As the Bakassi peninsula is transferred from Nigerian control to Cameroon, the focus of the international community must move to the Eritrean-Ethiopian boundary.
The ICJ delivered its judgment on 10 October 2002, finding (based principally on the Anglo-German agreements) that sovereignty over Bakassi did indeed rest with Cameroon. It instructed Nigeria to transfer possession of the peninsula, but did not require the inhabitants to move or to change their nationality. Cameroon was thus given a substantial Nigerian population and was required to protect their rights, infrastructure and welfare.
The Eritrean – Ethiopian Boundary Commission ruled strictly on the border, delimiting it, and finally in an act of frustration, demarcating it by coordinates “virtual demarcation”.
As it stands today there is no land occupied by Eritrea that is to be handed over to Ethiopia according to the decision of the EEBC. Ethiopia however, does continue to occupy land on the Eritrean-side of the line of demarcation. The formal hand-over of this territory cannot occur until the Ethiopian troops withdraw.
Although disagreeing strongly with the result of the ICJ decision, and continuing the appeals process, Nigeria has ceded the highly contentious territory to Cameroon that was required.1 In the case of Ethiopia, although their request for appeal was denied, they have yet failed to hand over the occupied territory.
In this similar case Ethiopia does not act neighborly or legally. Although Nigeria did not agree with the decision, after the case ran its course they ceded the territory. Although Cameroon and Nigeria relations are not as hostile as Eritrea and Ethiopia (due to their history), the fact that their relations have improved as a result of the compliance of Nigeria to the decision of the court is an example of what is possible if Ethiopia were to abide by its agreements.
Perhaps tomorrow will bring what we would all like to see, but preparations for all possibilities must be pursued. After all, States, just like people, cannot afford to be unprepared.