From the Editor’s Keyboard

Open Letter to President Kabbah on Yenga

9 July 2006 at 12:20 | 379 views

"May I take the liberty to draw to your attention to one of your speeches in which you said that our security forces were sufficiently trained and have the capability and readiness to defend our borders. So in the light of the current threat to our borders , you may think it desirable to have more permanent Sierra Leone security personnel in Yenga to protect our citizens."

By Yankuba Kai-Samba

Your Excellency,

I am writing to you about the occupation of Yenga by Guinean soldiers and the absence of a clear position from your government on the apparent threats to our territorial integrity and national security.

Officials of your government have issued conflicting statements on the continuing Guinean occupation in Yenga. Your Ambassador to Guinea, Dr Saccoh, was reported to have said that the Guineans soldiers were in Yenga to defend their territory from the spill over (effects) of the war in Sierra Leone.

That being so, should the Guineans not defend their territory from within their own border? Is there any arrangement between your government and your Guinean counterpart over the continuing presence of his soldiers on Sierra Leonean soil in peace time? You yourself have cautioned the media not to blow the Yenga issue out of proportion. Your current minister of interior has also said that yenga was not an issue. Your foreign secretary has hardly said anything of any significance on this vital issue or made a position statement on what is a blatant violation of our territorial integrity.

Information received from local and international media, as well as eye witness accounts, including the local chief of Yenga suggests contrary views from the above. There are reports of harassment and sexual exploitation, molestation of local inhabitants, exploitation of our resources and the forcible removal of our people from their land by the Guinean soldiers. The UN Secretary General, Kofi Annan, has expressed concern on this situation and acknowledged this to be a threat to the regional peace in a statement issued before his recent visit to Sierra Leone.

I understand Guinea has laid claim to Yenga and has encroached on Sierra Leone’s northern borders as well. If this is correct, this would appear to violate the charter of UN Articles 2(4) which provides that : "All member states shall refrain in their international relations from the threat or use of force against the terrorial integrity or political independence of any state, or in any manner inconsistent with the purpose of the UN."

The actions of the Guineans are unfriendly, provocative and in breach of that UN charter.

In addition to that, and equally important is Article 3 of the AU charter which guarantees all member states the right to their sovereignty and territorial integrity. Resolution AHG/16 as adopted by OAU heads of states and government in Cairo - Egypt in 1964 pledged themselves to respect the colonial borders that existed on their achievement of independence. In other words national boundaries as inherited at independence are inviolable. Sierra Leone gained its independence in 1961. The Guinean incursion is, therefore, a flagrant violation of the AU charter and has no justification both historically and in law to seize any piece of land from Sierra Leone.

May I take the liberty to draw to your attention to one of your speeches in which you said that our security forces were sufficiently trained and have the capability and readiness to defend our borders. So in the light of the current threat to our borders , you may think it desirable to have more permanent Sierra Leone security personnel in Yenga to protect our citizens.

Mr President, your Government has not told the people of Sierra Leone why the Guinean soldiers are still in Yenga, especially when they were not part of an authorised international monitoring force. The only explanations given by your officials, thus far, are at variance with the Guineans’ claim to the ownership of Yenga and that is an area of considerable concern for the people of Sierra Leone who are entitled to their long-term security and peace.

In view of the conflicting accounts over this matter , I would, therefore, like to ask your government to come up with a position statement so that parliament and the country at large will have the opportunity to debate on it and other issues surrounding it.

In the meantime, I appeal to you to use your good office to ensure that we have our country back before you leave office in 2007.

Yankuba G. Kai-Samba

Brussels

Photo: President Lansana Conte of Guinea. His soldiers are occupying Yenga.

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