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Precious Minerals, Public Trust and Government’s Openness PDF Print E-mail
Written by John Baimba Sesay   
Thursday, 23 March 2017 22:21

By late 2001, the Anti Corruption Commission arrested then Sierra Leone's  transport and communications minister, together with his wife, “for involvement in illegal diamond mining” in Kenema district.  Large quantum of illicit diamonds had been found in their possession, according to a BBC report at the time.

With some diamonds said to have been smuggled out of the country by the minister, the incident happened at a time when the rebel war was raging and the key perpetrators- the RUF were also seriously involved in illicit mining and smuggling. The minister was later jailed in 2003 for two years for illegal possession of diamonds.

Amongst other factors, Sierra Leone’s civil war was fuelled mainly by diamond, specifically “conflict diamonds”- those diamonds that originated from territories controlled by rebel forces (UN definition).

Referencing the West Africa magazine, David J. Francis wrote, in ‘Diamonds and the civil war in Sierra Leone’ that “the sale of conflict diamonds by the Revolutionary United Front (RUF) rebel group was estimated at $70 million by 1999.”

The return to multiparty democracy and particularly so, the election in 1996 of a democratic government initially never brought about the needed environment in terms of ensuring an accountable system of managing state resources like diamonds.  

In trying to prevent “conflict diamonds” from flowing through the valid diamond supply chain, the UN and other agencies introduced the Kimberley Process, allowing for rough diamonds to be “sealed in tamper-resistant containers and have a forgery resistant conflict free certificate with unique serial numbers each time they cross an international border…” (Conflict Diamonds and the Kimberley Process Fact Sheet)

 Sierra Leone is a member of the Kimberley Process.

By 2003, the UN resolution 1306 (2000), an embargo against the import of rough diamonds from Sierra Leone was lifted just when the Kimberley Process came into effect.

Just recently, (March 2017) a 706-carat diamond was unearthed in Kono district, a diamondiferous district, East of Sierra Leone.  The diamond is said to be the second largest ever discovered in the country, the largest being the 968.9-carat diamond found in 1972.

Such a precious mineral calls for openness if a government is to continue to build public trust and confidence. In my view, so far, the Koroma-led government has demonstrated the highest level of openness and has been accountable to its citizens.

Receiving the precious stone on 15th March, 2017, the country’s President “underscored the importance of selling such a diamond here (Sierra Leone)”, assuring, “the selling process would be transparent…” stated a release from State House.

The President has directed, that the diamond be sold “by international tender” to be conducted “in a transparent manner, subject to a reserved price,” says the National Minerals Agency.

Also, the government has assured the public that the stone will be “displayed for viewing at the Bank of Sierra Leone…” with the media to be invited, “and the outcome of the tender will be communicated to the general public.”

If this is not how to be transparent, then I wonder what else could be done by the President.

President Koroma is fully aware of the challenges the mines and mineral sector faces. The sector, he had said in 2010, “lacked proper regulatory regimes, leading to non-transparent transactions, decrease in investor confidence and failure to attract large scale investments…”-(State Opening of Parliament).

Over the years, the government has been working thoroughly towards developing the sector in order to boost up GDP and help in job creation.

The Mines and Mineral Act 2009 is instrumental in promoting both domestic and foreign investments through the introduction of “new and improved provisions for exploration, mine development and marketing of minerals and mineral secondary processing.”

The Act also ensures, management of the mineral sector “is transparent and accountable in accordance with international best practice.”

Unlike before, the country’s mineral ministry today encourages the development of open and transparent mechanisms for marketing mineral products.

These actions, as President Koroma once said “are bearing tangible dividends…” since there has been “an increase in Government revenue from new mining investment in exploration and development, and from current mining operations.”  

In conclusion, I am of the view, though government’s openness in dealing with the recent discovery is nothing new, it has further strengthened public trust and confidence. 

It has also gone further to fulfill the administration’s policy of openness and in promoting the mining establishment in line with international best practice based on the values of sustainable growth. I hold the view; this has been a commendable move by the government!

