PRESS STATEMENT OF THE MRU SECRETARY GENERAL
On MRU Assessment and Consultative Mission to the Border Villages of Yenga and Nongoa
From the 28-31st of January, the MRU Secretary General and delegation undertook an assessment and consultative mission to the border villages of Yenga and Nongoa with a view to engage eminent community leaders in an effort to hold dialogue on ways to enhance and promote peace, political and social cohesion in the MRU sub-region. As you may be aware, the mandate of the MRU is to promote peace and ensure regional stability between its four Member States as enshrined in the revised 15th Protocol on Peace, Security, and Defense adopted by the Heads of States on June 2012 in Conakry, Republic of Guinea.
Hence, per our mandate, the MRU is pleased with the success of its mission aimed at building peace at the community level. Our visit required us firstly to clearly assess and understand the realities at the border, and secondly with the involvement of the relevant local actors and the Joint Border Management team we sought to identify some of the issues with the view to design strategies for peaceful coexistence. We worked well with the Member of Parliament of Constituency 002, the MRU Joint border security and confidence building units, MARWOPNET, Makona River Organization, the local authorities from both Guinea and Sierra Leone to ensure firm commitment to community peace and security along the borders of our member states.
With this approach, the mission engaged with the local authorities of both Koindu and Nongoa, and gathered information that we intend to make use of at the most strategic levels of our two Member States. Additionally, in our joint meeting with the local authorities in the village of Yenga, all stakeholders, as part of their recommendations for the promotion of peace, highlighted the need for peace through activities that will boost economic development and promote social cohesion amongst our border communities.
Distinguished ladies and gentlemen of the press, PEACE is a quintessential element and core variable which must underpin any social or economic and even political development. This holds true as self-evidence that ‘without peace there can be no development’. Peace researchers have indicated that the condition for moving closer to peace or at least not drifting closer to violence is to focus on the integration of human society especially in a border community with the same culture, speaking the same languages and a high rate of inter-marriages, as is the case of Yenga on the Sierra Leone side and Nongoa in Guinea.
I am particularly pleased and wish to express my appreciation to the African Development Bank, through the MRU initiative, for its support to the road construction in our Member States which would promote integration and enhance trade as well as movement of our peoples without much hustle as a result of bad road conditions. This could only happen when the communities are PEACEFUL. The phase 2 of the MRU Road Development and Transport Facilitation Project encompasses the construction of the section Kailahun-Koindu (40km) in Sierra Leone and Nongoa-Gueckedu (25km) in Guinea as well as the Peace Bridge over the Makona River. The project of the road section in Sierra Leone has already started. In relations to the Peace Bridge project, the Government of Sierra Leone has already carried out the detailed engineering design, and since it is a common infrastructure, the two Member States under the coordination of the MRU Secretariat should discuss about the implementation of the Peace Bridge Project in particular, the technical and financial issues. As it relates to the institutional arrangement proposed with the development Partner – the African Development Bank, there should be a joint technical committee to supervise the project.
The MRU is pleased with the Level of cordiality and respect between the two countries as was seen by the warm and cordial reception exhibited by President of the Republic of Guinea, HE Prof Alpha Conde when he received a very High-powered delegation dispatched by His Excellency the President of Sierra Leone Dr. Julius Maada Bio. His Excellency Professor Alpha Conde, President of the Republic of Guinea reaffirmed the commitment of his Government towards strengthening bilateral ties between the two Member States which have strong historical, political socio-economic and cultural ties as well as hightlighting the importance of the free movement of people, goods and services which serve as a critical aspect of development for both Member States.
In this regard, and as part of the immediate actions to be undertaken, the MRU Secretariat, within the framework of its cross-border security cooperation of community engagement, will continue to remain engaged with the stakeholders of Yenga in particular, and the communities in the MRU Parrot-beak including Nongoa, Koindu, and Foya in general.
This engagement will involve promoting social cohesion and peaceful coexistence amongst the three communities along the Parrot’s beak where the three countries have geophysical connectivity. The community desires to see the ‘Soccer for Peace Tournament to promote peace and raise continued awareness on the current Corona virus. In other areas, the community has proposed to the MRU to engage and include cultural performances such as music and drama by local artist as well as ‘Radio Talk-show’ with the aim of promoting peace messages and awareness raising on COVID 19.
Finally, we are pleased that our trigger response at the local level works. We are pleased that MRU border management Strategy remains active and we are pleased to continuously remain engaged and collaborate with the Mano River Union Women for Peace Network-MARWOPNET, the Makona River Organization-MRO, the Member of Parliament for Constituency 002 and all local government officials and traditional leaders from both member States. I also extend sincere appreciation to my colleagues from the MRU Secretariat for making this assessment and consultative mission a success.