Saturday, January 27, 2007

Sierra Leone against Diamond

Freetown - The Hollywood diamond smuggling thriller Blood Diamond has ruffled the feathers of authorities in Sierra Leone who fear it could hurt its recovering economy.

The movie, which was being premiered on Tuesday in Britain, depicts the 10-year brutal war in Sierra Leone, a conflict believed to have been partly driven by the lucrative mineral.

Sierra Leone's Mineral Resources Minister Swarray Deen Tuesday expressed "concerns that the film will present the west African state in a poor light, disturb its diamond industry and weaken the country's fragile economy".

'Thirst for political power'

Featuring Leonardo DiCaprio in the main role, the film is set against the backdrop of the civil war and chaos in Sierra Leone in the 1990s.

DiCaprio, as Danny Archer, a South African mercenary in the movie, joins in a quest with Solomon Vandy, a Sierra Leonean fisherman, to recover a rare pink diamond that could change their lives.

Deen criticised the movie saying, "It has not been fair to Sierra Leone as the main crux of the war was not diamonds but the thirst for political power."

"If it were for diamonds, the rebels would have just settled in Kono (the heart of the diamond industry in eastern Sierra Leone) but then they travelled through other economic areas and came to Freetown," he told journalists in Freetown.

Tainted diamond industry

But Deen said his government has done a lot to improve the image of its once tainted diamond industry and should not be viewed in the context of the film.

"From 1999 to now, we have done much to improve our legal export of diamonds from about $10m in 2000 to $142m in 2005.

"So we are still on the high side and having new people coming into the diamond export business," he added.

A prominent figure behind the war, former president of Liberia Charles Taylor is awaiting trial for war crimes arising from his alleged role in the conflict in neighbouring Sierra Leone.

Link to News24