By Alimatu Fofanah
Sierra Leone and Guinea have agreed to establish a Permanent Joint Commission to look into the issue of Yenga, land and maritime encroachment by Guinea Armed Forces and other Guinean nationals into Sierra Leone.
This decision was taken on Wednesday April 24, 2019, during a meeting with the President of Guinea, Prof. Alpha Conde, Guinea Minister of Foreign Affairs Hon Mamadi Toure, Guinea Interior Minister Gal. Bourema Conde and the Sierra Leone Minister of Foreign Foreign Affairs and delegation in Conakry, Guinea.
At the meeting, the Sierra Leone Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, Hon. Dr. Alie Kabba conveyed felicitations from President Julius Maada Bio who is said saw his visit to Conakry as an important engagement to end the issue of Yenga, land and maritime encroachment into the Sierra Leone side of the border with Guinea.
Minister Kabba told the gathering that, Sierra Leone and Guinea had an historical bond that stood out preeminent since 1961.
The relationship between the two countries, the Hon. Minister said, runs very deep and that it is firm with ethnic, religious, social, economic and before then was even political. He said as a government, they are determined to ensure that the historically warm and friendly ties continued to flourish between the countries and their peoples.
He said the purpose of his visit was to raise some concerns about the occurrence of incidents on the Sierra Leone – Guinea border points of Gbane Kandor, Sao Chiefdom, Mafindor and Yenga.
Outlining Sierra Leone’s concerns, the Hon. Minister Dr. Alie Kabba pointed out some of the recent and past incidents that required immediate attention and resolutions.
Among the recent incidents, the Hon. Minister mentioned ONS Situation Report dated March 3, 2019, which reported of a discovery of Guineans engaging in illegal mining along the Sierra Leone side of the Meli River in Gbane Kandor, Kono District with the use of a dredge.
He added that Guinea Armed Forces and other Guinean nationals living in Fagamanu in Guinea are prohibiting Sierra Leoneans living in Sao, Mafindor and Gbane Kandor from accessing the Meli River which Sierra Leoneans believed is the boundary between the two countries.
Minister Kabba said that, there are reports of maritime encroachment in the Kiragba territorial waters by Guinean Armed Forces who are engaged in piracy on legal fishing vessels within Sierra Leone waters and occasional seizure of legal vessels within Sierra Leone territorial waters.
Another issue he mentioned was that in Kabuya Village, Tambaka Chiefdom, Bombali District where an alleged assault and intimidation of Sierra Leonean citizens by Guinea Armed Forces remained conspicuously unaddressed.
Minister Kabba called on the attention of the President and his two Ministers on the preexisting matter about the Yenga situation which the two governments inherited. He stated that the two governments are aware that a lot of progress have been made to resolve the issue but were unfulfilled. He expressed hope that the two governments will come together to finally resolve the issue of Yenga once and for all.
The Hon. Minister also informed the gathering of an arrest of a Sierra Leone fishing vessel which was fined € 500,000 (Five hundred thousand Euro). He called on the authority of Guinea for a refund of the said amount as the vessel in question was registered with Sierra Leone.
To diplomatically address the concerns raised , by Sierra Leone ‘s Minister of Dr. Ali Kabba said was the formation of a Permanent Joint Commission. This was unanimously agreed upon by the Guinean authorities present.
In his response, the President of the Republic of Guinea, Prof. Alpha Conde thanked Minister Kabba for raising up such concerns. He said as a government they are committed to a peaceful and diplomatic resolution of the issues raised by Minister Kabba. He called on his Foreign Minister to look into the €500, 000 (Five hundred thousand Euro) issue.
President Conde said peace and stability are germane in any country, and that the leaderships should work harder to sustain them for the good of the people.
He called on Sierra Leone and other countries in the Manor River Union to work together to deepen and strengthen the ties in the region and the African Continent in general.
He also called on the MRU countries to establish an airline service.
The Minister of Foreign Affairs of Guinea, Hon. Mamadi Toure also endorsed the formation of a Permanent Joint Commission to address the issues of Yenga, land and maritime encroachment.
Minister Toure informed the meeting that the concerns raised by his counterpart was raised by one of Sierra Leone ‘s Ministers at a Conference in Lomé, but told the gathering that the Central Government was unaware of those issues and that they will investigate them.
The Guinean Armed Forces, he said, are not aware that the two countries are separated. He called on the two governments to resolve those issues amicably and start work on the Permanent Joint Commission with the preparation of an MOU.
The Guinea Minister of Interior Affairs General Bourema Conde in his submission said the Yenga and borderline issues are non-ending problems.
He suggested that there should be some sensitization on the border lines, and that for sustainable control of the borders, there should be technical people on both sides of the borders.
In 2001, during Sierra Leone’s civil war, the Republic of Guinea sent troops into Yenga to help the army of Sierra Leone suppress the rebel RUF. After the rebels were quashed, the Guinean soldiers remained in Yenga. Prior to the civil war Yenga was administered by the Kailahun District of Sierra Leone. In 2002 Sierra Leone and Guinea signed an agreement than Yenga would be returned to Sierra Leone, as soon as Guinea’s border could be secured.[ In 2005 Sierra Leone and Guinea signed an agreement that Yenga belonged to Sierra Leone. The two heads of state settled this dispute in 2013.