Ils appartenaient comme la quinzaine de blessés, au poste de commandement N°3 attaqué lundi dernier.
La nouvelle a fait l’objet d’un rassemblement spécial hier, mardi 13 novembre 2007 au quartier général de Qg Yaoundé. Le commandant de cette place d’arme qui s’est adressé à ses hommes, a fait l’annonce du décès des suites d’une attaque surprise, lundi 12 novembre 2007 en fin de matinée, d’une vingtaine d’éléments appartenant au poste de commandement N°3 placé sous la direction du capitaine de frégate (colonel) Mveng à Bakassi. Ce coup dur pour l’armée camerounaise intervient au moment où des conflits de tout genre traverse la grande muette malmenée ces dernières semaines par une affaire de "faux coup d’Etat".
La nouvelle a provoqué une onde de choc, aussi bien sur la place d’armes du quartier général à Ngoa Ekellé que dans les services du ministre délégué à la présidence de la République chargé de la Défense (Mindef), René Zé Meka, qui a aussitôt été dépêché sur le lieu du drame à Bakassi. En début d’après-midi hier. Si cette information diffusée en boucle sur des chaînes internationales de radio (Rfi par exemple), depuis la mi-journée d’hier, émeut des millions de Camerounais ayant salué en l’arrêt de la Cour internationale de justice (Cij), le 10 octobre 2002, ils sont nombreux à décrier les circonstances de cette escalade survenue avec des rebelles de la région nigériane du Delta du Niger.
Selon des sources concordantes dans les milieux de l’armée à Bakassi, Yaoundé et Douala où les victimes ont été conduites, tout serait parti d’un trafic de munitions entre ce groupe de militaires camerounais et les rebelles nigérians du Delta du Niger. Ce commerce illicite des militaires camerounais de l’avis de diverses sources militaires, a fait l’objet d’une mission du général René Claude Meka au cours du mois d’octobre. Tous les commandants militaires ayant plaidé non coupable, ils ont voulu, à travers l’arrestation de sept rebelles, le week-end dernier témoigner de leur bonne foi. C’était sans compter avec la témérité des rebelles qui ont, grâce à l’effet de surprise, frappé au cœur du poste de commandement N°3 et fait 21 morts et une quinzaine de blessés.
A en croire les mêmes sources, l’attaque des rebelles nigérians aurait trouvé, côté camerounais, des hommes démotivés, plus portés vers les affaires qui ont cours dans l’île depuis le début de la démarcation des frontières en 2003. Dans les rangs de l’armée, les langues se délient pour déplorer les mauvaises conditions dans lesquelles exercent les militaires camerounais à Bakassi.
Toujours est-il que l’attaque de lundi dernier était attendue depuis un an au moins. Dans son édition du 07 août 2006, le quotidien nigérian "Punch", annonçait que les rebelles de la région du delta du Niger, en appui aux chefs traditionnels ont saisi la haute cour fédérale d’Abuja pour attaquer l’accord de Greentree signé entre les présidents Biya et Obassajo en présence du secrétaire général de l’Onu d’alors, Kofi Annan. A l’époque, sous la houlette de Tony Ene proche collaborateur de Donald Duke, gouverneur de l’Etat de Cross River, les rebelles avaient proclamé l’indépendance de l’Etat de Bakassi dont la devise sonne comme un cri de ralliement: "Dieu est notre force". Des membres du mouvement indépendantiste de la région du Delta du Niger avaient également investi la place de Ekpot Atai dans la journée du dimanche 06 août 2006.
