“When someone deserves credit, give it to him. President Biya did a great job on the Bakassi issue. It is an immense achievement and an example to emulate as far as peaceful conflict resolution is concerned. No one can take that from him.” Those were the words of Barrister Akere Muna in a recent press conference held in Yaoundé to shed light on the Now Movement political association.
It should however not have come as a surprise to anyone that those words came from a man who dreams of challenging President Paul Biya in this year’s presidential elections scheduled to take place a few months ahead. Just as a city built on a hill cannot be hidden, so too President Biya’s glow emanating from the Green Tree Accord cannot be doused.
For recall, in June 12, 2006, President Paul Biya and his Nigerian counterpart, Olusegun Obasanjo signed the Green Tree Accord in New York. The agreement laid down conditions whose mutual respect guaranteed peaceful co-existence between the peoples of their respective countries. In fact, it was an agreement that saw the handing over of the disputed oil rich Bakassi Peninsular to Cameroon in respect of a verdict the International Court of Justice passed on October 10, 2002.
By signing the agreement, Nigeria agreed to among other things, remove its soldiers from the territory within a 60-day deadline, while Cameroon agreed to not force Nigerian nationals living in the Bakassi Peninsula to leave the zone or to change their nationality, respect their culture, language and beliefs, respect their right to continue their agricultural and fishing activities, protect their property and their customary land rights, not levy in any discriminatory manner any taxes and other dues on Nigerian nationals living in the zone, and take every necessary measure to protect Nigerian nationals living in the zone from any harassment or harm.
Thanks to President Biya’s experience and savvy in international relations and diplomacy, successive Nigerian Presidents stated plainly in their respective terms of office, that they have no plans to renege on the accord. Needless to remind anyone that Nigerian leaders can only but respect their side of the agreement because President Biya has since 2006 kept his side of the bargain to the letter.
In recognition of the African leaders’ politics of reason, desire for peace and dialogue in conflict resolution, the Pan African Lawyers Union Prize for “Peaceful Resolution of Conflicts” was given to President Biya by former South African President Thabo Mbeki in a ceremony that took place at Unity Palace on June 6, 2014. The President of Transparency International, Huguette Labelle accompanied Thabo Mbeki to the ceremony.
Like the veritable diplomat that he is, President Biya in an address shared the credit with those who contributed to the peaceful resolution of the border conflict. Among them were former Nigerian President, Olusegun Obasanjo who was handed the same award, and the successive Heads of State of Nigeria, the former UN Scribe, Kofi Annan and his successor Ban Ki-moon as well as the representatives of the four witness countries of the Agreement [Germany, the United States, France and the United Kingdom]. To this day, the Green Tree Accord remains a legacy of Presidents Paul Biya and Olusegun Abasanjo that will remain indelible for many generations to learn from.