 

Editorial

2016 Global Peace Conference to be held in Freetown---as IPRA 50th Birthday confab ends in Istanbul

 

The 26th biennal conference of the Internatonal Peace Research Association (IPRA) is billed to take place in  Freetown, Sierra Leone in November 2016, marking the second time Africa has hosted the conference since the founding of IPRA in 1964. This was announced following the re-election of  the two IPRA Secretaries-general, Dr Ibrahim Seaga Shaw (pictured) and Dr Nesrin Kenar, who co-ordinated the 25th  IPRA conference in Turkey,  at the organisation’s administrative meeting on August 14 during the 25th  IPRA  conference in Istanbul  to serve a second term of two years.

Read more...

Business News

Four illegal fishing cases found in Sierra Leone in four days

FREETOWN, Sierra Leone, April 20, 2017/ -- Four illegal fishing cases have been found during a joint surveillance mission conducted by Greenpeace (www.Greenpeace.org/Africa/en) and Sierra Leone fishery authorities. Two Chinese vessels and one Korean vessel have been arrested for infringements of Sierra Leone fishing legislation, including possessing or using illegal fishing nets on board, no visible marking and a lack of required paperwork, including log books and authorisation for unloading catch. Fishing authorities ordered the vessels to return to Freetown port for further investigation. A fourth vessel, owned by an Italian company, was found with four kilograms of shark fins on board. Though not illegal under Sierra Leonean laws, this is a clear violation of European Union (EU) fishing rules. This boat’s case will be taken further with relevant EU authorities.

In addition, more than 70 bags of shark carcasses were found on one of the Chinese vessels.

Read more...

Media News

44 Journalists in Beijing for China Development Studies and Media Exchange

The 4th session of the China Africa Press Center (CAPC) Program hosted by the China Public Diplomacy Association (CPDA) was officially launched on Wednesday 1st March 2017 in Beijing, China. This year’s event is running simultaneously with the China South Asia Center 2017 program. Both programs brought together forty-four journalists from Africa and South Asia.

The program you will give journalists the opportunity to cover major domestic and international events in China such as the upcoming Two Sessions, i.e, the 5th Session of the 12th National People's Congress (NPC) and the 5th Session of the 12th National Committee of the Chinese

People's Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC) (similar to Parliamentary sessions in many countries) in March, the Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation in May and the 9th BRICS Summit in Autumn this year.

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Commentary

A NEW DAWN FOR JUSTICE AND HUMAN RIGHTS IN SIERRA LEONE, PARLIAMENT APPROVES MELRON NICOL-WILSON AS NEW OMBUDSMAN

The Parliament of the Republic of Sierra Leone has overwhelmingly approved the appointment of Mr Melron Nicol-Wilson as new Ombudsman, on Tuesday April 11, 2017. This follows him being named by H.E President Dr. Ernest Bai Koroma as the replacement to Justice Edmond Cowan - a long-standing legal icon, who now chairs the Sierra Leone Constitutional Review Committee.

A man whose action speaks louder than words, Mr Nicol-Wilson has been appointed as new Ombudsman for Sierra Leone, a position reserved for high-profile people, who are well-respected and with unblemished character. Mr Nicol-Wilson has the typical pedigree of an Ombudsman, best known both in Sierra Leone and internationally as a champion for justice and human rights.  

The Parliament’s decision to approve Mr Nicol-Wilson was anticipated, as the high-profile human rights lawyer emerged unscathed from an exchange of views with Members of Parliament.

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View Point

ELECTION IS A TESTIMONY TO PEOPLE’S SOVEREIGNTY

(The thoughts expressed in this article are purely and entirely the thoughts of the author)

Election in any democratic setting, include the enjoyment of those rights that will elicit the full participation of individuals in determining the political life of his/her country. An election is a decision making process through which eligible citizens(those who have reached the age of majority, 18 years and above and with sound mind) freely choose their leaders through the ballot box to hold public offices for a specified term.