Après avoir hissé leur drapeau bleu et rouge comportant dix étoiles symbolisant les dix clans qui séjournent sur la presqu’île, ils ont proclamé l’indépendance de la République démocratique de Bakassi. Ces militants du mouvement sécessionniste de la région du Delta du Niger, à en croire notre confrère Punch, avaient juré aller au bout de leur logique. D’où certainement ces propos de leur porte-parole, Tony Ene, "il est hors de question de prêter notre territoire, comme veulent le faire le Nigeria et les Nations unies, à un autre pays". Une détermination galvanisée par la saisine, le 21 juillet 2006, de la haute cour fédérale d’Abuja par sept chefs traditionnels de la péninsule (parmi lesquels Chief Orok Eneyo, Chief Emmanuel Effiong Etene, Ndabu Eyo Umo Nakanda, Emmanuel Okokon Asuquo, Ita Okon Nyong, Richard Ekpenyong et Elder Tony Ene Asuquo) au sujet de l’accord de Greentree signé le 12 juin 2006 entre les présidents Paul Biya et Olusegun Obasanjo.
De même, des facilités de navigation maritime ont été offertes pour permettre aux opérateurs économiques et aux habitants de vaquer librement à leurs occupations. Profitant perfidement desdites facilités, les assaillants naviguant à bord de sept (07) embarcations rapides, ont pu approcher le poste baptisé C3, ouvert le feu faisant vingt et un (21) morts et dix (10) blessés parmi nos militaires.
Au cours de la riposte, une dizaine d’agresseurs ont été abattus et une de leurs embarcations détruite. Une enquête est ouverte en vue de déterminer la provenance des assaillants et de préciser tous les contours de cet incident. Des dispositions urgentes ont été prises par le Haut commandement en vue de l’évacuation des dépouilles, la prise en charge médicale des blessés dans les hôpitaux de Douala et l’information des familles.
Le président de la République, chef des Armées adresse ses sincères condoléances aux familles des victimes et réaffirme l’autorité de l’Etat du Cameroun sur la presqu’île de Bakassi où l’ordre et la sécurité continueront d’être assurés.
Vingt-et-un militaires camerounais ont été tués et six blessés lundi dans une attaque menée par des "rebelles" nigérians sur la péninsule de Bakassi, officiellement remise par le Nigeria au Cameroun en août 2006, a-t-on appris mardi de sources militaires camerounaises. Selon une de ces sources, "il y a eu une attaque de pirates rebelles nigérians hier (lundi) à 14H30 (13H30 GMT) contre une position militaire camerounaise dénommée +groupement opérationnel centre+ à Bakassi".
"L´attaque a fait 21 morts, dont deux officiers, et six blessés côté camerounais", a ajouté cette source.
Les assaillants sont repartis aussitôt après l´attaque et le calme était revenu mardi dans cette zone, a-t-elle ajouté.
Une autre source au ministère camerounais de la Défense a confirmé à Yaoundé cette "attaque" sans vouloir en préciser les "circonstances". "Nous avons eu des problèmes sérieux", s´est-elle bornée à expliquer, ajoutant que le ministre de la Défense s´exprimerait le moment venu.
Le journal privé camerounais La Nouvelle Expression fait état mardi d´une vingtaine de morts dans cette attaque, qu´il attribue à des hommes armés "déguisés en pirates" qui cherchaient à s´emparer des armes de la position camerounaise.
Selon la source militaire, l´armée camerounaise a été prise par surprise car elle a confondu les assaillants, venus à bord d´une ou plusieurs embarcations, avec de simples civils, et a donc voulu "respecter les accords de libre circulation". Ce n´est qu´au dernier moment qu´ils ont sorti leurs armes, a-t-elle ajouté.
Cette source a tenu à préciser que les assaillants "n´agissaient pas au nom des autorités nigérianes".
Potentiellement riche en pétrole, cette péninsule d´environ 1.000 km2 que le Nigeria a officiellement remise au Cameroun le 14 août 2006, a longtemps fait l´objet d´un conflit frontalier entre les deux pays.
En octobre 2002, la Cour internationale de Justice (CIJ) de La Haye, saisie par Yaoundé, en avait attribué la souveraineté au Cameroun. Mais il aura fallu quatre ans pour que cette décision soit appliquée.
