Potential Hot Spots: July 2, 2005


American military commanders are becoming increasingly worried about developments in West Africa, particularly the Gulf of Guinea. The western end (Ivory Coast, Liberia, and Sierra Leone) is in melt-down, barely being held from total chaos by some 20,000 international peacekeepers. Worse, bandits and militiamen from these countries have occasionally spilled over into neighboring Guinea, threatening its stability and creating humanitarian emergencies, as they plunder, murder, and kidnap local people. 

At the other end, Nigeria is in semi-chaos, with the threat of religious civil war hovering over it while being troubled by increasingly dangerous criminal gangs pirating oil. Complicating the situation is Nigeria's territorial dispute with Cameroon. Nigeria occupies the oil-rich Bakassi Peninsula, on the Gulf of Guinea, and some area on Lake Chad, that are generally regarded as belonging to Cameroon. In 1994 Cameroon took the matter to the World Court. In 2002, after eight years in adjudication, the court awarded the peninsula to Cameroon. Nigeria has ignored the ruling, and remains in occupation of the region. A couple of weeks ago Nigerian troops fired on Cameroon troops, killing one, which does not bode well for the prospects of a peaceful settlement. 

Most of the rest of the states along the Gulf of Guinea between the two ends are in no great shape. The only bright spot is Ghana, which over the past decade has proven to be one of the most open and progressive countries in Africa, with a good economy, marred by some tensions with Togo, which has a very unstable government and a lot of rural banditry that sometimes spills over the border.


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