Archive for August, 2007
by AGavin on August 30th, 2007
Johannesburg - South Africans were waiting with bated breath Wednesday for confirmation that a grapefruit-sized greenish rock found in a river bed in North-West province was a 7,000-carat diamond, twice the size of the largest uncut diamond on record.
A leading gemologist has said the 1.6 kilogramme stone would be the ‘eighth wonder of the world’ if confirmed as a diamond. Diamond mining giant De Beers has also said the discovery by a small unnamed rival in North-West province could be the ‘find of the century.’
But the secrecy surrounding the find and the seemingly perfect shape of the stone have sown doubts that the octahedral rock seen in a grainy photograph is indeed the mother of all diamonds, and not, for example, a crystal. Jolly told Business Day newspaper Wednesday the stone was found in an alluvial mine, the type of mining practised in the north-west.
A spokesman for a Cape-Town-based leisure company that has a share in the mine also told Citizen newspaper the stone had been found ‘on the other side of Potchefstroom’ town in the province. Jolly, a property developer, who claims to have full mining rights, told Business Day he was waiting for the opinion of a gemologist but hoped to fetch up to 700 million British pounds for the gem if it was a diamond.
One leading gemologist, Les Milner, who saw the photograph of the stone, has said that if it is a diamond it could be between 6,500 and 7,000 carats. Jolly has cited ’security’ concerns for his refusal to give specifics about his mining company. One expert told Business Day that if he does not hold a mining license, the stone belongs to the state.
The largest uncut diamond on record, the Cullinan, was found near Pretoria in 1905. It measured 3 106,75 carats in its rough state and was later cut into smaller stones that adorn the British crown jewels.
by AGavin on August 26th, 2007
I don’t think it can get much worse than this story.
Two Portuguese Nationals were trying to sell illicit diamonds at the V & A Waterfront in Cape Town. They get busted in a sting and it turns out the very diamonds they were trying to sell were fake!
This sting on illicit diamonds turned out to be a case in which the authorities could only grab them for fraud. I guess our war against illicit diamonds is hurting the fraudulent diamond merchants as well. Sorry guys!
by AGavin on August 20th, 2007
Source: All Africa
With votes from nearly two-thirds of polling stations counted, Sierra Leone’s presidential elections appear headed for a second round run-off.
A running tally of results published by the country’s National Electoral Commission on Friday afternoon shows that Ernest Bai Koroma of the opposition All People’s Congress (APC) is holding on to his lead, with 45 percent of the votes counted so far.
But the pre-election favourite, Vice-President Solomon Berewa of the ruling Sierra Leone People’s Party’s (SLPP), continues to have enough votes to deny Koroma the 55 percent he needs to avoid a second round. Berewa has received 36.8 percent of the vote.
The breakaway from the SLPP of the third major party, the People’s Movement for Democratic Change (PMDC), appears to have weakened the support the SLPP previously enjoyed. The PMDC’s Charles Margai has received 14.8 percent of votes counted.
Freetown’s Concord Times newspaper is reporting that PMDC supporters have appealed to Berewa to combine forces ahead of a second round to deny the opposition victory and return power to the SLPP and PMDC.
The latest results were published by the electoral commission on its website. With votes counted from 61.6 percent of polling stations, Koroma had 516,442 votes, Berewa 421,812 and Margai 169,408. A total of 1,146,697 votes had been counted, representing a turnout of 75.7 percent of voters.
by AGavin on August 15th, 2007
Sierra Leone. The big question that is plaguing my mind, and I hope yours, is whether or not the elections which have just taken place were fair and legal. An article from ABC News has portrayed the situation just right. According to European Union, most of Africa, and many other international observers, the elections have met the proper standards to be considered free and fair. The elections were overseen by more than 100 local civic and non-governmental organizations who kept close watch by fielding 5,400 observers. A country which was in civil war only five years ago has made a giant leap towards the better.
Still, there has been much backlash from the top two frontrunners, the Sierra Leone People’s Party (SLPP) and the All People’s Congress (APC), as they accuse each other of using intimidation and rigging practices to sway the election in their way. The SLPP even claimed that some of their members were physically attacked.
