Ghana Initiates Arbitration Proceedings

The Attorney General and Minister for Justice, Mrs Marietta Brew Appiah-Opong today briefed the press on steps Ghana has taken to settle a maritime boundary dispute between her (Ghana) and Cote d'Ivoire. According to her, the arbitration is a desire to strengthen the relationship between the two countries by firmly and finally establishing the maritime boundary.

"Ghana regards this arbitration as a peaceful and friendly means of bringing to a final resolution a longstanding and costly dispute between two neighbouring states that maintain-and will continue-an excellent relationship and strong bonds of friendship."

Ghana is certain of winning the arbitration case the West African country has filed against neighbouring Ivory Coast over a maritime boundary dispute.

“We’re extremely confident in our case. I don’t think we’ll lose. Many laws support the position we’ve taken so I’m confident that it will go our way”, Ghana’s Attorney General Marrietta Brew Appiah-Opong told Journalists at a press conference Tuesday.

She said the line drawn to delineate Ghana’s maritime territory from Ivory Coast’s has “existed for decades” since the 1950s “so Ghana is not ready to shift its position”.

Ghana resorted to the International Court of Arbitration in The Hague after more than 10 rounds of negotiations with The Ivory Coast since 2008 without success of resolving the impasse.

The young oil producing country of 25 million people wants the International Tribunal on the Law of the Sea to declare that it has not encroached on the Ivorian territorial waters in the exploration of oil.

Appiah-Opong said the arbitration process started by Ghana is not a “hostile” move intended to create tension between the two neighbours.

“This is not a hostile act. All we’re are doing is to bring certainty and finality to the matter. It does not mean we’re at loggerheads, or the two heads of state are fighting”, Ghana’s chief lawyer said.

The case, according to the AG will take at least three years. The two parties are to agree on three independent arbitrators by mutual consent. The president of United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), to which both countries belong to, will be compelled to appoint the arbitrators should the two parties fail to reach an agreement on the arbitrators.

The decision of the arbitrators will be final. There will be no room for appeal. The Minister said all Ghana’s operations in oil fields that fall within the disputed boundary will continue operating in the interim.

Energy Minister Emmanuel Amah Kofi Buah said at the press conference that the claim of The Ivory Coast indeed affects some of Ghana’s concessions.

Also Minister of Communication, Dr Edward Omane Boamah said despite the warm relationship between Ghana and The Ivory Coast, the British colony has “a sacred duty of protecting our natural resources not just for this generation but also generations unborn”.

Ghana filed the suit based on Article 287 Annex VII of the 1982 UNCLOS.

The statement of claim avers, among other things, that pursuant to articles 286 and 287 of the 1982 UNCLOS, and in accordance with Article 1 Annex 1, the Republic of Ghana had served notice to the Republic of The Ivory Coast to the effect that “having failed to reach a settlement after successive negotiations and exchange of views over an extended period of time, Ghana has elected to submit the dispute concerning the determination of each maritime boundary with Cote d’Ivoire to the arbitral procedure provided for under Annex VII of UNCLOS”.

Ghana discovered oil in commercial quantities offshore the Western Region in June 2007, but the Ivorian authorities have been laying claim to the discovery.

The dispute received wide media attention in the past, resulting in leaders from both countries engaging in talks to resolve their differences.

And to compound the issue, oil companies operating in the oilfields have been receiving threatening letters from The Ivory Coast asking them to leave the site.