Saturday, January 06, 2007

Interview with the Deputy Director of Mines - Eliminating conflict goes beyond diamond industry

RAPAPORT... Martin Rapaport recently discussed Sierra Leone’s past, present and future with Usman Boie Kamara, deputy director of mines for Sierra Leone’s Ministry of Mineral Resources.

Martin Rapaport: What is the situation in Sierra Leone today?

Usman Boie Kamara: The situation in Sierra Leone today is peaceful and stable. There is no conflict and this has been the case since the official end of the conflict in January 2002. There are, however, many developmental issues, coupled with high expectations from the people of Sierra Leone. There is political will to effect change and efforts are being made by government and citizens to better living standards.

The encouraging thing is that Sierra Leoneans have realized that conflict does not solve any problems and that it makes everyone poorer. So there is now a determination to avoid conflict and to resolve issues peacefully, because it is only in a peaceful atmosphere that the development everyone yearns for will take place. Sierra Leone has excellent relations with its immediate neighbors, Guinea and Liberia, who together with Sierra Leone form the Mano River Union (MRU). The danger of war from neighbors is therefore remote. Steps are being made to reactivate the Mano River Union to encourage closer cooperations between the three countries. MR: How important are diamonds to Sierra Leone?

UBK: The mining of diamonds contributes to the economic well-being of the country in terms of revenue and jobs for unskilled workers. The rise in the official export of diamonds has not only increased tax revenue and royalties, but has contributed immensely to the stability of our currency, the leone.

MR: How many people in Sierra Leone rely on income from diamonds for their livelihood?

UBK: The total number of people living off the diamond trade can be estimated at 500,000, i.e., a ratio of 5 to 1 of those working directly in the field. The population of Sierra Leone is five million. The number of diggers working in Sierra Leone can be estimated at about 100,000. In addition, there are many support services that benefit directly from trading and mining activities. The number of exporters from Sierra Leone has ranged from five to ten over the past five years, with exporters’ agents averaging about 3 to each exporter. The number of supporters/dealers has generally ranged between 100 and 120.

MR: Are diamonds playing a positive or negative role in Sierra Leone’s development? What are the benefits and disadvantages of diamonds?

UBK: Global diamonds have been playing a positive role in Sierra Leone’s development, but there are important hurdles that must be overcome to ensure that the benefits of the trade reach the base level of the chain — the diggers.

Source: Diamonds.net News - Sierra Leone: Eliminating Conflict Goes Beyond Diamond Industry