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08 February 2017

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Ghana’s democracy was displayed at the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea (ITLOS) in Hamburg, Germany, yesterday when Ghana’s immediate past Attorney-General and Minister of Justice, Mrs Marietta Brew Appiah-Opong, introduced her successor, Ms Gloria Afua Akuffo, as the agent for Ghana in the ongoing maritime boundary dispute between Ghana and Cote d’Ivoire.

It was a spectacle to behold when Mrs Appiah-Opong formally introduced Ms Akuffo to the panel hearing the maritime boundary dispute.

Hearing of the merits of the case began at the ITLOS yesterday, but Mrs Appiah-Opong told the panel of five judges and the registrar that there had been a change in government and for that reason she was at the tribunal to officially hand over the baton to Ms Akuffo.

“As you may be aware, there has recently been a change of government in Ghana. Since then, the current and the former governments have worked together closely to ensure the smooth running and continuity of the case,” Mrs Appiah-Opong said.

She said the past and the present administrations were completely united in their commitment to Ghana’s national interest, adding, “This unity is shown by my presence here, alongside my successor, Ms Gloria Afua Akuffo.”

Mrs Appiah-Opong emphasised that the case was tremendously important to Ghana and further noted that it had been her privilege to act as Ghana’s agent since the case began in 2014, supported by a team from both Ghana and abroad.

“I am delighted now to hand over the role of agent to the capable hands of Ms Akuffo for this important final stage of the case and I ask you to call on her to introduce Ghana’s first round of oral submissions,” she added.

The President of the Special Chamber constituted to deal with the dispute, Judge Boualem Bouguetaia, accordingly invited Ms Akuffo to present Ghana’s case.

Other members of the panel hearing the case are judges Rüdiger Wolfrum, Germany, and Jin-Hyun Paik, the Republic of Korea.

Ad hoc judges Thomas Mensah, Ghana, and Ronny Abraham, France, were selected by Ghana and Cote d’Ivoire, respectively, per the rules of the ITLOS.

Mr Philippe Gautier, who hails from Belgium, is the Registrar of the Special Chamber.

The Attorney-General

Ms Akuffo, for her part, said she was very pleased Mrs Appiah-Opong was with her in Hamburg and acknowledged “her tremendous service to Ghana”.

“Despite the change of government, she has continued to work closely with me in preparation for this hearing, as well as addressing you today. This, in my respectful view, attests to the stability of our democracy and also underscores the fact that on the matter that brings us before this Special Chamber, Ghana stands united,” Ms Akuffo emphasised.

The Attorney-General and Minister of Justice commended the registrar of the Special Chamber for working tirelessly to ensure the speedy hearing of the substantive matter.

Sudden departure

Touching on the dispute between Ghana and Cote d’Ivoire, Ms Akuffo said despite the dispute, “the relationship between Ghana and Cote d’Ivoire remains cordial, testament to the strength of our relationship”.

She reiterated the fact that Ghana attempted to resolve the issue through diplomatic means but it eventually resorted to the ITLOS after 10 failed negotiation attempts.

She said after decades of shared customary equidistance boundary, Ghana was dismayed when, in 2009, Cote d’Ivoire “suddenly departed from the common understanding that the parties had relied on for so long”.

Ms Akuffo noted that the stability of that understanding had provided the basis for both countries to conduct affairs in the territory in question.

“The customary equidistance boundary was also the basis for the significant investment by third parties on either side of the maritime boundary, all of whom placed justifiable reliance on what Ghana and Cote d’Ivoire had long said and done in their respective territories,” she told the tribunal.

She said it was, therefore, unfortunate for Cote d’Ivoire to first communicate its new position not to Ghana directly but third party operators of concessions offered by Ghana, which Cote d’Ivoire had long known about and never objected to.

Ms Akuffo noted that Ghana’s consistency on the issue of the maritime boundary with Cote d’Ivoire was a virtue which stemmed from the fact that there had been a long agreed and mutually recognised boundary.

Other presenters

Three of Ghana’s lawyers, namely, Professor Philippe Sands of Matrix Chambers, London; Mr Paul S. Reichler of Foley Hoag Chambers, Washington, DC, and Mr Fui S. Tsikata of Reindorf Chambers, Accra, also advanced legal arguments on behalf of Ghana.

Using maps, diplomatic correspondence and agreements between both countries spanning five decades, the lawyers advanced arguments to justify Ghana’s position that Cote d’Ivoire had no legal and geographical basis to claim any maritime boundary from Ghana.

Ghana will continue its second round of arguments today.

Ghana’s team includes officials from the Attorney-General’s Department, the Ministry of Energy, the Maritime Boundaries Secretariat, the Ghana National Petroleum Corporation (GNPC), the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the Petroleum Commission and lawyers from Ghana and abroad.

The Minister of Petroleum of Cote d’Ivoire, Mr Adama Toungara, is leading the Ivorian delegation.

Cote d’Ivoire will begin advancing its arguments on Thursday, February 9, 2017.

Source: Daily Graphic

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