Publié le 13 novembre 2007.-------------
Bakassi - Still in Search Homeland of New Homeland
11 November 2007
By Ernest Chinwo
Another round of crisis may be brewing in the troubled Bakassi Peninsula following disagreement among the former residents of the area on their new homeland. Following the June 12, 2006 Green Tree Agreement between Nigeria and Cameroon, which effectively signaled the acceptance of both countries of the October 10, 2002 ruling of the International Court of Justice (ICJ) on the dispute, the Federal Government and the Cross River State government agreed to resettle returnees from the area.
The Cross River State Government designated Ikang North, Central and South as the New Bakassi for the resettlement of returnees from the area ceded to Cameroon. But emerging signals from the people indicate that the crisis is far from being over as they are now locked in disagreement over the choice of their new home.
While the Cross River State Government insists that the people would be resettled at the three villages of Ikang in Akpabuyo Local Government area of the State, the people are opting for a virgin land at Nsutana Iyata of Duke Town House which lies across the Calabar River.
Governor Liyel Imoke in his maiden media parley in Calabar last Thursday said the State Government would stand by the relocation of the people to the site it had already chosen. According to the Governor, "the Bakassi incident happened years ago. Selection of a settlement for the people was not an executive fiat. It was participatory. It is unfortunate that even people who participated in making the decision for the site are now asking for another location."
He said contracts had already been awarded for the provision of vital infrastructures in the new location and that his administration has no intention of taking the people to anywhere else as it would cost more to provide infrastructure at the location being proposed by those opposed to Ikang.
In addition to their resettlement problems, the Imoke also announced that the Saturday, November 3, local government elections in the state would not take place in the New Bakassi, confirming fears earlier raised by the people to that effect. Imoke said the decision to disenfranchise the people was based on the fact that there were no infrastructures in the place to run a local government administration and that election of a chairman and councilors would amount to a waste as it would be difficult to monitor allocations to the area.
However, the returnees, under the umbrella of the Bakassi Elders Forum (BEF), have outrightly rejected the location established by the Cross River State Government, insisting on a virgin land. They said the three Ikang Towns comprising Ikang north, central, and south are already built up and heavily populated towns of Akpabuyo Local Government Council. They said their relocation and resettlement in the area would create more problems that would be difficult to contend with.
They insisted that they should be taken to a virgin land of Nsutana Iyata of Duke Town House "to forestall the seeming political, economic and social skirmishes that may leave us in the same situation and the possible restiveness like the Ife/Modakeke, Itsekiri/Warri, Biakpan/Etono one and two. A stitch in time saves nine."
In the meantime, the people who have left the ceded part of Bakassi are scattered in different parts of the state and facing acute accommodation problems, while those expected to leave the troubled area soon are gripped with fear and uncertainty over where to go to. Curiously though, the people of Ikang welcome the resettlement of the returnees in their home, but insist that they must be consulted on all issues of development in the area.
The magnitude of the problem came to the fore when members of the South-South Parliamentary Caucus (SSPC) of the House of Representatives led by its chairman, Chief Andrew Uchendu visited the area on a fact-finding mission. While those favourably disposed to the Ikang location met at Ekpri Ikang to receive the SSPC members, others opposed to the location shunned the venue but met with the SSPC members in an undisclosed location where they presented their position.
In their presentation to the SSPC, the current occupants of the designated site under the auspices of the Ikang Joint Assembly (IJA) said they are satisfied with the current relocation and are not ready to relocate to any other location.
They however expressed regret that since the presidential pronouncement of the present location as the new Local Government Area on August 12, 2006, neither the Federal Government nor the Cross River State Government had officially brought together the representatives of the landlord community and the representatives of the displaced people of Bakassi for discussion on modalities for proper integration.
Chairman of the Assembly, Chief Eyo Ndem Eyo Ita, who presented the assembly´s four-page position paper, said that as a result of the government´s failure to meet with the representatives, "a lot of distortions and conducts considered inimical to smooth development of the new LGA are currently being exhibited by a select group of political class from the former Bakassi."