So what should you and I believe? Well as more information begins to be revealed, we will have a better idea of what is exactly going on. Until then we can at least be happy knowing that even if the elections did exhibit some corruption, Sierra Leone is taking steps forward. It is fine for a country to progress slowly, as long as there is some progression.
by AGavin on August 9th, 2007
Donald Steinberg has said it just right. In his article from AllAfrica.com, a website about “guess what?” – All Africa, he has highlighted the important step that Sierra Leone is about to face in its progression of democratic principles. Sierra Leone is on the brink of democratic election which will be held on August 11. The success of this election will be a major determining factor in Sierra Leone’s trek out of a ‘failed state’ status.
This is significantly important to trade of conflict diamonds. In order to help curb this practice, we need to understand the true source of the continuation of violence. There is nothing intrinsically wrong with diamonds. The true perpetrator of harm to the victims of blood diamonds is ‘corruption’. Corruption is what allows this trade to continue.
However, there is hope just two days away. If these elections follow through democratically and without a violent response by those who lose, it will be a sign steering away from corruption. Corruption must stop for the violence to stop.
by Admin on August 2nd, 2007
Source: The Economist
AT LEAST the presidential and parliamentary elections on August 11th will be the first to be held without the help of international peacekeepers since the end of the civil war that lashed Sierra Leone from 1991 to 2002. That is one welcome sign of progress. And since a British military intervention ended the conflict the country’s 6m people no longer run the risk of sudden death at the hands of drugged-up child soldiers.But, five years of peace and hundreds of millions of dollars of aid money later, the issues that gave rise to the war in the first place are still as much in evidence as ever. And the elections, unfortunately, are not expected to change that. Unemployment is close to 80%, poverty is widespread and corruption endemic. Any reform and improvement in daily life remain painfully slow. There are 300,000 more children in primary school than during the war, a few more paved roads and some electricity, but seven out of ten people still live on less than a dollar a day. The country has the highest infant and maternal mortality rates in the world.
Where reform has been successful it has been led by foreigners. Take the army. Ill-disciplined soldiers looking to get rich with “blood diamonds” contributed mightily to the mayhem of the civil war. But since 2002 the army has been re-trained by Britain, the former colonial power. The army has been shrinking, but as one officer notes, “Every soldier we chuck out of the army is one more man unemployed and on the streets.” Now that President Ahmed Tejan Kabbah of the Sierra Leone People’s Party (SLPP) is standing down after two forgettable five-year terms, it would be reasonable to expect an injection of new faces and energy into the country’s politics. But this will not be the case.
Seven parties are contesting the elections, but only three count: the ruling SLPP, its traditional opponent, the All People’s Congress, which ruled for 14 venal years under Siaka Stevens, and the new People’s Movement for Democratic Change. This split from the SLPP and competes for the same ethnic heartland among the Mende people of the south and east. Since it is run by Charles Margai, nephew of the first prime minister and son of its second, there is little danger of new brooms sweeping through Freetown’s shabby corridors of power. The 69-year old presidential front-runner, Solomon Berewa, is the incumbent vice-president, renowned as a clever and cunning political operator. Some say he has been the real power behind the throne for years. He prefers to describe himself as a man with a proven track record. His critics say he is implicated in all of the current government’s failures and shortcomings. “The problem”, says one, “is a small clique running corrupt patronage networks while providing zero services and Berewa will simply embed those networks.”
Stark evidence of what can be done with the right leader in charge comes from across the border in Liberia where Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf is in her second year as president. She has tackled poor governance head-on, firing corrupt officials and removing ghost workers from the payroll. By contrast Sierra Leone’s Anti-Corruption Commission is now a lame duck, having had its $2m annual funding suspended by exasperated British donors unhappy with the lack of progress. The replacement last year of an energetic former civil servant by the president’s brother-in-law as head of the commission strengthened the perception that the government is not serious about tackling corruption. In fact, most agree, it is growing. The argument goes that the terrible violence of the conflict is so recent and memories so raw that a return to war is unthinkable. But many people in Sierra Leone know only violence as a way to vent their frustration at a government that fails them time and again. With the arrival of peace this is no longer a failed state. It may, however, be a failing one.