From the Editor’s Keyboard

Urgent Call to Resolve the Yenga Impasse

26 January 2008 at 04:38 | 1675 views


There are worrying signals coming from the Eastern parts of Sierra Leone over the disputed border town of Yenga between Sierra Leone and Guinea that if urgent steps are not taken by the two sovereign countries with the strong support of the international community would have the potential to escalate with attendant dire consequences.

This assertion is against media reports that Guinean troops have surreptitiously added five more villages to Yenga in their bid to further expand into eastern Sierra Leone.

Accordingly, the Parliamentary representative of Constituency Three in the Kailahun district has added his voice to the flurry of concerns with reports indicating that Guinean soldiers were strongly in control, and are disrupting farming activities in the occupied villages with forced labor imposed on local residents coupled with unspecified human rights violations.

Even though the present All People’s Congress party government of President Ernest Koroma inherited the crisis from the ousted lackluster Sierra Leone People’s Party (SLPP) government under the leadership of erstwhile President Ahmad Tejan Kabbah, the current government should be seen to explore all diplomatic channels at its disposal to further rekindle talks aimed at resolving this impasse once and for all.

If for anything, we should as a people learn from the history of the dastardly conflict Sierra Leone endured from 1991 until 2002 in what the “old” mercurial APC government euphemistically referred to as a “a conflict over some stolen vehicle at Bomaru” that ended up consuming well over 50, 000 innocent and unsuspecting civilians. This was facilitated by the geopolitical closeness between Sierra Leone and Liberia.

This is where the international community should prudently act in order to avert any potential escalation of conflict between Guinea and Sierra Leone over the Yenga issue. Indeed common sense speaks to conflict prevention rather than management not only because the latter is costly, but loss of human lives would also be prevented.

The fact that Guinean soldiers are engaged in agricultural activities in the areas they occupy, depriving the inhabitants there from tilling their land only speaks to the belligerence of Guinean President Lansana Conte who seems ensconced in enjoying the last days of his presidency while his soldiers are having a field day in looting the countryside with some gross impunity and with the audacity of violating the sovereignty of neighboring Sierra Leone.

The Sierra Leonean Member of Parliament in the area, Musa I. Sam confirmed in a Freetown-based For di People newspaper publication of January 25th, this year that “apart from the illegal occupation of territories in Sierra Leone, the soldiers are terrorizing the indigenous people forcing them to leave their villages”.

While sources close to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation indicate that the Minister, Mrs. Zainab H. Bangura, had quietly held diplomatic consultations with foreign governments as a way of finding a diplomatic solution to the Yenga impasse, we are still calling on President Koroma to explore every possible avenue to free the areas from Guinean occupation as the Tejan Kabbah-led administration woefully failed to do.A stitch in time saves nine.

Photo: Zainab Bangura, Sierra Leone’s Foreign Minister.