Nigeria: January 16, 2000


WAR ALERT IN WEST AFRICA: The dispute between Nigeria and Cameroon over the oil-rich Bakassi Peninsula appears ready to heat up once again. France, allied to Cameroon, is building a new air base at Gargura, near the peninsula. Nigeria put its own Air Force on alert, as well as the 1st Nigerian Armored Division; they were ordered to be ready for combat operations by 1 Feb. The Bakassi Peninsula is in fact not a peninsula but a series of small islands and salt marshes extending into the Atlantic. When Germany and Britain defined the Nigerian-Cameroonian border in the 1800s, they did not define who got the Peninsula, which both countries now claim. Britain had agreed to cede the area to the German colony of Cameroon in 1913, but World War I broke out before the deal was signed. A similar 1975 agreement would have given the peninsula to Cameroon for remaining neutral in the Nigerian civil war, but this had not been ratified when the Nigerian military staged the 1975 coup and renounced the deal. --Stephen V Cole


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