- The Presidents of Equatorial Guinea and Gabon today met in Geneva under the guidance of UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan to resolve the border conflict over several oil-rich islands. While a joint oil exploration deal in the area was signed in 2004, a final border has yet to be agreed upon. Mr Annan said the two leaders showed "flexibility".
President Teodoro Obiang Ngeuma of Equatorial Guinea and Omar Bongo of Gabon already in 2003 had asked for the UN's help to resolve the border conflict, which had caused several diplomatic crises between the two neighbours in the 1980s and 1990s. Both countries claim the minor, uninhabited islands of Mbanié, Cocotier and Conga in Corisco Bay, which became especially interesting during the last decade as it became clear that they possibly hold oil resources.
The two leaders took most observers by surprise in 2004 as they with the help of Mr Annan suddenly agreed on joint oil exploration and exploitation in the offshore area that was affected by the dispute. The largest interest conflict thus was removed and the remaining disagreement on borders and the islands themselves would be settled in subsequent talks.
Nothing however has happened since the 2004 agreement, leading to speculations that the Malabo and Libreville governments were not too interested in resolving the dispute over the islands. Again, in a surprise initiative, President Obiang, President Bongo and Mr Annan met today in Geneva to hold the long awaited talks on the island borders.
According to Mr Annan, the tone at the mini-summit had been very positive. "They showed incredible flexibility, good will and determination to press ahead and resolve this issue in the next few months and definitely before the end of the year," Mr Annan told the press after the meeting. The UN Secretary-General added that both leaders had "agreed to press ahead with immediate negotiations on the delimitation of their maritime and land borders."
"I think it will be important for them to resolve this issue as quickly as possible and it will also be a good message for the continent, a continent wracked by conflicts and tensions, that two leaders come together and resolve their differences very, very peacefully."
The UNN Secretary-General also said that both sides had agreed that technical teams would meet in Geneva on 15 March to continue the discussions, adding that he intended to meet with the Equatoguinean and Gabonese leaders again sometime in the course of next month in Africa to further pursue efforts towards resolving the border issue.
Also the two Presidents were optimistic when speaking to the press after the Geneva meeting. "In reality there is no problem, just a small difference that we will, I am sure, settle," Gabonese President Bongo told 'Radio France Internationale'. He saw no obstacles to a final agreement within the time frame described by Mr Annan.
Equatoguinean President Obiang added that the two neighbours had been "victims of the effects of colonization," referring to a map of 1900 delimitating the border between the French and Spanish colonies. The 106-year-old map, which was sluggish on the islands' localisation, leaves two different interpretations options.
afrol News - It is called "financial inclusion", and it is a key government policy in Rwanda. The goal is that, by 2020, 90 percent of the population is to have and actively use bank accounts. And in only four years, financial inclusion has doubled in Rwanda.
afrol News - The UN's humanitarian agencies now warn about a devastating famine in Sudan and especially in South Sudan, where the situation is said to be "imploding". Relief officials are appealing to donors to urgently fund life-saving activities in the two countries.
afrol News - Fear is spreading all over West Africa after the health ministry in Guinea confirmed the first Ebola outbreak in this part of Africa. According to official numbers, at least 86 are infected and 59 are dead as a result of this very contagious disease.
afrol News - It is already a crime being homosexual in Ethiopia, but parliament is now making sure the anti-gay laws will be applied in practical life. No pardoning of gays will be allowed in future, but activist fear this only is a signal of further repression being prepared.
afrol News / Africa Renewal - Ethiopia's ambitious plan to build a US$ 4.2 billion dam in the Benishangul-Gumuz region, 40 km from its border with Sudan, is expected to provide 6,000 megawatts of electricity, enough for its population plus some excess it can sell to neighbouring countries.