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Yenga still under Guinean control

Yenga still under Guinean control

Yenga, a settlement in Kailahun District, eastern Sierra Leone, remains under the firm grips of Guinean soldiers who took control of it during the decade-long civil war in the country.

The war ended 10 years ago, but the Guinean troops who had come into the country to help defeat rebels of the defunct Revolutionary United Front (RUF), have refused to handover control of the town to the Sierra Leonean authorities.

About two months ago, His Excellency Dr. Ernest Bai Koroma led a delegation to the People’s Republic of Guinea and held bilateral talks with his Guinean counterpart.

Upon the return of the delegation from Guinea, Minister of Political and Public Affairs, Alhaji Alpha Kanu, who was part of the delegation, granted radio interviews indicating that the Yenga issue has been laid to rest and that in less than a week, the Government of Sierra Leone will take full control over the township.

This proved to be a big lie, as till date, and despite assurances, Yenga still remains a base for Guinean soldiers that have no business being there in the first place.

The issue of Yenga has protracted to an extent that many Sierra Leoneans now feel disappointed that both the former regime of Ex-President Dr. Ahmed Tejan Kabbah and the current regime of Dr. Ernest Bai Koroma, have failed to do what it really takes to address the Yenga issue once and for all.

The bulk of the blame has been duly heaped on Ex-President Dr. Ahmed Tejan Kabbah for not using all the powers he had to ensure that Yenga is taken over from the illegal occupiers who have not only busied themselves stealing our natural resources, but also subjecting Sierra Leonean indigenes there to inhuman treatment and abuse.

What is even disappointing is the fact that the government seems relaxed over the issue as if nothing unusual is happening; a situation wherein foreign troops have infringed on the territorial integrity of our country.

This is most unacceptable to say the least, and it is about time that the government takes the necessary action to kick the Guinean troops out of our territory.

Constitutionally, it is the sole responsibility of the Republic of Sierra Leone Armed Forces (RSLAF) to defend the country against external aggression.

So far, our military has failed rather woefully to overturn the illegal Guinean occupation either through peaceful or forceful means.

According to sources within the military, the instruction to take over Yenga from the Guinean troops has to come from His Excellency the President, Dr. Ernest Bai Koroma, who doubles as Commander-In-Chief of the RSLAF.

What therefore seems to be dragging the issue on and on is the lack of any political will to address it with the seriousness deserved.

What many pundits are now speculating is that like Ex-President Ahmed Tejan Kabbah, President Koroma will leave office after his one or two terms as the case may be, without solving the Yenga problem.

It remains unclear why both the former regime and the current one have reneged on their responsibilities to keep the country intact.

At some time during the regime of Ex-President Ahmed Tejan Kabbah, it was rumoured that Yenga has been sold, and the fact that the current government has not done anything tangible to redeem the town, gives an indication that the die is cast.

Just about three months ago, the Guinean government ironically donated tonnes of rice to the government and people of Sierra Leone to help cushion the problem of rice insufficiency in the country.

While little or no information about the said quantum of rice that is supposed to be out on sale at reduced cost is unavailable to the public. This explains why many observers believe very firmly that such a gift shouldn’t have been accepted from a country that has illegally occupied a portion of our legitimate territory.

One radical suggestion that has come up is that Sierra Leone should suspend its bilateral relationship with Guinea until the Yenga issue is resolved, especially now that the latter has an elected president.

Whether our government will heed to that radical view remains to be seen, but what is clear is that there seem to be no end in sight to the Yenga crisis.

By Theophilus S. Gbenda

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