Sierra Leone: Guinea Not Ready to Give Up Yenga

Sierra Leone-Guinea border map (screenshot).

The fate of Sierra Leoneans in the disputed border town of Yenga is still dicey as there are no signs that the Guineans are ready to leave despite continuous government assurances that the territory will be relinquished by the Guinean occupants before the end of President Ernest Bai Koroma's term of office.

A week ago, shortly after the public proclamation by the Guinean President, Prof. Alpha Conde that his government is determined to resolve the Yenga dispute, a prominent civil society and human rights activist, Charles Mambu, was prevented by Guinean soldiers from going across the common border at Yenga.

Mambu and his Free Yenga Campaign team had reportedly visited the area to explain to the community about the commitment to resolve the territorial dispute as made by the Guinean leader.

"We were allowed to cross the first and second checking points but when we attempted to go to the border line, we were prevented by Guinean soldiers," Mambu said. "The Guinean government has even moved the bacon from its original point to another location beyond Yenga."

He said he was surprised to notice that despite the commitment made by both governments, there were still some pending issues to be sorted out. "I attempted to remove the bacon myself but I was advised by the security personnel who accompanied us to the area against it. We finally returned without reaching the border," Mambu added.

One Yenga resident, Sahr Jusu, said they have not accessed farmlands beyond their village for a couple of years even though they belong to Sierra Leone.

"This dispute is between the two governments and as civilians we are not directly involved," Jusu said. "The Guinean soldiers will allow us to cross over to sell our potato leaves and other vegetables but it is difficult for us to buy anything from there as we are not allowed to do that."

It could be recalled that during the official commissioning of the Gbalamuya crossing point by the presidents of Guinea and Sierra Leone, a proclamation was made that both Ernest Koroma and Alpha Conde will embark on a trip to Yenga come July as they seek a lasting solution to the dispute which has been lingering for years.

Just last week, Sierra Leone's minister of information and communications, Alhaji Ibrahim Ben Kargbo, surprised many journalists in the country, especially those who have been following the trend of difficulties faced by Sierra Leoneans in Yenga as a result of the presence of Guinean soldiers in the area for the past 15 years, by cautioning them not to visit the disputed community.

Though he considered it a plea to Sierra Leonean journalists to keep away from Yenga because Guinean authorities have complained that journalists are crossing over to Yenga to carry out findings "without reference to the Guinean government", these words of caution did not go down well with many journalists who perceived the statement to be a strategy to divert public attention from the territorial issue.

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