Special Representative of the Secretary General in West Africa (SRSG-WA)

International Information

International Operation Name: Special Representative of the Secretary General in West Africa

International Mission Name: Special Representative of the Secretary General in West Africa (SRSG-WA)

Mandating Organization: United Nations

Region Name: Africa

Location: West Africa

Mission Date: 27 November 2002 - 15 July 2004

Canadian Forces (CF) Information (SOLITUDE)


Date: 19 March 2003 - 15 April 2004

Canadian Task Force Name Mission Statement: To find a resolution to the border dispute over the Bakassi peninsula, between the West African nations of Nigeria and Cameroon.

CF Mission/Operation Notes: For a number of years relations between neighboring Cameroon and Nigeria have been strained over issues relating to their 1,600-kilometre land boundary, extending from the Lake Chad to the Bakassi peninsula, and their maritime boundary into the Gulf of Guinea. Among the issues involved are rights over oil-rich land and sea reserves and the fate of local populations. Comprised of about 1,000 km2 of mangrove swamp, the Bakassi Peninsula is located on the west coast of Africa, between Nigeria to the northwest and Cameroon to the southeast. About 70,000 people occupy its few habitable areas. The Gulf of Guinea, into which the Bakassi Peninsula extends, includes Africa's richest oil fields.

To ensure an equitable settlement, the matter was referred to the International Court of Justice (ICJ). Weeks before the ICJ judgment was rendered, the UN Secretary General invited president Paul Biya of Cameroon and Olusegun Obasanjo of Nigeria to meet and discuss the implementation of the upcoming judgment. In a joint statement issued on 5 September 2002, both presidents agreed to respect and implement the ICJ decision, and to establish an implementation mechanism.

On 10 October 2002, the ICJ settled the long-standing dispute over the sovereignty of the Bakassi Peninsula by awarding Bakassi to Cameroon. On 23 October, Nigeria announced that it would not recognize the ICJ ruling as the people of Bakassi were largely Nigerian. To prevent a possible conflict from erupting over the Peninsula, the United Nations Secretary General, Kofi Annan, announced on 27 November the creation of a mixed commission under the chairmanship of the Special Representative to the Secretary General (SRSG) West Africa, Ahmedou Ould-Abdallah, to settle the dispute via diplomatic means.

In late January of 2003, both presidents and the Secretary General met in Geneva Switzerland and agreed upon a comprehensive working plan for the withdrawal of civilian administration, military and police forces in the Lake Chad area. As a result of the agreement, the Department of Peacekeeping Operations at the United Nations requested a senior officer of the Canadian Forces to serve in West Africa as Military Advisor and Senior Military Liaison Officer to the SRSG West Africa. This request was made on the behalf of the UN Department of Political Affairs. Canada agreed and sent one officer to Dakar, Senegal in March of 2003 under the operation name Operation SOLITUDE. This tasking was of particular interest to the Canadian government since the target region for the Peace and Security Initiative of Canada's Africa Action Plan was West Africa. By providing the SRSG West Africa with a Senior Military Liaison Officer, Canada believed that it would have a good opportunity to make a significant contribution to the mission, and to gain valuable insight into the workings of the sub-region. The tasking period was for one year.

The mandate of the Mixed Commission was to clearly define the boundary between the two countries; protect the rights of the people of both countries; develop projects to promote joint economic ventures and cross-border cooperation; reactivate the Lake Chad Basin Commission; and oversee the withdrawal of civil administration, military and police forces and transfer of authority in relevant areas along the boundary. The Mixed Commission met every two months, and at its ninth meeting in Yaounde in April 2004, it decided that the process for withdrawal and transfer of authority in the Land Boundary would start on 15 June, and end on 15 July 2004; and that the process of withdrawal and transfer of authority on the Bakassi Peninsula would start on 15 July and be completed by 15 September 2004.

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