The biggest news out of Sierra Leone for the past couple of days has been the discovery of a giant diamond, which the Sierra Leone State House describes as a 706 carat diamond.
This precious stone was found by a Pastor who has been engaged in artisanal or small scale mining that is done by ordinary citizens, in Kono District. Social media is abuzz as to the fate of this giant gem, which is said to be among the world’s 20 largest diamonds (BBC New, 2017).
The founder or rightful owner of the gian gem, Pastor Momoh, presented it to the paramount chiefs of Kono, who then traveled with him to the capital, Freetown, where he handed the gem over to President Ernest Bai Koroma. This precious stone is now reportedly resting peacefully in a vault at the central bank.
It is interesting to note though, that the news of this diamond has not necessarily stirred jubilation among Sierra Leoneans. Whether in the country or the diaspora, the discovery has not been received as a triumph; instead, it seems to be raising questions and suspicions among the people of Sierra Leone. This is because Sierra Leoneans are well familiar with this scenario; a large diamond is found on our soil, our leaders and a few vultures in the global diamond market get rich, leaving the masses in Sierra Leone in abject poverty.
Since diamonds were first discovered in 1930, the colonial era, there have been several discoveries of large diamonds, for instance: two diamonds were found in 1943 weighing 249 carats and 532 carats respectively; one in 1945 weighting 770 carats and there was the “Star of Sierra Leone” found in 1972 weighing nearly 969 carats.
Of course, Great Britain, the colonial master, robbed us of the first three giant gems found in Sierra Leone. The Star of Sierra Leone, however, was found after independence; it disappeared into the back pockets of our leaders at that time, President Siaka Stevens and his comrades, who supposedly sold it for two and half million dollars to a jeweler in New York City.
None of the proceeds from all these giant gems seem to have reached Kono, the soil from which they were all found. Kono continues to be one of the most economically deprived places in Sierra Leone.
With the history of our encounters with giant diamonds fresh in our consciousness, Sierra Leoneans cannot help but to be suspicious. We are now asking questions like,
- Is the gem at the central bank for safekeeping or as sole property of President Koroma and his comrades?
- Is Pastor Momoh going to get a just compensation for his find?
- Will a portion of the proceeds go to rebuilding Kono District into a livable place that has enriched our politicians?
- Will this new “Star of Kono” found in a new era, defy history and benefit the people of Sierra Leone?
- Will President Koroma prove to be different from President Siaka Stevens in regards to the allocation of the proceeds of this diamond?
- Many more questions on our minds.
Only time will tell!!
For Sierra Leoneans, it is hard to see a reason for jubilation at this point; diamonds found in our soil have somehow disappeared into the abyss, with no benefit to the land or the people. Instead, there is much tribulation due to the environmental degradation and land grab diamond mining is causing in Kono District and other parts of the country.
Despite our history, however, we are a hopeful people. We hope and pray that this time around, the evaluation of this precious giant will be done ethically, which would determine the real amount it brings. We also hope that this time around, our government considers the people and land where this gem was found. The people of Kono District, particularly, deserve to get from this giant gem, at a minimum, a new decent hospital, a few functioning primary and secondary schools, clean water, roads and other basic necessities that they are so tragically lacking in Kono at this point in time.