At the commissioning of the Freetown-Conakry highway and a Joint Border Post at Gbalamuya (Sierra Leone) and Pamalap (Guinea) on Saturday, June 2, 2012, President Ernest Bai Koroma of Sierra Leone and President Alpha Conde of Guinea, while invoking the names of presidents Sekou Toure (Guinea) and Modibo Keita (Mali) recalled a dramatic scenario of African unity in the past, made rousing speeches of African unity in the present, and stressed the practicality of African unity in the road/border post, while floating a vision in the near future of not only a road link between the two countries, but, also a railway link.
President Koroma bemoaned the ignoble history of European-colonized Africa that resulted in “compartmentalised” nations by people far away who have no idea of Africa’s “culture” – so that we have nations in Africa today “with alien names such as Guineans and Sierra Leoneans, Ivorians, Gambians, Liberians, Senegalese....” With profundity and dynamism exuding from his speech, President Koroma said that “the commissioning today is an effort to negate the physical boundaries that have been imposed on us”; and a tangible step “to reunify our countries and peoples”.
President Koroma now “Co President of Guinea”
With the radicalism and idealism of the university professor he was before he became President of Guinea, Alpha Conde conferred on President Koroma the title of “Co-President of Guinea”.
Both presidents reinforced the historical reality that was articulated by President Koroma in this scenario: “Let me recall the words of the late President Ahmed Sekou Toure of the Republic of Guinea to the late President Modibo Keita of the Republic of Mali, when the latter threatened to annex parts of north eastern Guinea, claiming it to be Malian territory. When President Toure was informed, he said to the emissary, ‘Go and tell my brother Modibo Keita that he is right. The territory is his indeed. Siguri is his and even Conakry is his. He or any of his people can come and settle here anytime - for Guinea and Mali are one and the same country’”.
President Conde Will Campaign for President Koroma in November, 2012 General Elections
In the same spirit, President Alpha Conde - his professorial timbre evoking surprise from the crowd gathering under green-white-and blue awnings - said that since he is a citizen of Guinea and Sierra Leone, he would not only lobby the Parliament of Sierra Leone to remove the legal limitation of two terms of office for a President of Sierra Leone, but, he would actually join his “younger brother” to campaign for his re-election in the November 2012 General Elections.
Sierra Leone and Guinea: “Common Destinies”
President Koroma said “our presence here sends a strong message to the peoples of our countries of our common destinies” – whilst President Conde said that “Sierra Leoneans in Guinea should feel free there because they are as much at home in Guinea as in Sierra Leone...”
President Conde did not disappoint Sierra Leoneans who yearned for a definitive statement on the town of Yenga, in Kailahun District, which Sierra Leone claim has been occupied by Guinea since the war years of the 1990s: “Yenga would never constitute conflict between us. The Yenga problem would soon be resolved to the satisfaction of all parties concerned”. Minister of Political Affairs, Alhaji Alpha Kanu, then read a “Declaration” from the Guinean President - this included a pledge of a meeting in July, 2012, in Yenga, between the Sierra Leonean and Guinean presidents during which a definitive action will be taken on Yenga.
Yenga is Not “Mission Impossible”
The Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, Hon. J.B. Dauda, spoke of continual meetings over the past year in Freetown and Conakry to strengthen bilateral ties, and to resolve the Yenga issue which outsiders felt was “mission impossible”; but, because Sierra Leone and Liberia are “our brothers’ keeper”, the Yenga dispute would soon be laid to rest.
Stop the Extortion and Harassment on MRU Roads
The Secretary General of the four-nation Mano River Union (MRU) – Sierra Leone, Liberia, Guinea, and Ivory Coast – said that the “auspicious” ceremony was a clear “sign that our citizens’ wellbeing and security are assured...” She said that the Freetown-Conakry road that was commissioned “is in accord with the 15th Protocol of the Mano River Union”. She informed the crowd that included paramount chiefs from all over the country (Significantly, paramount chiefs from Kailahun District who were publicly honoured when the Guinean President moved from the high table and walked over to shake their hands) that the “MRU Secretariat has embarked on joint border security” programme that would help “... gather information on the challenges the citizens of the three countries face...”. To appreciative applause, the female head of the MRU said the Joint Border Post would mitigate the “harassments and extortions” citizens of the MRU endure as they do intra-country travel in the sub region. She spoke glowingly of the “ONE STOP SHOP for travellers” which the new border post would represent, and stressed that all effort must be made to dissuade criminals from holding sway henceforth.
President Koroma had warned that the institutions that would be set up to manage the Joint Border Post must live up to the expectations of the peoples of both countries.
EU Supports ECOWAS/MRU Regional Integration
The European Union (EU) representative at the ceremony disclosed that the EU put Euros 36 million into the projects because “the EU supports regional integration of ECOWAS states....(And) the interconnectivity of the African continent”.
The Chairman of the Council of Paramount Chiefs in the Kambia District praised the governments of Sierra Leone and Guinea, and the European Union, and said he was certain that the projects would significantly enhance trade between two countries. President Conde had recognized and lauded the presence of the traditional leaders at the ceremony, saying, “We must not forget our past. We must build on our past for a good future...”.
Special Assistant to the President (Media Outreach)
I think taking care of business in SL is huge and combining that with another country can be a disaster.