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Guinea-Bissau oil agreement has ‘no legal basis’

Guinean lawyer Adilson Dywyná Djabulá told Lusa that the recent agreement signed by the presidents of Guinea-Bissau and Senegal on the exploitation of oil and fisheries resources has neither political consensus nor technical-legal support.

A professor at the Bissau Faculty of Law, Djabulá, then legal adviser to the Secretary of State for Fisheries, was the one who, in 2014, warned the Guinean authorities about the need for Guinea-Bissau to denounce the Joint Exploration Zone (JZZ) agreements with Senegal, which were about to be renewed for another 20 years.

Now preparing in Lisbon for a doctorate in maritime law on conflicts associated with offshore oil exploration, Dywyná Djabulá told Lusa the strategy that Guinea-Bissau was devising in the context of negotiations with Senegal to reach a new agreement.

Read also: Guinea-Bissau government raises taxes in 2021

The goal was to ensure that the new text “reflected the balance of interests between the two states. Guinea-Bissau considered that the agreement in force since 1995 “was manifestly unfavourable to it”, noted Djabulá, in an interview with Lusa.

Alerted by the lawyer, the then Guinean authorities, namely President José Mário Vaz, informed Senegal of the rebuke on the proposal of the then prime minister, Domingos Simões Pereira of the agreement.

“Dywyná Djabulá, who has since been appointed rapporteur for the government’s inter-ministerial commission, said that “at that time, there was unanimity on the denunciation, all the sovereign bodies were on the same side.

Read also: Bissau is ‘catastrophic’ and close to a failed state, says PAIGC

The agreement in question provided the key sharing of 85% for Senegal and 15% for Guinea-Bissau of the benefits resulting from oil exploration in the JDZ.

The assumption was that on the date of the conclusion of the agreement, only one discovery was projected on Senegal’s continental shelf (areas between azimuths 268º and 240º). In this case, the Dôme Flore deposit, the Guinean university professor explained.

In the same understanding, it was agreed that in the event of “discoveries”, the sharing key would be “revised according to the resources discovered,” a wording that the Guinean negotiating commission considered “ambiguous and subjective.

In the negotiations in 2016, Guinea-Bissau proposed that the sharing key should be 85-15%, depending on the zone where the oil was discovered.

“Senegal rejected this proposal, as it also denied Guinea-Bissau’s proposal to remove the sharing of artisanal fisheries from the CSZ,” Dywyná Djabulá pointed out.

The Guinean expert believes that political instability has weakened the country’s position in conducting this dossier with Senegal. It also says it is strange that Dakar is now signing a new agreement with the same benefits it had refused.

“Strangely, Senegal now appears available to sign an agreement with a 70-30% sharing key in its favour, for any discovery in any sector of the CSZ,” said the first Guinean regent of the chair of Law of the Sea at the Faculty of Law of Bissau.

Dywyná Djabulá’s surprise also relates to the fact that Guinea-Bissau has signed a new agreement with Senegal that has “no internal political consensus” and “no technical-legal support.

Read also: Guinea-Bissau government raises taxes in 2021

“What has been done is a political agreement,” Djabulá noted.

The Guinean jurist’s concern also relates to information that the Management and Cooperation Agency is preparing to start drilling oil exploration boreholes in the southern sector of the ZEC, which comprises Guinea-Bissau’s contribution area, where, he said, scientific studies suggest it is the most promising area for oil.

The Management and Cooperation Agreement between Guinea-Bissau and Senegal was signed in October 1993. It included the creation of a joint exploration zone, which comprises some 25,000 square kilometres of the continental shelf.

Guinea-Bissau gave 46% of its maritime territory to constitute the ZEC and Senegal 54%.

The zone is rich in fish resources, the exploitation of which determines 50% for each of the states, and hydrocarbons (oil and gas), with the Senegalese retaining 85% of hydrocarbons the Guineans 15%.

The so-called “key to sharing the resources of the continental shelf” was agreed upon following legal disputes in international courts to which both countries had appealed due to border disputes inherited from colonialism.

Former Guinean President José Mário Vaz, who disagreed with the sharing agreement, particularly for hydrocarbons, formally denounced the agreement on 29 December 2014, proposing to Senegal that negotiations be reopened to establish new sharing bases.

Since then, Bissau and Dakar have negotiated a new agreement.

In early December, Guinean Prime Minister Nuno Gomes Nabiam reported in parliament that Guinean President Umaro Sissoco Embaló had signed a sharing agreement with Senegal, which was distributed to MPs.

The agreement states that the current sharing percentage for hydrocarbons is 30% for Guinea-Bissau and 70% for Senegal in the entire ZEC.

The parliament passed a resolution declaring the agreement null and void, but the Guinean head of state does not accept the decision and has said that the MPs are not competent to do so.

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