Civil Society in Sierra Leone raises concerns over positive cases of Ebola in Guinea

Civil society in Sierra Leone are once again calling on the Government of Sierra Leone to increase sensitization of Ebola awareness campaigns in the country after confirm cases of the virus in Guinea.

Shiekh Tamba Jusu, the chairman of the Kombra Network in iKailahun district, east of Sierra Leone, said massive sensitization is needed to prevent the spillover of Ebola into the country.

Jusu said the authorities must pay attention to public awareness raisng as part of Sierra Leone’s community engagement efforts in response to the threat of the Ebola epidemic across the border.

“Massive sensitization is what we are asking local authorities to give us support for, and we want them to consider particularly religious leaders to preach to the people through sermons, which is an effective way of appealing to people,” Jusu told KMN.

The Guinean government last week confirmed the outbreak of the Ebola Virus Disease (EVD), after four people reportedly died after exhibiting symptoms akin to the hemorrhagic fever disease.

As of Thursday, February 17, reports indicated that the death toll had increased to five, as health authorities struggle to prevent wide spread transmission.

The World Health organization has issued an alert to six countries neighboring Guinea, which are said to be at high risk of transmission of the virus in the event the epidemic gets out of hand. These countries include Guinea’s MRU neighbors – Sierra Leone, Liberia and Cote d’Ivoire, as well as Senegal and Guinea Bissau. 

The latest Ebola outbreak in Guinea comes nearly five years after the end of the 2014-2016 West African Ebola epidemic, which also began in Guinea and spread to nine other countries across the world, including Liberia and Sierra Leone. The three MRU countries were the worst affected, as they accounted for most of the cases (nearly 30, 000) and fatalities (over 11, 000). 

The 2014 outbreak entered Sierra Leone through Kailahun, which is close to Guinea’s Forest Region. According to local authorities, there are multiple illegal border crossing points between the two countries at that end. And this, says Mr Jusus, is a major concern.

However, Sierra Leone and Guinea have agreed on opening their borders.

Jusus says the reopening of the border has made the job more complicated and requiring more attention to control movement across the borders.

“Strategies are there in place, but we still see the border issue as unfortunate,” he said. 

He added: “We cannot do anything about it because it is an agreement between the leaders… but that has increased the work on us, because we have a lot of porous borders. At the moment the Moa River is such that people can even cross it by foot.”

Sierra Leone, Guinea Sign Communique, Commit to Mutual Security, Public Health and Socio-Economic Interests

President Julius Maada Bio has concluded his 2-day working visit to Conakry where the two countries committed to reopening on Thursday 18 Feb the land border that was closed since early last year due to COVID-19.

The communique states that: “Based on mutual reassurances and enhanced mutual confidence…the President of the Republic of Guinea Professor Alpha Conde has reviewed the security situation in his country and has agreed to reopen its borders with the Republic of Sierra Leone effective from Thursday 18 February 2021 at 8:00 hours GMT”.

“The two leaders also agreed to reactivate the Joint Technical Committee on Yenga, which shall commence sittings in Nongowa, on 3 March 2021. They also agreed to implement the agreement to Joint Border Patrols along the common border areas from 5 March 2021,” the document reads, adding that the two foreign ministers would immediately restart the holding of the Joint Commission of Cooperation meetings between the two countries.

The communique also contains a raft of bilateral agreements to cooperate with each other on security, defence, public health, ICT, mining, justice, transport, private investments, and cultural exchanges. The Heads of State further pledged to use their good offices to provide the necessary capacity to address the current and emerging public health emergency such
as COVID-19 and EBOLA in the two countries.

“The two Heads of State expressed their satisfaction with the strategies by the two countries in the COVID-19 pandemic and reaffirmed their determination to coordinate their efforts in obtaining vaccines for their respective populations,” the document reads.

At the sub regional level, President Bio and President Conde welcomed the latest decisions for the return of Mali to constitutional order, in accordance with the provisions of ECOWAS Protocol on Democracy and Good Governance and reiterated their continental commitment to always defend the African interest.

“They also welcomed the decision of the African Union Heads of State and Government for launching the first operational stage of the African Continental Free Trade Area Agreement…and commended the implementation of the 2063 agenda and other reforms initiated at the African Union,” the communique adds.

President Bio, whose government delegation also included deputy leader of the main opposition All People’s Congress in Parliament, Alhaji Ibrahim Ben Kargbo and former APC Minister of Public Affairs, Information and later Mines, Alhaji Alpha Sahid Bakar Kanu, will return today Tuesday 16 February 2021

Sierra Leone engages Guinea over land encroachment

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.

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.

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.

Sierra Leone and Guinean representatives

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.