Revamping Sierra Leone’s Reputation with Diamonds

If Sierra Leone’s diamond industry is to make a positive contribution to the socio-economic development of the nation, as envisaged in the government’s new five-year National Development Plan, there has to be a radical overhaul of the way the industry is managed. At the centre of any such strategy should be a concerted campaign to curb the rampant smuggling of diamonds, which leads to tens of millions of dollars of potential tax revenue being lost each year. Less remarked upon is the fact that official corruption still plagues the industry. Diamonds were discovered in Sierra Leone in 1930. The 1960s are seen as the post-independence benchmark for probity and proper management of the industry. By the 1970s and 1980s, due to massive corruption and mismanagement under the All People’s Congress government of Siaka Stevens, most of the country’s gems were being sold abroad illegally. Smuggling has been blamed on artisanal miners and on small-scale, illegal mining operations in remote areas that are not regulated by local authorities.  After farming, artisanal mining is the second largest employer of labour in the country, providing a livelihood for up to 500,000 illiterate or poorly-educated day labourers. Many observers refuse to believe that the small-scale operator should alone shoulder the blame for “revenue leakages”.


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