They said government should appoint a technical committee to address the issues that have so far emerged as a result of the location of the new local government area in Ikang. They further agreed that substituting state law on the structure of the local government area must be strictly implemented and respected by all stakeholders. They insisted that the people of Ikang must, as a matter of government policy, at all times form part of any issues and development of the local government area on equal basis with their counterparts from the former Bakassi.
They appealed to the Cross River State Government to ensure that the new Bakassi Local Government Area took part in preparations and subsequent conduct of the local government elections slated for November 3, an appeal that obviously was not granted as the area was the only one excluded from the concluded polls.
According to them, "the people of Ikang have always supported government efforts in relocating our displaced brothers from the old Bakassi. We will always encourage efforts that will bring about peaceful coexistence and proper integration, but not at the expense of our existence as a people."
The position of IJA was also supported by the Paramount Ruler of Bakassi, Etinyin Etim Okon Edet, Deputy Speaker of the State House of Assembly, Chief Dominic Aqua Edem who also represents Bakassi Constituency in the Assembly as well ad Member of the Federal House of Representatives for Calabar South, Akpabuyo and Bakassi, Mr. Essien Ayi. The Paramount Ruler however criticised the lukewarm attitude of government to the plight of the people. He alleged that his people have not seen anything tangible arrangement in the resettlement process.
"Government has behaved like we are not part of this country. Perhaps it is because we have no people in government. Two areas were ceded in Nigeria: the Lake Chad Region and the Bakassi. The Lake Chad people have been relocated and settled, but we have been left in the wilderness," the paramount ruler said.
Edet also said the Cross River State Government had not treated the issue with any seriousness, saying that "the Cross River State Government is coming here for the first time since the issue of relocation was mentioned". He called on government to provide accommodation for the people already relocated and warned that if nothing was done urgently, the people to be moved from northern Bakassi to the new Bakassi next year when the area would be fully ceded to Cameroon would also suffer similar condition.
The member representing Calabar South/ Akpabuyo/Bakassi Federal Constituency, Mr. Essien Ayi also said that about one billion Naira released by former President Olusegun Obasanjo from his security vote in March 2007, has been the only money committed to the Bakassi resettlement programme so far. Ayi told the South-South caucus that the money which was handed to the Cross River State Government during the days of Governor Donald Duke was not used for the development of the area. He also regretted that the resettlement of the people was not included in the 2007, budget despite assurances to the people by the last administration.
According to him, "in 2007, there was no budget for Bakassi. What we got was a handout from the President´s security vote. Even in the 2007 Supplementary Budget, there was no provision for the resettlement of the People of Bakassi. In 2008, enough money must be in the budget for the Bakassi resettlement." Ayi said the issue of resettling the people must be addressed now by implementing the subsisting state law and the people of Bakassi must be part of the implementing process.
However, in their submission to the SSPC in an undisclosed venue in Calabar same day, the Bakassi Elders Forum said the matter was beyond the issue of location. They insist there are some political undertones as some political jobbers were hijacking the relocation project to ensure that the returnees did not have political and economic control of the new Bakassi.
The paper titled, "Position Paper on the Relocation/Resettlement of Bakassi Indigenes and Other Related Issues", signed by its Deputy Leader, Chief Patrick Antigha-Ene, former Deputy Speaker, former Bakassi Council Chairman, Chief Emmanuel Etene and 21 others, the people said the relocation/resettlement process was bungled by the Donald Duke-led government by some people "whose primary motive was to divert the huge amount of money perceived to be involved in the said exercise."
According to them, "in the run-off to the April general elections, the state government, in a bit to cover up their illegality passed and assented to a law (Cross River Law No.7 of 2007) on April 12, 2007. This law confers on a candidate from Ikang North in Akpabuyo Local Government a right to run in the election as a member in the State House of Assembly to represent Bakassi.
