The sun came out strongly last Sunday smiling upon the disputed town of Yenga.
Gun toting Guineans soldiers paraded through their rice swamps under cultivation conversing in French and Kissi, while plucking grass or inspecting the new grains on their rice stalks.
“They are here to stay,” sighed Fatoma Yaelia, the town chief of Weima village bordering Yenga.
He made this assertion because, according to him, as long as the Guineans have started cultivating the land especially when they have started to plant palm fruits it shows that they are not in a hurry to leave.
The Guineans have also brought in an armoured tank into Yenga hidden under the canopies of mango trees on a little hill overlooking the village, saved for the barrel of the gun on top of the tank that is sticking out menacingly defying any concealment.
Sierra Leonean residents say there is ammunition dumps hidden also under the canopy of those mango trees, but that that place is out of bounds from any civilian and any breach will result to merciless beating.
“It is like the war has never ended for us in Yenga” says Sahr James, a cripple who is among the few residents still staying in Yenga.
The town has been deserted saved for few aged people and others who are doing farming in the outskirts of the village.
Sahr said, “many people have left because the trauma of the war has stressed them and the Guineans are acting even like the rebels.”
He continued, “they will seize our farms, and terrorize us and the slightest provocation will result in merciless beating. They are also moving around with guns and heavy weapons. We feel that one day they will use their weapons on us.”
The latest reports were the beating of a Kissi woman who begged that her name should not be mentioned in this article.
She related that she mistakenly splashed water on the uniform of a Guinean soldier when she was disembarking from a boat which came into Yenga from Nogowa.
“Before I could say sorry to the soldier, he hit me with his fist and descended on me with kicks and blows, when he was pacified I was taken home with a swollen face and pains all over my body and nothing have come out of it… nobody to complain to, our own police could do nothing.”
Isha Fofanah who is staying in Nogowa in Guinea, the border town with Yenga separated by the Makona River, a five-minute canoe crossing from each side, complained that her father’s rice farm in Yenga was taken over by the Guinean soldiers and nobody could do anything about that, not even the Paramount Chief.
However the Officer in Charge (OC) of Koidu, Inspector Augustine Nyama Tommy, said they did not have any jurisdiction or control over Yenga at the moment and that the Guinean soldiers were the ones wielding control over that territory.
“We could do nothing until our government resolves this dispute in the diplomatic way they have all chosen,” said the OC.
“Guinean officials residing in Yenga have introduced a severe security measure that restricts the movements of Sierra Leoneans even to bring in goods from Guinea,” said Sergeant Sahr Bendu, one of the police officers who are manning the last Sierra Leone security post outside Yenga village.
The Guineans have been in Yenga for about six years now.
Diplomatic moves were started by the then Sierra Leone People’s Party under President Tejan Kabbah to resolve the dispute.
They have got the Guinean government to accept that Yenga belongs to Sierra Leone. Moves are underway by the present All people’s Congress government under President Ernest Koroma to continue with the resolution of the dispute diplomatically.
The new minister of Defense, Alfred Paolo Conteh has pledged strongly that his government would do all that it takes to “retrieve” Yenga.
Colonial boundary maps have been used to demarcate Yenga but it is still not clear when the matter will finally be laid to rest.