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Oil and Gas at Ghana-Ivorian Border. Conflict or Cooperation

Oil and Gas at Ghana-Ivorian Border. Conflict or Cooperation

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Published by Lord Adusei

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Published by: Lord Adusei on Dec 14, 2012
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Oil and Gas at Ghana-Ivorian Border: Conflict or Cooperation?By Lord Aikins AduseiThe West African sub region and indeed theAfrican continent is no stranger to conflicts anddisputes over natural resources. The diamondconflict in Sierra Leone in the 1990s and therecent Niger Delta oil and gas conflicts in Nigeria are few examples of how resources havefuelled conflicts in the sub-region.In the 1980s and 1990s Nigeria and Cameroonclashed several times over oil and gas resourcesin the Bakassi Peninsula. The conflict was later settled by the International Court of Justice in The Hague, but not after several people have been killed. The conflict over gas and oil resources emanated from among other things theneed by both countries to keep their territorial sovereignty intact, ensure energy and humansecurity, economic survival including the need to benefit financially from the sale of theresources.Recently in Ghana the media have reported that Cote d’lvoire (Ivory Coast), which sharesmaritime border with Ghana, is making claims to parts of the sea where Ghana has recentlydiscovered oil. The report saw Ghanaians pouring in on online chat rooms and radiodiscussions in solidarity of their country. They condemned the Ivorian claims asopportunistic.Mr. Collins Dauda, Ghana''s Lands and Natural Resources Minister buttressing the pointthat Ivorians are being opportunistic argued that there was no maritime dispute betweenGhana and Ivory Coast, and that both countries had always respected the median line untiloil and gas was found in the Ghana part of the maritime border. “All of a sudden, with theoil find, Ivory Coast is making a claim that is disrespecting this median line we have allrespected. In which case we would be affected or the oil find will be affected” the Minister claimed.Mr. Dauda was right about his ''no maritime dispute'' statement. Ghana and Ivory Coasthave been good neighbours ever since both countries gained independence. Both nationsare trading partners. There is no memory of a major armed confrontation between the twosister nations. In 2011 Ghana even torpedoed efforts by regional bloc ECOWAS to invadeIvory Coast after the disputed elections.The government of Ghana argued at that time that war was not necessary and that dialogueshould be used to settle the electoral dispute. When conflict finally erupted after France andUN joined the Alassan Quattara forces, Ghana became home to Ivorians who fled theconflict. Recently when I visited Sekondi-Takoradi, I was told stories of Ghanaians andIvorians refugees dining and drinking together, confirming that both countries are like one big family.1
 
Yet the recent discovery of oil and gas (both vital strategic commodities essential for thewell-being of the global economy) is raising voices in both countries. Some of the hawkishvoices are encouraging their governments to protect the sovereignty, territorial integrity andthe national interest of their countries using every possible means including the use of thearmed forces.However, I believe that those with moderate voices should let their voices be heard. Of course moderation does not mean that Ivory Coast and Ghana should ignore their nationalinterests. Far from that, however, I believe that such national interests can be pursueddemocratically and diplomatically without agonising the populations in both countries andendangering the fragile peace in the sub-region.Fortunately, both Ivory Coast and Ghana are leading and respected members of ECOWASas well as the Africa Union and could use these regional institutions to peacefully settle anydisputes they may have.Additionally there is international framework of rules, regulations, conventions, laws andinstitutions which determine who is entitled to which asset on land and on the sea bed. Suchregulations and framework also provide clear rules and guidelines as to how disputes could be determined or settled in international courts. I am sure both Ivory Coast and Ghana aresignatory to some of these international conventions and should use them to address their concerns.Aside using diplomacy and international legal system, both countries can choosecooperation: joint exploration, joint development and joint management of the disputedarea(s) for the benefit of their countries. There are many examples of such cooperation and joint management around the world including that of China and Japan, and the EuropeanUnion.In fact the current European Union was born out of the need to cooperate in pooling andsharing energy and other resources together. In May 1950 Robert Schuman, as FrenchForeign Minister, proposed that to perpetually eliminate devastating wars from Europe,archrivals France and Germany should pool their coal and steel production together and place it under one High Authority for the benefit of both countries and the rest of Europe.That proposal and its adoption have brought 60 years of political stability and economic prosperity to members of the European Union. Prior to the formation of EU, Europeancountries fought several wars over resources including two world wars which were partlyfought over access to resources.The West Africa Power Pool and the West Africa Gas Pipeline coming from Nigeria toTogo, to Benin and to Ghana also serve as good examples on how the countries can shareresources for their common good. There is nothing that prevents Ghana and Ivory Coast tofollow these examples of cooperating to share resources for their own good.In other words no matter the scale of the maritime boundary dispute, it can be settled by2
 
means of arbitration, negotiation or cooperation.Besides, Ivory Coast and Ghana live in an interdependent region with common non-traditional security threats including militancy, piracy, drug and human trafficking, terroristattacks, poverty, food and health insecurity, environmental pollution, climate change, anddeadly diseases such as HIV/AIDS. These problems demand a common, unified responseand should make war between the two countries undesirable.Ivorians and Ghanaians must remember that resources do not necessary bring conflict, people do and the people who advocate for conflict do so because of their interests. Muchof the effort to solve the dispute will depend on the political and the military leadership aswell as other groups (companies and individuals) with interest in the oil and gas resourcesin the area.Therefore the leadership of both countries must demonstrate mutual political trust. Theymust show their commitment to dialogue and respect for international law and politicalstructures within their countries and the sub-region; and they must discard any realist zero-sum perceptions they may have and approach the border dispute with openness, fairnessand mutual respect.One critical element vital to avoiding any conflict or preventing conflict from escalating iscommunication. Ghana and Ivory Coast must establish communication at the ministerialand possibly at the presidential level. Similar communication and hotlines should beestablished at the military level and between the military chiefs of both countries so thatshould any skirmishes accidentally happen between the armies at the border the confidencecould quickly be restored.The citizens in Ghana and Ivory Coast also have a major role to play. While they may bethe ultimate beneficiary of the resources, they may also be victims should the dispute become confrontational. Therefore the citizens must encourage their political leaders to usethe available international laws, conventions and channels to resolve the differences peacefully. In short both countries need not waste vital human and material resources toengage in conflicts that can be resolved diplomatically or through arbitration andcooperation.However, if both countries choose to war-war instead of to jaw-jaw then it is important to point out to them the ramifications of having to engage in a dangerously competitive andruthlessly conflictual exercise. For example such conflictual exercise has potential to sendWest Africa back to the days of low investment, low economic growth, high inflation, hugeexternal debts, human displacements and poverty.Unnecessary military adventure will not only lead to human casualties, but also lead tohuge military expenditure which will be a drain on the economy and may lead to hugeexternal debts whose payment will have negative impact on the performance of botheconomies.From a regional perspective a war between the two countries will have a strong adverseeffect on economic performance of the entire sub-region, particularly the neighbouring3

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