Friday, April 12, 2013

Sierra Leone Political Updates: The Kono Fiasco

Vice President Chief Alhaji Sam Sumana
Kono is easily the richest district in Sierra Leone and has been a major bread basket of the country from Colonial days. Kono is a land awash in diamonds. During the colonial era the Sierra Leone Selection Trust (SLST) mining consortium was formed as an agreement between the country's colonial government and the Consolidated African Trust to exploit the diamond fields of Kono and Kenema districts in the east of Sierra Leone.

Starting from 1935, SLST was giving exclusive mineral mining rights in the country for 99 years.(Peter Greenhlagh - West African Diamonds - An economic history 1919-83.)  In 1955 SLST limited their operations to Yengema in the Kono District and Tongo in the Kenema District.

After independence, the government of President Siaka Probyn Stevens nationalized SLST making it a public parastatal and it was renamed the National Diamond Mining Company (NDMC).

The last significant head of NDMC was the former President of the Old Bo School Boys Association (OBBA), Abu Aiah Koroma, a towering figure and consumate politician who is the father of the country's current First Lady Mrs. Sia Nyama Koroma.  Abu Aiah Koroma ran in 1996 as a presidential candidate, but he was unsuccessful.
Minister Diana Finda Konomany

In spite of all the mineral wealth emanating from Kono, the district has been one of the most neglected in the history of infrastructural development in the country. Successive governments have just taken the minerals, satisfied some local chiefs and made use of the indigenes as sources of cheap labor and abandoned the people. Infrastructural development of any kind in the district was totally neglected.

Today, Kono is a district with a landscape deeply scarred by mining both legal and illegal, with poor roads and a lack of even the most basic of facilities. To compound the district's problems, Kono became a magnet for rebels of the Revolutionary United Front (RUF) during the long civil conflict in the country. Before the the end of the war, the main district town of Koidu, once a beautiful mining settlement, was almost completely burnt to the ground. Several of the major towns were touched and the district was set back for decades.
Kono Landscape Today

When I personally had the chance to travel through the Kono towns of Yengema Koidu, Wordu, Woama, Gandorhun and other major areas of Kono District, I was deeply affected by the degree of neglect and delapidation in the face of so much wealth.
First Lady Sia Nyama Koroma

Forward to 2007, the APC government of Ernest Bai Koroma assumed power in Sierra Leone and Kono was lucky to get the first First Lady from the district. Coincidentally or incidentally, depending on which version of rumors you believe, the country's Vice President Chief Alhaji Sam Sumana was also born and bred in Kono district and is a member of the district's traditional loyalty. Forward to 2013, the Current Minister of Finance Dr. Kelfala Marah grew up in Kono, the Minister of Local government Diana Finda Konomanyi also hails from Kono and has deep roots in the district.

So you would think that with all the big politicians from the district and having the country's president as a brother-in-law, the people of Kono are rolling in the lap of luxury. Unfortunately if that is what you think, you are further from the truth than than heaven is from  hell.
Tom and Jerry

Instead of coming together to fight for the development of their historically neglected district. The Kono politicians have developed egos so big that even elephants would stand in awe. The Vice President Sam Sumana and Local Government Minister Diana Konomanyi make me think of the long running cat and mouse comic strip Tom and Jerry in which the two animals are always trying to outdo each other but none really succeeds.
Finance Minister Kelfala Marah

Sam and Diana epitomize the disease of ethnic African politician; unknown quantities from obscure areas suddenly thrown into the limelight. Instead of working together for the betterment of their district, they have hands at each others throats, trying to claw their eyes out. One major reason for the perpetual desolate state of Africa is that we spend so much time on pettiness, that by the time we have the chance to do important things, we no longer have enough energy.

Some of the Kono chiefs need to call these people, put them in a room and knock some sense into their skulls. As long as they continue fighting like lions defending their pride, the only people that will suffer are the poor, lovely, peaceful and neglected people of Kono.
Ambition Vs Ego

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