Kabs Kanu: Sierra Leone Telegraph: 26 January 2021:
First of all, it should be clear to all by now that Guinea has adopted a CRY-BABY attitude over Yenga. Though it is a known fact from African History and the geographical studies of the Mano River basin that Yenga belongs to Sierra Leone, Guinea appears to be adopting an aggressive policy of always using Yenga to articulate their dissatisfaction with Sierra Leone. And whenever they encroach on Yenga, we appease them by crawling under their feet in the name of diplomatic imperatives to coax them to leave.
From my observation, unless the issue of Yenga is resolved diplomatically or through other options and prerogatives, the problem will always resurface like a sore thumb. Whenever the baby cries and he is given a pacifier, he keeps quiet, but only for a while. After some time, the baby will cry again, and it will need another form of pacifier. We cannot go on like that.
Today, Guinea has renewed their aggression because President Alpha Conde is unhappy with perceived roles played by the present government during his acrimonious power struggles with opposition leader, Cellou Diallo, which culminated in a violent and controversial elections that Professor Conde was accused of rigging.
To my mind, since this will be a recurring problem depending on geopolitical issues that may arise between the two countries or the state of goodwill between the presidents of both nations, I think the best option we have now is international arbitration. The Mano River Union, ECOWAS , AU and possibly the UN need to intervene decisively and resolve for once who owns Yenga.
Despite our political differences in Sierra Leone, we need to adopt an open mind on this issue, forgetting all partisan, tribal and regional sentiments. And in this respect, I want to postulate that Sierra Leone has done a great job in the past to exercise restraint while seeking bilateral prerogatives.
Both the late President Ahmad Tejan Kabba of the SLPP and the just-retired President Ernest Bai Koroma did a marvelous job in the past to negotiate the Yenga issue from a diplomatic and family perspective. taking in mind the traditional family and cultural affinities between the two nations. Sierra Leone, through these two leaders, has bent over backwards to remind Guinea that the two countries have treasured relations that must not be fractured by dispute over a small parcel of land like Yenga. It seemed like their bilateral approach worked as Guinea found sense to withdraw completely from Yenga.
It is probably based on the facts above that President Maada Bio decided to bypass bilateral imperatives and invite a multilateral diplomatic option when Guinea forgot past commitments and invaded Yenga once again. Opinions will vary whether it was the right approach adopted by President Bio, but in all frankness, what else must he have done?
By now, Guinea should have been working with Sierra Leone to build upon previous bilateral agreements on Yenga. They should not have been seen invading the country all over again. Though I am not a fan of President Bio, I want to make bold to say here that he was not amiss in the diplomatic option he has decided upon—to go multilateral. Let ECOWAS arbitrate on this Yenga issue for once, though many more people would think that he should involve the Mano River Union too.
But even this had been done before. It was one of the agenda items during the 22nd summit of the Heads of State and Government of the Mano River Union (MRU), which took place yesterday 1 May 2013, in Liberia, attended by President Ernest Bai Koroma of Sierra Leone; Alassane Ouattara of Côte d’Ivoire; Alpha Condé of Guinea; and Ellen Johnson Sirleaf of Liberia.
A communique signed by the leaders at the end of the summit read: “The Heads of State commended Prof. Alhaji Alpha CONDE, President of the Republic of Guinea, for his will, courage and maturity in resolving the Yenga issue…”
The last resort – THE MILITARY OPTION – is definitely inconceivable and out of the question at the moment because of the ancient fraternal and sisterly relations between Sierra Leone and Guinea. Families live on both sides of the borders, divided only by artificial boundaries and nobody can ever see blood being shed by both countries for any reason. We have to protect the lives and properties of our people in Sierra Leone and Guinea.
When that has been said, I am sure that any right-thinking Sierra Leonean would agree with me that it is high time that Sierra Leone ceased to be the punchbag of countries in the Mano River Union. Idrissa Salaam Conteh rightly put the issue in a more painfully truthful perspective when he writes: “In effect, Sierra Leone is the weakest of the Mano River Union states which both Liberia and Guinea capitalize on to bully the country. Liberia, under the leadership of Charles Taylor, took advantage of the fragility of Sierra Leone and waged an unprovoked war that claimed the lives of tens of thousands of people in cold blood. Liberia was never asked to pay reparations to Sierra Leone for the massive damage it cause in the country.”
In my mind, the only way Sierra Leone can bring to an end the tendency of being bullied is to build a very strong, fully-equipped and battle-ready army with an air force and navy to boot. Let us face it, the crazy and unpredictable world we live in today makes it an imperative to add a very robust military to diplomatic options.
We know that regional organizations like the MRU. ECOWAS AU and the international umbrella organization, the UN stress peaceful coexistence among nations and peaceful resolution of conflicts , but in today’s world of dysfunctional geopolitical realities, rivalries, suspicions and hostilities, no nation can feel a sense of doing itself and its citizens a favor by continuing to have a weak army.
Very strong militaries across borders serve as a deterrent to bullying and violations of the territorial rights and integrity of other countries.
Rwanda is a smaller nation, that could be virtually swallowed up ten times by the larger Democratic Republic of the Congo but successive Congolese presidents know the strength of the Rwandan military forces, without which they could have annexed much of Rwandan territory. This is where the question of strong or weak military comes into the equation.