Generally, people vote with the expectation that the office holders would represent their communitiesand or countries best interest.  Elections are viewed as a central feature of the rule of law, human rights, and democracy. Essentially, election is a testimony to peoples’ sovereignty and that ought to be respected and the process must be credible, otherwise there will be challenge with regards the acceptance of the result.

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News - Press Release

Police reject security for Alternative Peoples Independence Procession and Rally

April 24th 2017: On the occasion of the 56th anniversary of Sierra Leone’s independence, Movement for Social Progress (MSP) had requested the Sierra Leone Police to provide the necessary security for a peaceful Alternative Peoples Independence Procession and Rally that was planned to coincide with the official celebrations. The procession was planned to start from Clock Tower to Brima Atouga Stadium in the East end of the city while the official events are scheduled to take place in the West end of the city.

In a meeting with senior members of the Sierra Leone Police at the SLP headquarters, on Monday 24th April attended by the Inspector General, Francis Munu, the Head of Police Operations, Assistant Inspector General (AIG) Al-Sheikh Kamara, AIG Memuna Konteh Jalloh, AIG FUK Dabor, among others, the police top brass told members of MSP that they would not be able to provide security for the procession and rally.

The Inspector General of Police, Francis Munu, informed the meeting that they were overstretched with covering the official events, the traditional masquerade (or Odele) parade as well as the Lantern Parade on the eve of Independence.

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Society -Local News

AG to launch LAB in Waterloo

The Executive Director of the Legal Aid Board, Ms. Fatmata Claire Carlton-Hanciles has told the people of Waterloo that the Attorney General and Minister of Justice (AG), Hon. Joseph Fitzgerald Kamara will serve as the keynote speaker at the launch of the Legal Aid Board in Waterloo in the Western Area Rural District on 6 May 2017.

Ms. Carlton-Hanciles pointed out thatHon. Joseph Fitzgerald Kamara has served as keynote speaker in all the launches the Board has had around the country. He noted that the Office of the Attorney General and Ministry of Justice is the supervisory ministry for the Legal Aid Board and further underlined the importance of having the holder of the office at such events in terms of availing himself with the challenges ordinary people face in accessing the justice system. More importantly, it provides an opportunity for these issues to be discussed by the cabinet.

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Development

LAB wants transports to allocate seats to the blind

The Executive Director of the Legal Aid Board, Ms. Fatmata Claire Carlton-Hanciles has disclosed plans to launch a White Cane Campaign in the coming weeks.

Ms. Carlton-Hanciles made the disclosure while addressing a cross section of the Waterloo Community including stakeholders at the District Council Hall on Monday, 24 April 2017 in a meeting to plan the launch of the Legal Aid Board in Waterloo in the WesternArea Rural District on 6 May 2017.

She noted that the campaign will seek to address the challenges faced by blind people in using public transport. ‘Blind people have been suffering in silence for far too long,’ she said. ‘They have been discriminated against because of their disability and this cannot be tolerated.’

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Politics

SAM SUMANA TRAVELS TO GHANA ON "EMERGENCY TRAVEL CERTIFICATE"
Former elected Vice President Samuel Sam Sumana left Freetown International Airport, Lungi late afternoon Wednesday April 19, 2017 onboard Kenya Airways on an "Emergency Travel Certificate",  en route to Abuja, Nigeria on or about April 23/24, 2017 for the hearing of his petition filed on October 24, 2016 in the ECOWAS Community Court of Justice, "seeking an enforcement of his fundamental Human Rights arising from his unconstitutional removal from office, and for further orders contained in the application."
 
"This matter has been set down for hearing by the Court for April 26, 2017."
 
According to a spokesman for the Sam Sumana family Matthias Bendu who was with Sam Sumana at the airport until the aircraft was airborne because of advanced information reaching the family that there would be some problem awaiting Sam Sumana at the airport, Matthias Bendu told this Writer on the cellphone from the airport that Sam Sumana "was detained by Immigration Officers at the airport for more than thirty minutes  after the aircraft  landed, and it was due to the intervention of the Inspector General of Police Francis Munu who told the immigration Officers that Sam Sumana had not committed any crime and must be allowed to travel".
Read more...
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