"This law if allowed to stand would make mockery of the proposed relocation/resettlement of the Bakassi people", they said, adding that "if the House of Assembly was passing a bill for the creation of Ikang Local Government Area, we would have little or nothing to worry about. But we would as a people resist any attempt within the ambit of the law by person or group of persons to unlawfully use the name of our local government area without seeking and or attempting to protect all our political and traditional institutions."
They said that Bakassi LGA is an entity whose existence is guaranteed by the 1999 Constitution and the Green Tree Agreement of June 12, 2006 merely stated that "the people from the already ceded areas of the Bakassi North be moved to the Abana and Atabong zones where the administrative and political machinery of the LGA would continue to be in operation for the transitional period of 25 years, pending when an area of land would be legally acquired and our people relocated and resettled as was done to the people of Lake Chad in Borno state."
According to them, "even the UN sub-committee on Maritime Boundary Demarcation between Nigeria and Cameroon has not met even for a second, then why the haste by the Cross River State Government to delve into a mater that is strictly within the purview of the National Assembly."
They also requested members of the South-South Caucus of the National Assembly to ascertain the release of the one billion naira fund by the former president for the resettlement of the people and whether it was used for the purpose it was released.
They insisted that "the affected people of Bakassi should be relocated and resettled to a neutral location called Nsutana Iyata. The land is owned by our kith and kin of Duke Town House (and) it is contiguous to the Atlantic Ocean, sparsely inhabited and the terrain akin to our traditional homeland.
"The National Assembly should also enact an enabling legislation so as to guarantee gradual and peaceful relocation/resettlement process that would ensure the sustenance of the original political/traditional structures of the Bakassi people," he said.
Chairman of the SSPC, Chief Andrew Uchendu said the Caucus was poised to address the issue of the resettlement of the Bakassi returnees and other matters affecting the entire Niger Delta. He commended efforts already taken by the state government on the Bakassi issue, but pointed out that the Bakassi people need an identity of their own. He pleaded with the people to remain patient as government cannot do everything at a time.
"I encourage both teams-two factional groups of Bakassi-to come out with a common agenda because a divided house will not help us. I implore all of you, if we are going to succeed collectively, we need cooperation and understanding and no matter the level of provocation continue to maintain your cool. We will give strong backing to the government of Cross River State," he said.
Following the controversy surrounding the disbursement and use of the one billion naira meant for the resettlement of the Bakassi returnees, two groups, the General Assembly of the People of Bakassi (GABP), and the Cross River Movement for Justice (CRMJ) have petitioned the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) urging it to investigate the alleged misappropriation of the fund.
In the petition dated September 23, and sent through their counsel, Chief Okoi Obono-Obla, a human rights lawyer and activist, the groups accused the administration Duke of scuttling plans of the Federal Government to resettle the people. The petition titled "Re: request for the investigation of one billion naira appropriated for the resettlement of the people of Bakassi local government area displaced by the implementation of the green tree accord between Nigeria and the Cameroon" requested the EFCC to unravel issues relating to the spending of the money.
In 2005, the United Nations brokered an agreement between Nigeria and Cameroon concerning the Judgment of the International Court of Justice at The Hague in 2002, which awarded the sovereignty of certain areas or portions of the Bakassi Peninsula to the Republic of Cameroon.
Accordingly in 2006 or thereabout the sum of one billion naira was released by the Federal Government for the resettlement of the people of Bakassi affected. This money was released after the visit of Obasanjo in August 2005. The petitioners said that the people of Bakassi and the Cross River Movement for Justice gathered that the failure of the resettlement plan of the Federal Government was occasioned because of the diversion of the funds released by the central government to the government of Cross River State.
On the issue of the funds, he said "Let me just tell you that the state government is committed to the welfare of its people and if any money has been released I can assure you that it has been used judiciously. I can assure you that if you go to the site of new Bakassi you will see contractors working.
"I am not in a position to comment on any other issue, but I can assure you that from my own little knowledge, any fears as to diversion or misappropriation of funds, I think, not necessary because the government of Imoke is extremely prudent, due process conscious, and if you have been around you will see that in Bakassi we are on ground and are doing what he has asked us to do," Ogon said.
