Resolving The Militarised Territorial Disputes Between Cameroon And Nigeria

Resolving The Militarised Territorial Disputes Between Cameroon And Nigeria

Year(s): 1994 – 2006.

Location: Cameroon/Nigeria International Border.

UN Regional Group: Africa.

Type of Conflict: Risk of an Interstate Conflict.

Type of Initiative: Diplomacy, resolution of a militarised territorial dispute, mediation of a peace agreement, and stabilising international borders.

Main Implementing Organisation(s): The UN, International Court of Justice, the Organisation of African Unity, and the governments of France, Gabon, and Togo.

Impact: Lasting.

Summary: A militarised territorial dispute between Cameroon and Nigeria was resolved by the International Court of Justice, the Organisation of African Unity, and the UN helped to ensure the peaceful withdrawal of Nigerian forces from the contested area.

Description of Case 

When Cameroon and Nigeria emerged as independent states in the 1960s, their mutual border remained largely unmarked and swathes of territory was claimed by the administrations of both states. During the 1980s, incidents on the border became increasingly violent, with clashes between soldiers taking place around Lake Chad and on the Bakassi Peninsula.[1] Located in the Niger Delta, the Peninsula had been governed by the British alongside much of the rest of what became Nigeria until 1913, when it was ceded to the German colony of Kamerun. The details of this exchange formed the basis of the competing contemporary claims on the territory. A 1961 plebiscite resulted in the area becoming part of Cameroon, however the discovery of oil and gas fields around the Bakassi Peninsula in the 1990s provided motivation for both states to claim the territory.[2] In 1993, another border clash led the Government of Nigeria (which had come to power in a coup d’état just a month earlier) to abrogate all previous agreements and march thousands of troops into the Peninsula.[3]

Rather than responding with force to the incursion on its territory, the Government of Cameroon filed a case with the International Court of Justice (ICJ) in 1994.[4] The conflict, however, continued at a low intensity and the likelihood of escalation remained high regardless of developments in The Hague. To contain the crisis, the Organisation of African Unity (OAU) mediated negotiations between the parties, and separate talks were later hosted by the governments of Togo and Gabon. In September 2002, UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan and the Government of France sponsored talks in Paris, where both parties formally committed to respecting the judgement of the ICJ.[5] This round of talks also resulted in the UN forming a joint Cameroonian-Nigerian commission, which resolved several disputes (such as that concerning the territory around Lake Chad) but failed to address Bakassi.[6] In its judgement the following month, the ICJ granted sovereignty over the Bakassi Peninsula to Cameroon and ordered the removal of all Nigerian personnel from the area.[7] Continued Nigerian recalcitrance to withdraw led to another flare up of tensions in June 2005, leading to yet another round of negotiations hosted by the UN.[8] These talks culminated in June 2006 with the Greentree Agreement and the withdrawal of Nigerian troops from the area two months later.[9] Thanks to the efforts of the OAU, UN, and ICJ, an interstate conflict between Cameroon and Nigeria was avoided.


[1] Alan Cowell. “In Crisis With Cameroon, Nigeria Turns Self-Critical.” The New York Times. (1981) Available at: (Accessed 17/11/2020)

[2] Francis Baye. “Implications of the Bakassi conflict resolution for Cameroon.” African Journal on Conflict Resolution, Vol. 20, No. 1. (2010) Available at: (Accessed 17/11/2020); Obasesam Okoi. “Why Nations Fight: The Causes of the Nigeria-Cameroon Bakassi Peninsula Conflict.” African Security, Vol. 9, No. 1. (2016)

[3] Hilary V. Lukong. The Cameroon-Nigeria Border Dispute: Management and Resolution, 1981-2011. (Bamenda: Langaa, 2011) p.26

[4] ICJ. Land and Maritime Boundary between Cameroon and Nigeria (Cameroon v. Nigeria: Equatorial Guinea intervening). (ICJ, 2020) Available at: (Accessed 17/11/2020)

[5] UN. “Meeting with Annan, Cameroon and Nigeria agree to follow ICJ border decision.” UN News. (2002) Available at: (Accessed 17/11/2020)

[6] UNOWAS. The Cameroon-Nigeria Mixed Commission: A success in the resolution of boundary dispute. (UN, 2020) Available at: (Accessed 17/11/2020)

[7] ICJ. Land and Maritime Boundary between Cameroon and Nigeria.

[8] Uppsala Conflict Data Program. Cameroon – Nigeria. (UCDP, 2020) Available at: (Accessed 17/11/2020)

[9] Agreement between the Republic of Cameroon and the Federal Republic of Nigeria concerning the Modalities of Withdrawal and Transfer of Authority in the Bakassi Peninsula, 2006. Available at: (Accessed 17/11/2020)