Sierra Leone: Guinea, Sierra Leone Demilitarize Yenga

The government of the Republic of Sierra Leone and the government of the Republic of Guinea have on Friday 27th July 2012 signed a joint declaration for the demilitarization of the disputed border town of Yenga.

This declaration was made by the Sierra Leone Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation during a well attended news conference held at State House, Freetown where a Joint Declaration was symbolically exchanged by the Foreign Ministers of both countries.

In the communiqué bearing signatories of Sierra Leone's Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, Joseph Bandabla Dauda and his Guinean counterpart, Minister of Foreign Affairs, Dr. Edouard Niankoye Lama, the governments of the two sister Mano River Union states registered their commitments towards protecting, promoting and safeguarding their common heritage of co-existence in the spirit of mutual respect for their identical customs and traditions.

According to the joint declaration, the two countries are mindful of Article 58 of the revised Treaty of the Economic Community of West African States relating to regional security which provides that, member states should undertake to work to safeguard and consolidate relations to maintain peace and security within the region and to establish and strengthen appropriate mechanisms for timely prevention and resolution of conflicts.

The joint declaration accepted further the principle and spirit contained under the Lagos Protocol of Non-aggression of 22 April 1978, and the fundamental principles enunciated under Article 4 of the revised Treaty of ECOWAS, which evinces the equality and inter-dependence of member states, non-aggression between member states, maintenance of regional peace, stability and security through the promotion of good neighbourliness, and peaceful settlement of disputes among member states, active cooperation between neighbouring countries and the promotion of a peaceful environment as prerequisite for economic development. The declaration further noted that the MRU Declaration of 3rd October 1973 also emphasized on the establishment of a firm economic foundation for lasting peace, friendship and social cooperation among member states.

Sierra Leone Foreign Minister who read the joint declaration recalled a joint communiqué that was promulgated in Conakry on 14th October 2011, on the occasion of the working visit of President Dr. Ernest Bai Koroma during which they noted that peace and security were paramount in the sustainability of their bilateral relations, economic and cultural cooperation; and consequently acquiesced to expeditiously settle the issue through diplomatic means.

Mr. Dauda also disclosed that during the Gbalamuya Declaration of Yenga issued by both President Koroma and President Alpha Conde, on 2nd June this year, the Guinean President reiterated that there is no dispute between Guinea and Sierra Leone over Yenga and reaffirmed President Koroma's commitment to the resolution of the Yenga issue.

The declaration was conceived bearing in mind the spirit of sound regional cooperation as encapsulated in Article 3 of the African Union Charter which provides for sovereign equality of all member states, inalienable right to independent existence; and the peaceful settlement of disputes by negotiation, mediation and conciliation or arbitration. The Foreign Affairs Minister said it was out of the strong commitment of the government of President Dr Ernest Bai Koroma that has find an enduring solution to the Yenga border issue backed by the burning desire to live in peace within economic development and social and cultural advancement and to provide a thriving environment for achieving sub-regional integration and cross-border investment as well as development which is why both Heads of States and governments conveyed a conference in Freetown to find a lasting solution to the Yenga issue.

It was resolved in the joint declaration that the two governments declare the demilitarization of the Yenga area, instruct higher authorities of their respective armed forces to implement this declaration and a Guinea-Sierra Leone Joint Technical Committee on Yenga has already been mandated to continue with its work leading to the final and peaceful resolution of the Yenga border issue.

Responding to questions from journalist during the news conference, the Minister of State Presidential Affairs of Guinea Francois Lounceny Fall reiterated the Guinean government's commitment towards creating a peaceful atmosphere in Yenga by withdrawing troops from the area so as to allow the Joint Technical Committee to work and to enable Sierra Leoneans in the area to resume their normal activities in peace and quiet.

He reiterated the fact that there was no dispute between the two countries over Yenga, and categorically stated that Yenga cannot be an issue between Guinea and Sierra Leone as there is Political Will being demonstrated by both President Koroma and President Alpha Conde, adding that Guinean troops will be withdrawn from the area with immediate effect.

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