The Yenga issue – A territorial dispute or occupied territory
Let me endeavor to offer a lucid, articulate and unambiguous explanation of Territorial Dispute and Occupied Territory in order to guide our choice of words in the diplomatic tussle between Sierra Leone and Guinea with regards to Yenga.
From a generic perspective, a Territorial Dispute is a disagreement between two or more states over the possession of a piece of land. It is universally acknowledged that territorial disputes often result from indistinct and blurred language in a treaty that set up the original boundary. In many instances, Revanchism can serve as a trigger of major conflicts in Territorial Disputes. Recanchism is a political manifestation of the peoples’ will to overturn territorial losses incurred, particularly after a war or social unrest. Similarly, Irredentism; which holds that a part of a state’s ethnic group remains ‘unredeemed” outside the boarders of its appropriate state – is also an appealing factor for war of annexation.
An Occupied Territory on the other hand is a piece of land/region ‘distinct” from the recognized territory of a sovereign State but which it controls especially with military force e. Long term occupation is usually designed to act upon territory claim though not a prerequisite. For instance, Israel’s permanent settlements on Palestinian territory are making it difficult if not entirely impossible for the former to return to its 1967 borders.
Based on the veracity of the above illumination, which one really describes and ascribes to Yenga? Remember, Yenga is a piece of land which was incontestably under the sovereignty of Sierra Leone during pre-colonial, post colonial and post independent eras – until the mid 1990’s when Guinea. Occupation was based on strategic and tactical reasons as articulated in the preceding section. There is no question of Revanchism of Irredentism over Yenga. The war which was used as a pretext for the occupation of Yenga is dead and buried over a decade ago.
“Drawing on the above assessment, it is apt to argue that Yenga is an issue of Occupation and not a Territory Dispute. Hence this fact has been cogently established, I encourage all our analysts, journalists, political commentators, policy makers and the academia to refer to Yenga as an Occupie4d Territory: The rhetoric Occupied Territory carries a heavy psychological weight on the Occupiers. Also, it is an implicating phraseology, pointing an accusing finger at the Republic of Guinea as the aggressor. Furthermore, this rhetoric will enable third parties to understand the genesis of the Yenga issue without even investigating it. Because, whereas Disputed Territory entails some rigorous and tedious historical, political and legal research based on the treaty that established the states in question, Occupied Yenga suggests that, the land belonged to Sierra Leone before the RUF incursion”.
Having said that, what is really motivating the Republic of Guinea to continue the Occupation a decade after the end of hostilities in Sierra Leone/ Judging from the geographical size of Guinea in comparison to Sierra Leone, it can be said that Guinea in will not be interested in land grabbing from her tiny neighbour – an act that will jeopardize their historical ties and economic interdependence with us. Nevertheless, underestimating Guinea’s interest over Yenga based on her geographical size is illusionary and idealistic. Because as the international system is characterized by anarchy, self interest, competition and power maximization, we should perceive their action from a Realist point of view.
In view of the above argument, we should start to critically question and read the mind of the Occupiers and establish what is motivating them to risk our “special relationship”? Could it be that Yenga is very rich in diamonds (as speculated by myriads0 which is making the Guineans to risk our historic ties, economic interdependence, military cooperation and a very cordial diplomatic relationship?
Will Yenga Be Treatised On “status Quo Ante Bellum”? As I attempt to rationalize the Yenga dilemma through cognitive methodology, thereby gauging our chances of regaining our occupied land from Guinea, I will encourage the government and people of Sierra Leone to re-think our position by involving a third party in this issue if bilateralism isn’t having a desired effect.
Albert it is wise to maintain our special relationship with Guinea, it is also a scientific fact that in the paradigm of International Relations there are “no permanent friends” – rather state behaviour is shape and directed by national interest. I need not cite decipherable examples here as this is a daily occurrence in the international relations of states.
No one need to be bemused or perplexed about my critical mind-set in this issue because from a legal, moral and ethical point of view, we need to be bold enough to ask questions and raise issues which have been ignored or marginalized in other analyses. For instance, which International Laws are applicable in occupied Yenga?
If the “decade long” occupation is not brought to the attention of a third party (e.g. International Court of Justice), then how can the international community examine whether the activities of the Guinean authorities/soldiers are in conformity with the provisions of International Law that apply to an occupied territory such as Yenga? The brute reality is sentiment and emotions have no place in International Relations. Therefore, we should always expect the unexpected even from our closest ally. This is the reality in the international sphere.
That we are striving to maintain our special relationship (with Guinea) is insufficient a reason to be complacent.
Because the longer the occupation, the more likelihood that the Guinea authorities will entrench their foothold in Yenga- probably by erecting permanent structures on the occupied territory.
Allowing the Guinea to achieve this undue advantage is tantamount to aiding what we call in Diplomatic Studies ‘facts on the ground”. Simply defined, it is a situation in reality contrary to the abstract. That is to say, Yenga actually belongs to Sierra Leone but with Guinean permanent structures on the ground and possibly a reasonable number of their citizens in Yenga – will compel mediators to have a second thought on the issue. This is so because facts on the ground as expounded above will give the Guineans a permanent foothold in Yenga ; just like Israel’s permanent footing in proceeding sections of this article and having assessed the leadership styles of the current Guinean and Sierra Leone presidents, I am of the opinion that Yenga will be settled on a win/win situation”.
Sierra Leoneans shouldn’t be frustrated with our leaders (past and present) because of the long occupation of Yenga. President Alpha Kondeh’s predecessors (Lansana Conteh and Dadis Kamara) were both military officers; whose mindsets on Yenga were quite different from President Alpha Kondeh.
While both Lansana Conteh and Dadis Kamara were over-zealous in tight border control and seemly rigid over the Yenga issue, the professor turned president (Dr. Alpha Kondeh) is a PhD holder in International Relations. What does this mean? It meant that, the current president of Guinea will be more accommodative, flexible and upbeat in bringing the Yenga issue to rest once and for all. Like every leader in contemporary politics, President Koroma and his counterpart – president Kondeh concentrated more on their domestic politics in their first tenures.
Both countries ha/have similar domestic problems and hence there wasn’t any tension between the two militaries, the domestic sphere superseded the international. This is a reasonable political and security calculus. As both leaders have had positive footprint in their domestic spheres of politics based on their achievements, they will now make Yenga one of their top priorities.
Having analyzed diverse but interrelated factors in the Yenga issue, I am confident that it will be decided on the basis of “ status quo ante bellum” Literally, this is a Latin phrase meaning; ‘the state in which things were before the war”.
The phrase was originally used in treaties relating to the withdrawal of enemy troops and the reinstatement of pre-war leadership. In context, Yenga will be returned where it rightfully belonged before the RUF incursion. When ruled as such, it suggests that neither Guinea nr Sierra Leone gains or looses territory or political leadership.
Therefore, it will be a win/win situation between the sister countries who have enjoyed tremendous cordial relationship.
Stay with Sierra Express Media, for your trusted place in news!
© 2012, https:. All rights reserved.