Reflecting on the Dark Days in Kono

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Historical evidence shows that the Kono people are the descendants of Guinean migrants who moved to Sierra Leone and settle in what is now Kono District in the mid 19th century to escape the harsh conditions in Guinea.  Kono history claims that the Konos were once a powerful people in Mali and Guinea. Over three hundred years ago, the Konos immigrated to Sierra Leone as peaceful hunters. The tribe was split during partitioning of Africa by European colonists and part of the tribe still exists in neighbouring Guinea.

Attacks from the related Mende People forced the Kono to seek refuge in the Koranko territory to the north, where they were allowed to farm the land for their livelihood. The Mendes eventually moved further South, and the Kono returned to their land in the South-East. Kono is one of the ethnic groups in Sierra Leone similar to the Maninka (Madingo) tribe. The Konos are primarily diamond miners and farmers.

Disappointing as it is, residents in Kono has frustratingly stated that since the discovery of the first diamonds in the early 1930s in their District, they have not been able to adequately benefit from their minerals. They claimed that what worsen the situation in Kono is that the District has produced prominent personalities who abandoned their people for their selfish desires.  They mentioned the father of the current Sierra Leone’s first lady late Abu Aiah Koroma, who served as a Minister under the Tejan Kabba led SLPP government and did virtually nothing to salvage their concerns.

Since diamonds were discovered in Kono before the euphoric independence in 1961, the township has been backward in terms of development viz a viz infrastructural and socio-economic development.

In my view as a patriotic Sierra Leone, Kono is not as it were in the days of the Sierra Leone Selection Trust (SLST) when scholarships were awarded to deserving students based on merit to acquire higher education.  Preferably sons of Paramount Chiefs of the diamondiferous chiefdoms enjoyed such benefits.

It is pathetic to note today that Kono District which is ironically known to be the bread basket of this nation since the discovery of diamonds from the SLST to National Diamond Mining Company (NDMC), Branch Energy, now Koidu Holdings and OCTEA all emanating from the South African Company called Debeers, have not shown any sign of development despite the huge chunk of Leones received from mining.

As at now, Koidu Town which is the head quarter town of Kono District has degenerated into an eyesore despite the influx of mining companies and donor support to the district.  The mockery Kono now suffers from firstly is that the Vice President of Sierra Leone, Alhaji Sam Sumana hails from Kono; the First Lady, Sia Nyama Koroma hails from Kamara Chiefdom- one of the most concentrated diamondiferous Chiefdoms in Kono District; the current Minister of Local Government and Rural Development, Mrs Diana Konomanyi Kabbah hails from Kono; the minister of Transport and Aviation, Balogun Leonard Sodunfu Koroma hails from Kono; deputy Minister of Political Affairs, Karamo Kabbah hails from Kono… the list of influential people from this region is endless.

About three serving ministers hailed from Kono and ninety-five percent of the block votes to re-elect President Ernest Bai Koroma in terms of district rating, came from Kono.

The Voiceless refers to this piece as-The Dark Days In Kono- as a way of informing Sierra Leoneans that not all that glitters is a gold for Kono.  If one takes ultramodern development into cognizance especially the 21st Century developing countries, Koidu town is far from being a city because it is mosquito infested, no pure drinking water and it is still prone to other epidemic related diseases.

Suffice it to state that if the District was not abandoned by past and present governments, then the Kono people would not have suffered to yearn for progress and socio-economic development in fulfilment of the Agenda for Prosperity.

It is very disappointing to note that the most trumpeted Makeni via Matotoka Kono roads have still not commence, not to talk about the township roads which are all deplorable for vehicular movement.

The question in the minds of most Sierra Leoneans an even non-Sierra Leoneans who have visited Kono District is-Who is going to be the savior to redeem the Konos from this predicament?

Moreover, diamond revenues in Sierra Leone mainly from Kono, according to a recent report by UNIPSIL, have increased more than tenfold since the end of the conflict, from $10 million in 2000 to about $150 million in 2012, although another recent 2013 surveys of mining sites states: “more than 50 per cent of diamond mining still remains unlicensed and reportedly considerable illegal smuggling of diamonds continues”.

Sierra Leone is a country blessed with many resources among them is rain forest, clean water, arable lands, diamonds, rutile, iron ore coltan and bauxite. The presence of diamonds coupled with corrupt and unstable governments was a perfect opportunity for creating anarchy so as to seize the Kono District for personal benefits and to fund the civil war from the sale of these diamonds. These diamonds were later known as the “blood diamonds”.

As The Voiceless Sierra Leoneans cry for a rest, many are impatiently asking when the Konos will benefit from their God-giving natural resources. Or are the natural resources in the Kono District a curse to the residents rather than a blessing? This is The Pen of the Voiceless Sierra Leoneans.