The Ghana/Côte d’Ivoire Maritime Boundary Dispute: A Geo-political analysis
“Beware the ides of March” was what the soothsayer bid Caeser in Julius Caeser, in Act 1, scene 2, 15-19. The importance of the ides of March for Caesar is that it is the day he will be assassinated by a group of conspirators, including Brutus and Cassius.
The parallel in here lies in a 2013 published article entitled “President Outtara poohs poohs while President Mahama engages” in which the author warned about the silent diplomatic subtleties going on regarding our Oil Fields from the Ivorian quarters (Featured article of Saturday, 14 December 2013). The author had warned by then that, “If not done yet, Ghana Government must mount as a matter of urgency a crack think tank on energy, put together the energy experts and legal brains as well as international experts and consultants on the subject matter”
Well, Ghana and Ivory Coast have enjoyed cordial relations and Ghana has been surely of immense unquantifiable help to Côte d’Ivoire in their time of distress only to be dragged to an International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea (ITLOS) in Hamburg, Germany over a disputed maritime boundary. What a stab in the back of Ghana by Côte d’Ivoire!
From the reign of Houphouet Boigny to Henri Konan Bédié to Laurent Gbagbo, Ghana and Côte d’Ivoire had enjoyed and savored their relationship in spite of some punctuated scars of violence along the line. If Houphouet Boigny had held a nation together during his reign which earned him the title of “father of the nation”, his demise will commence the disintegration of a nation once called the “Petit Paris” or the replica of France in Africa.
Henri Konan Bédié, as National Assembly President will succeed long time President Houephouet Boigny after his death. A brief struggle between Bédié and then serving Prime Minister Alassane Outtara would ensue and Bédié will be successful and Outtara will resign his position as Prime Minister.
Reasons for Alassane Outarra’s resignation would have been crystal clear by now for all to understand how a lonely ambition has thrived with time.
It has been an arduous tortuous task for Alassane Outtara to battle including an ostensible policy of “ivoirite” (state of being a native Ivoirian) introduced by Bédié to smack him down, literally disqualifying him for running for president in Côte d’Ivoire, having been perceived as a Burkinabe and hence not qualified to contest the highest position of the land.
But, make no mistake about this eccentric political figure. A thorough bred politician, his controversial nature is not in development but it is developed. It’s a well known given about his controversial nature. It therefore comes as no surprise that Côte d’Ivoire will try to litigate a 40 year old historical maritime boundary if not for reasons best known.
Historically, as argued by the Ghanaian legal team at court in Hamburg, Germany, a fortnight ago, Côte d’Ivoire must be trying to move a long and established boundary that had been agreed between the two neighboring countries over 40 years. As pointed out by Ghana’s Attorney General, it certainly is "not good enough" for Ivory Coast to go to court claiming plausible rights over the oil fields "without mentioning the history" behind the boundary which Ghana claims their neighbor want to move(
Is it even possible that a maritime boundary is capable of shifting as years go by? If the boundary is, however, supposed to be static and established as we know it, then Côte d’Ivoire is really controversial in her claims and must be punished by ITLOS for their frivolous actions.
Professor Sand, Ghana’s lead external counsel did not mince words when he questioned why Côte d’Ivoire had abandoned its first President’s decree recognizing the maritime boundary with Ghana.
Legally, as Ghana’s external lawyer argued, “Côte d’Ivoire had full knowledge and never objected”, about Ghana’s oil find in 2007 until now. Indeed, the Ivorian authorities exercised no sense of “urgency” because they did not raise any issue about Ghana’s oil find in the tiring years leading to oil find. Isn’t now strikingly disingenuous on their part to want to appropriate our oil fields and rewrite history?
As pointed out by Ghana’s Attorney General, it was long after oil companies had spent millions to drill wells and discovered oil that Côte d’Ivoire began to stake a claim.
Economically, as argued by Ghana, it would result in “inherently unquantifiable” and “incalculable” loss to Ghana if the court were to rule in favor of Côte d’Ivoire.
Should that happen, how could we even imagine the unquantifiable losses that Tullow will incur with the over drooping whooping $2.2billion investment which is 50% complete according to the Ghana team?
The less we talk about the related unintended negative consequences, the quicker the judges will smack down Côte d’Ivoire in this controversial legal tussle.
And yet are we to believe that some external forces are backing Côte d’Ivoire in their claims? Such an external force must be mindful of the fact that it cannot chew more than it can bite.
This case is a recipe for potential political intolerance between the two countries who had hitherto tolerated each other very cordially over the years. This case is a time bomb for a socio-cultural unrest. Yes, disaster is looming big time. Disaster is looming because the facts presented in this case are so clear just as the evidences produced by the Ghanaian team are so damningly overwhelming to ignore. Indeed, this is one of the straight forward cases of maritime dispute that knowledgeable lawyers and judges will not hesitate to exact judgment in favor of Ghana.
Paul Reichler, a member of Ghana's legal team, said that Ivory Coast had for at least the last 40 years accepted the demarcation that Accra considers to be the boundary between the two nations. "There was an agreed border separating their respective maritime territories, and it consisted of an equidistant line whose specific coordinates were identified and were reflected in their oil concession agreements," he pointed out. Even Petroci, the Ivoirian government entity‘s data recognized Ghana’s position, Professor Sand opined.
Aside these arguments, Ghana presented witness testimony and written submissions, to which their opposing legal team did not challenge.
Fellow Ghanaians, let’s keep cool heads. Côte d’Ivoire is basically preying on hope to the extent that they might get a “slice of our pie”. They are desperately trying all they can as captured by their lead counsel, Prof. Alain Pellet, who urged the tribunal to protect the rights of both countries as enshrined in international law but accused Ghana of acting as if it was on “home ground.”
Of course, my fellow Ghanaians, are we not on home ground? The demarcation speaks for us. The long time agreement speaks for us. Moreover, Côte d’Ivoire had been inconsistent in their presentation and is accused of using “unorthodox” means to introduce fresh documents into the case in clear violation of the tribunal’s rules.
Let’s keep cool heads and wait for the imposing positive outcome.
Cletus D Kuunifaa
Can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or Follow him on twitter @ckuunifaa