Yenga is ours, a gift from God

25 September 2009 at 05:06 | 550 views

By Ibrahim Sourie Mansaray, California, USA.

Ask the Palestinians about their lost lands and the feelings they bore against the Israelis and some will tell you that they will never forget and forgive the Israelis for "transgressing" on their land. It is an issue that will never fade away as long as the Palestinian-Israeli brouhaha exists.

Well, ask the people of Kailahun about the Yenga issue; instead of voicing their feelings loudly,some would sigh and seem to be resigned to their fate. The complacency must have emanated from fruitless and never ending seminars and conferences being held about Yenga.

The Yenga issue, though young ( it occured after the war in 2002), has been a thorny and unresolved issue. The Guineans who live on the other banks know very well that the land does not belong to them but continue to live peacefully and peaceably at the discomfort of the poor Sierra Leoneans.

Sierra Leoneans tend to identify a problem, fix it, and then move on. Sometimes this works. Often it does not. Of course, imposing ourselves on hostile or chaotic societies is no solution either. The war over Yenga is a psychological war.It has deprived the people of Kailahun district in particular and Sierra Leoneans in general of dignity, pride and ancestral heritage. Many residents in Yenga now advise one another not to go beyond Yenga for fear of being maltreated by the Guinean authorities.The politicians and bureaucrats who work for both countries (Sierra leone and Guinea), come and go along the border, making grandiose statements about how efforts are being made to resolve the issue.

But here is the politics of Yenga: Yenga can be used by President Ernest Koroma as a major political victory by restoring Yenga to the people of Sierra Leone(former president Kabbah woefully failed to do that). President Koroma now has the opportunity of transforming and even persuading the die hard Sierra Leone Peoples Party stalwarts to his camp by tackling this issue vigorously on the international front.

Imagine: the then ruling party, the SLPP, ruled for years and no major breakthrough was recorded. Former president Tejan Kabbah was seen by many as the appropriate and competent leader to regain this lost land. Firstly, his personal relationship with the late Lansana Conte of Guinea was brotherly, to say the least. Both speak the same local language( though Kabbah is a Mandingo,he speaks Susu, Conte’s language, fluently). Secondly,Pa Kabbah was believed to have the mojo to lure the international community to impose sanctions on Guinea. Taking Guinea to the international court would have been the wisest decision of his presidency. For instance, when Nigeria was intransigent on the Bakassi peninsular, Cameroon had no alternative but to drag the issue to the Hague.

Time has never been on the side of Sierra Leone in that perenially chaotic portion of the country. Pa Kabbah is gone and the reins of power now rest in the hands of President Ernest koroma. No one, even the die hard supporters of SLPP would blame Ernest for the Yenga issue.

But here is where Ernest should play real politics: If he is committed and robust in retaking the Yenga he will not only show his critics that luck and charisma can be beneficial in politics, he would earn himself a place in the annals of the country’s history as the president who freed the Kailahun people from bondage.The time for quiet diplomacy is gone and tough decisions must now accompany the words of the president.Taking Guinea to the international court would transform Ernest from the leader of the All Peoples Congress to a national statesman.

Though not a pessimist, it is hard to believe military leaders on their promises.Whilst president Koroma should be using his carrots to convince the Guinean junta that Yenga is ours, he should also carry the big stick in the other hand. The clarion call from every Sierra Leonean is that we want our land, it was given to us by God.