Sierra Leone has expressed surprise by the sudden closure of its border with Guinea stranding hundreds of Sierra Leoneans inside Guinea.
Guinean authorities have given no details about the late Saturday closure of their land, sea and air borders.
Ibrahim Ben Kargbo, Sierra Leone’s Minister of Information, told VOA his government is aware of Guinea’s tenuous security situation, but hopes stranded Sierra Leoneans will be allowed to return home soon.
“We were taken by surprise because we did not expect that the situation in Guinea would gravitate to the point that it would lead to the closure of borders. But, we also know that Guinea has not been in a state of normalcy in the past several weeks, so we are not going to complain. But, what we are worried about is the fact that some of our citizens are on the other side of the boundary, and we think that they should be allowed to return to Sierra Leone,” he said.
Kargbo said Guinea’s recent presidential run-off election and the pending decision of the country’s Supreme Court about the election could have played a role in the decision to close the borders.
“We were quite satisfied with the first round of election in Guinea and, even though the first run had some difficulties, the election did go through. But, of course, that matter is now being discussed at some court in Conakry. And, we all expected some ruling from that court before any other political development that is worth talking about. But, of course, we are still awaiting this court order and then, of course, suddenly, the borders are shut,” Kargbo said.
He expressed hope that the political situation in Guinea would not hurt bilateral relations.
“What we continue to say here in Sierra Leone is that we wish the people of Guinea well. We want to pray and continue to pray that the political situation does not deteriorate to the point of any difficulty. But, of course, we also hope that the relationship between us and Guinea will not be undermined by this closure of the borders,” Kargbo said.
Kargbo said hundreds of Sierra Leoneans cross the border each day to conduct business.
“The ECOWAS (Economic Community of West African States) treaties make it very, very easy for people to move from one country to the other. But, more specifically, in the case of Guinea, the cultural ties, the relationships and the neighborliness is such that people move freely from Sierra Leone to Guinea and from Guinea to Sierra Leone,” Kargbo said.
Kargbo advised Sierra Leoneans on the Guinean side of the borders not to panic because he said the Sierra Leone ambassador in Guinea has assured that the situation would soon return to normal.
He said the Sierra Leone government does not believe that Guinean authorities mean any harm to Sierra Leoneans in Conakry. But, Kargbo said Sierra Leone will be closely monitoring the situation.