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Tue, 12 Nov 2019 05:13 GMT

Sierra Leone Villagers Still Waiting for Share of US$6.5 Million Diamond


Fazila Mohamed

Mon, 10 Dec 2018 04:00 GMT

In December 2017 Sierra Leone’s ‘Peace Diamond,’ a 709-carat stone sold for US$6.5 million at a New York auction, was bought by British luxury jeweller Laurence Graff. A year on, the impoverished villagers of Koryardu in the Kono region of Sierra Leone, where the gemstone was discovered, are still waiting to reap the benefits of the stone’s sale.

Unearthed in March 2017 by miners managed by a Christian pastor, Emmanuel Momoh, the ‘Peace Diamond’ was handed over to the government, in the hope of generating money that would be ploughed back into developing the local community. The village was promised a 15% dividend to develop the area.

Sierra Leone’s previous government, under President Ernest Koroma, signed a multi-million-dollar deal with a Chinese company to construct a school and clinic in the village but construction was put on hold under the new administration of President Julius Maada Bio.

National Minerals Agency spokesperson Ibrahim Kamara said the construction was halted because of a design issue that has since been resolved and that work should start before the end of the year. “We are aware of the responsibility to maintain that trust, that’s why we’ve been very careful about how the money is spent on the project,” Kamara told AFP.

“If this project is not going through, I am not sure if anyone from this community will take a big diamond and give to the government,” fumed Peter Baimoi, a teacher in the community, unhappy that as yet there is no sign of the promised government funding.

Sierra Leone was ravaged by civil war between 1991and 2002, when so-called ‘blood diamonds’ were sold by warlords to finance conflicts. The international community set up the Kimberley certification system in 2003 to eliminate the problem, regulating the sale and export of diamonds.