At the moment however, there are strong feelings among the returnees that some political bigwigs, some of whom are not even from the state, are exploiting the situation to build political empires and amass wealth at the expense of the real people affected by the exercise. However it is obvious that whether the people are resettled at Ikang or Nsutana Iyata, the area may boil again unless urgent steps are taken to settle all contending issues.
No Local Government Election in Bakassi
3 November 2007
Fears by the people of Bakassi that they may not take part in today´s local government elections in Cross River State was confirmed yesterday, as the state government has said elections would not hold in the area.
The displaced people in the area, which was ceded to the Republic of Cameroon by the administration of former President Olusegun Obasanjo, had earlier told a fact-finding team of the South-South caucus of the House of Representatives their fears that they could be disenfranchised in the elections. The people, through their paramount ruler, Etiyin Etim Okon Edet, had appealed to the Cross River state Government not to disenfranchise them in the local government elections in the state.
But Governor Liyel Imoke, yesterday in Calabar, said the local government elections would take place only in 17 out of the 18 local government areas of the state. The only area left out is Bakassi. Imoke explained that the area was excluded in the elections because there was no administrative structure on ground in the new Bakassi headquarters at Ekpri Ikang.
He said government was still in the process of building the local government headquarters and other infrastructure that would enable government operate in the area, stressing that until that was achieved, it would be wasteful to elect officers who would have no where to operate from.
According to the Governor, "first of all, we need to put an administrative structure on ground. If a chairman and counselors are elected and they have no office, nobody will know what the funds allocated will be used for."
Meanwhile, the All Nigeria Peoples Party (ANPP) and Action Congress (AC) have warned the Cross River State Independent Electoral Commission (CROSIEC) against going on with the elections. In a letter to the Commission, both political parties cited a subsisting matter in the State High Court and said it would be a futile exercise as any results from the election would be upturned in the law courts.
According to the parties who wrote through their counsel, Barrister Okoi Obono-Obla, "we wish to state that your Commission cannot organize, undertake, conduct or supervise in the purported Local Government Council Elections in Cross River state scheduled for Saturday, the 3 rd day of November, 2007 because the case concerning the constitutionality or legality of the election is pending before a court of competent jurisdiction."
They said there was also a motion for interlocutory injunction restraining the commission from the conduct of the election pending the determination of the case.
The letter cited some judgements of the Supreme Court on similar issues and threatened that they will seek a mandatory injunction to set aside the election should the Commission go ahead and conduct the election.
But Imoke said the State Government was not aware of any injunction restraining it from organizing the elections. He said that the State respects the Rule of law and would not do any thing to against the law.
Meanwhile, the chairman of CROSIEC, Sir Patrick Out said 17 chairmanship and 176 councillorship positions would be contested for in the elections.
Bakassi (bäkä´sç) [key], peninsula, c.400 sq mi (1,000 sq km), on the Cameroon-Nigeria border, at the SE end of the Gulf of Guinea. The swampy peninsula and associated small islands are strategically located, controlling access to the Nigerian port of Calabar; the surrounding waters are rich in fish and submarine oil deposits. The traditional inhabitants are mainly Efik fishermen with ties to Nigeria.
In 1961 the S British Cameroons (a former German colony) became part of Cameroon, while the northern portion joined Nigeria. Control of the peninsula has been disputed between the two countries since, and military clashes over it have occurred sporadically. The dispute was brought in 1994 by Cameroon to International Court of Justice, which awarded the peninsula to Cameroon in 2002. The judgment was largely based on the 1913 Anglo-German agreement that defined the borders of those nations colonies. A 2006 agreement established a two-year timetable for the handover of the peninsula; the inhabitants may remain as Cameroonian citizens or be resettled in Nigeria. The handover process began in Aug., 2006, when Nigeria withdrew its troops from the region, and the northern portion was transferred to Cameroon.