Liberia, Guinea, Sierra Leone sign Makona River Union communiqué
Hundreds of members of the Kissi ethnic group from Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea last week converged on the Liberian border town of Foya for the second annual conference of the Makona River Union. Praise singers, masked dancers and cultural troupes from the three countries were on hand to thrill the assemblage of lawmakers, cabinet ministers, district administrators, governors and chiefs from the three countries. The conference was climaxed on Sunday with the signing of a joint communiqué by Vice President Joseph N. Boakai, Guinean Prime Minister Chellon Dalen Diallo and Sierra Leonean Finance Minister John O. Benjamin on behalf of their heads of state.
In the resolution, delegates hoped the problem of Yenga which "threatens the brotherly relationship between the sister republics of Sierra Leone and Guinea would be resolved as a matter of urgency". Yenga, is a village within Sierra Leone believed to have huge deposits of diamonds that has been occupied by Guinean troops since the defunct Revolutionary United Front (RUF) launched its rebel war into Sierra Leone.
It also called on governments of the Makona River Basin to facilitate the establishment of regional, economic, social, border, security and cultural ties among the peoples of the region. The communiqué also pledged its support for ECOWAS' moratorium on the proliferation of small arms and the UNDP's initiative on arms for development, and also recommended joint border security patrols as well as frequent security meetings of the three countries. The resolution also solicited the re-establishment and improvement of the international markets of Koindu in Sierra Leone, Foya in Liberia and Gueckedou in Guinea as a means of empowering local residents.
Speaking at the closing ceremony, Guinean Prime Minister, Chellon Dalon Diallo, observed that anyone going through the commercial towns of Koindu, Gueckedou and Foya will appreciate the inconveniences of war and the importance of peace. He said the gathering in Foya was an indication of the determination by the people of the Makona River Basin to "win love, peace and development," and conveyed Guinean President Lasana Conte's willingness to support the Makona River Union in its search for peace and development. He said the problem of Yenga would not have arisen if the defunct RUF had not started a rebel war in a country which shares common borders with Guinea, and that Guinea's action was purely to secure its own interest.
For his part, Sierra Leonean Finance Minister, John O. Benjamin, pledged Sierra Leonean President, Ahmed Tejan Kabbah's commitment to working with Liberia and Guinea in ensuring permanent peace in the sub-region. He regretted the difficult times Liberians and Sierra Leoneans went through as a result of the wars that engulfed their countries, and expressed gratitude to the Guinean government, which he said, contributed in no small measure for Liberia and Sierra Leone, who sough refuge there.
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