effort)
remarked to Pol/Econ Chief that the UN management had been
less than ideal, with significant inefficiencies and delays.
He was not convinced of the need for millions of more dollars
to finish the project. He also pointed out that the Amchide
border post was not the first pillar installed, just the
first that was relatively easily accessible for a joint
Nigerian-Cameroonian ceremony. Nonetheless, he agreed
December 14 was an important symbolic positive step that the
EU will continue to support. As a Greentree "witness" state,
the USG might consider financially supporting this process as
well, through Section 1207 funding or in other ways.

© Scoop Media

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