Diamonds in Sierra Leone.
The diamond history of Sierra Leone began in 1935 when De Beers legally took complete control of the mining prospects in Sierra Leone for the next 99 years. Lebanese traders within Sierra Leone quickly discovered the immense profits that could be made by smuggling diamonds out of the country. As a result, mining and trading soon increased throughout Sierra Leone. By the 1950’s the government of Sierra Leone had given up on policing the majority of its diamond industry. All foreign investors were forced to provide their own security. The government did however tighten security in two places. They increased their presence in the Kono diamond district and in Freetown the diamond export center. The result was that illegitimate diamonds were diverted from the high security cites and taken to Liberia and also an illegal diamond pipeline between Sierra Leone and Liberia. The government ended up taking unintentional steps to increase illegal mining when the Alluvial Mining Scheme in 1956 was passed. The scheme allowed miners to receive mining and trading licenses.
In 1968, populist Siaka Stevens became prime minister. Stevens was the first person to officially connect the diamond mines to political power and profit, and he encouraged mining to gain political power. By 1991, Sierra Leone had a corrupt government and also the diamond trading was a vulnerable and attractive site for armed rebellion. Now Sierra Leone is once again battling RUF, and control over the diamond mines is still at the center of conflict. Ultimately as a result, the UN has issued a ban on nongovernmental diamonds for Sierra Leone. http://www.cbsnews.com/news/facts-about-blood-diamonds/
|A diamond prospector filters earth from a river in Koidu, the capital of a diamond-rich Kono district in eastern Sierra Leone.|
The Kono District.
The diamond-mining Kono district, is in the eastern part of the country. It reflects the country's bitter irony. It's resource rich, but poverty abounds as development has not kept pace with other parts of the country. In Koidu, the capital of Kono, women and children stand knee deep in the fields on either side of the dusty potholed roads. Mounds of dug-up dirt dot the landscape around them. They scan the huge strainers in their hands as they hope to spot the sparkling of a diamond in the muddy water. Koidu is the heartland of diamond mining in West Africa. Two of the world's biggest diamonds were found here, but it was also home to some of the worst fighting on the continent. During the decade, long conflict ended in 2002, but rebel factions fought for control of the diamonds. Since 2003, after signing on to a regulatory scheme to stop the flow of conflict diamonds, the Sierra Leone diamond trade has come to be seen as legitimate and is part of the government's pitch to attract foreign investment. Ten years after the war ended, there was peace in Sierra Leone but the scars were still visible in Koidu. No roads, electricity only for those who can afford generators, and little or no running water. Despite its natural resources, Sierra Leone is one of the poorest countries in the world. With a growing youth population and massive unemployment, two-thirds of the population live on less than $1.25 a day. There are new roads now and also electricity in the major cities, but the challenge of transforming the country's natural resources into development for its people still remains.
|Youth in Sierra Leone visiting a diamond mine in the Kono District.|