December 7, 2016 By Mohamed Massaquoi
Residents of Yenga, a small disputed village in Kailahun district, eastern Sierra Leone, have vowed that they would neither register nor vote for any political party or candidate in the forthcoming 2018 presidential, parliamentary and local council elections because they have been marginalised and neglected by the government of Sierra Leone.
One of the aggrieved residents of the village, Sahr Kagbanji,who also doubles as the youth leader of the village, told Concord Times in an exclusive interview that Guinean authorities harass them on a daily basis for the payment of local tax, as the latter claim the tiny village belongs to Guinea.
“We have resolved not to vote for anybody or any political party this time around. The issue of Yenga started long since and we have not seen much effort on the side of the government of Sierra Leone to address it. We are tired of fake political promises,” he said adding that Guinean security forces deployed in the disputed village deny them right to cultivate their farmlands.
He added: “Ahead of the 2012 elections, we were told that our government had held meetings with their Guinean counterpart and that the issue of Yenga had been resolved,” adding that swift actions should be taken to rescue their village from the occupiers.
A local journalist in the area, Hawa Tucker, noted that the issue of Yenga should be a major concern to the government of Sierra Leone.
She told our reporter that members of Sierra Leone Armed Forces could now crossover into Guinea without any problem, but community people are unhappy that they are being harassed and intimidation daily by some Guineans.
“It is unfortunate that there is no proper security at the border crossing point. Yenga residents are asked to pay tax to Guinean authorities,” she said, confirming the claim of Sahr Kagbanji.
However, Member of Parliament representing the area, Hon. Patrick Tengbeh, said he was unaware Guinean security men at the disputed border village are imposing taxes on residents.
“This is news to me, but we need to meet and talk. This is about my people and I am definitely ready to explain more to you,” Hon. Tengbeh said in a snap telephone conversation with our reporter.
Over four years ago, the governments of Sierra Leone and Guinea signed a joint declaration on the demilitarisation of Yenga on 27 July 2012.
In the communiqué bearing the signatures of Joseph Bandabla Dauda and Dr. Edouard Niankoye Lama, the two Foreign Ministers of the two Mano River Union states, on behalf of their respective governments, registered their commitment towards protecting, promoting and safeguarding their common heritage of co-existence in the spirit of mutual respect for their identical customs and traditions.
However, the dispute over the village still remains despite both governments’ showing optimism then that they had resolved the issue.