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Identifier
Created
Classification
Origin
06FREETOWN1007
2006-12-11 10:05:00
CONFIDENTIAL
Embassy Freetown
Cable title:  

MIXED REACTIONS TO BLOOD DIAMOND MOVIE IN SIERRA

Tags:   PREL  PGOV  ECON  EFIN  EAID  ETRD  EMIN  SL 
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VZCZCXRO1513
PP RUEHPA
DE RUEHFN #1007/01 3451005
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
P 111005Z DEC 06
FM AMEMBASSY FREETOWN
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 0576
INFO RUEHZK/ECOWAS COLLECTIVE
RUEHOR/AMEMBASSY GABORONE 0025
RUEHSA/AMEMBASSY PRETORIA 0334
RUEHLU/AMEMBASSY LUANDA 0023
RUEHWD/AMEMBASSY WINDHOEK 0025
RUEHKI/AMEMBASSY KINSHASA 0063
RUEHSA/AMCONSUL JOHANNESBURG 0025
						C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 FREETOWN 001007 

SIPDIS

SIPDIS

DEPT FOR AF (THOMPSON), AF/W (OKEDIJI, CARTER, BUELOW), AND
EB/ESC (SIMONS)

E.O. 12958: DECL: 12/11/2016
TAGS: PREL PGOV ECON EFIN EAID ETRD EMIN SL
SUBJECT: MIXED REACTIONS TO BLOOD DIAMOND MOVIE IN SIERRA
LEONE

Classified By: Ambassador Thomas N. Hull for reasons
1.4 (b) and (d).

-------
SUMMARY
-------

C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 FREETOWN 001007

SIPDIS

SIPDIS

DEPT FOR AF (THOMPSON), AF/W (OKEDIJI, CARTER, BUELOW), AND
EB/ESC (SIMONS)

E.O. 12958: DECL: 12/11/2016
TAGS: PREL PGOV ECON EFIN EAID ETRD EMIN SL
SUBJECT: MIXED REACTIONS TO BLOOD DIAMOND MOVIE IN SIERRA
LEONE

Classified By: Ambassador Thomas N. Hull for reasons
1.4 (b) and (d).

--------------
SUMMARY
--------------


1. (SBU) Sierra Leonean reactions to the soon-to-be
released Blood Diamond movie set in Sierra Leone are mixed.
Due for release on December 8, the movie comes amidst an
upsurge in public awareness about the conflict diamond trade
and has drawn increasing attention to the African diamond
mining industry. There is considerable angst amongst the
international diamond industry over the impact of the movie,
and the industry has responded in kind with its own publicity
campaign. In comparison, GoSL officials' and citizens'
reactions have been mild. Embassy officials raised possible
blowback issues with stakeholders, including high-level
government officials, and although GoSL officials appreciated
the importance of the issue, their response was limited.
Some have stated that they believe that the movie will not
harm Sierra Leone's image. Sources in the Ministry of Mineral
Resources claim that diamond exports are down, a possible
indication of increased smuggling, and say that serious
problems remain as unlicensed diamond mining continues to
thrive. END SUMMARY.

--------------
MILD REACTIONS FROM GOSL
--------------


2. (SBU) In recent discussions with GoSL officials, most
have expressed mild reactions to the movie's upcoming
release. None, to the best of post's knowledge, has seen the
movie, although some may have seen a synopsis of the script.
However, some officials have stated that they do not believe
that the movie will damage Sierra Leone's image. Ambassador
Umaru Wurie, Director General in the Ministry of Foreign

Affairs and International Cooperation, told PolOff that the
movie would not adversely affect Sierra Leone, and that the
government had even granted Warner Bros. studios permission
to use the Sierra Leonean national anthem in the movie.

--------------
MONITORING PROBLEMS AND SMUGGLING ARE ONGOING
--------------


3. (C) The strongest reaction came from Permanent Secretary
George Pessima (strictly protect) in the Ministry of Mineral
Resources, who told PolOff that from what he had heard about
the movie, he thought that the movie was unfair and not
constructive for Sierra Leone, which continues to struggle to
recover from the devastation of war. He said that for
instance, diamonds mined in Kono district, a prominent mining
district in the east of the country, could have economically
transformed the country, but instead primarily benefited
outsiders.


4. (C) Pessima said that diamond exports were down by 15
percent. He was skeptical of larger diamond mining companies
operating in Sierra Leone that report finding only smaller
diamonds. He said that these companies continue to be
ineffectively monitored. During a November 17 visit to Koidu
in the Kono district, PolOff and AF/W Desk Officer were told
by both mine operators and ministry officials that the
Ministry of Mineral Resources did not have enough mine
monitors to effectively police mining operations. Originally
from Kono, Pessima doubted that fields were being "worked"
out and inferred that larger and more valuable stones
continue to be smuggled out of the country.


5. (C) Pessima also noted that of the 12 major diamond
mining companies in Sierra Leone, only six had renewed their
mining licenses this year. He said that it was highly
probable that the six companies that did not renew their
licenses are continuing operations illegally and that
President Kabbah and Vice President Berewa are cognizant of
this situation.

-------------- --------------
DIAMOND INDUSTRY PASSES ON GOSL SUPPORT FOR CAMPAIGN
-------------- --------------

FREETOWN 00001007 002.2 OF 002




6. (SBU) Representatives from De Beers and the World
Diamond Council visited Sierra Leone in October and told post
that they were concerned about the possible fallout from the
movie. De Beers representatives told the Ambassador that
when President Kabbah told them that diamonds had done
nothing good for Sierra Leone, they decided not to ask him to
be a spokesperson for diamonds as Nelson Mandela and
Botswana's President Festus Mogae had agreed to be.

-------------- --------------
MINING COMPANIES COMING UNDER INCREASED CRITICISM
-------------- --------------


7. (U) Mining companies are coming under increasing
criticism from both GoSL officials and citizens who question
mining companies' commitment to local development. Residents
in Koidu in the eastern district of Kono have feuded with
Koidu Holdings (KH), a South African-controlled company that
runs the country's only industrial-scale kimberlite diamond
venture. Koidu Holdings began operations in 2003 and started
weekly blastings that required residents to evacuate nearby
houses. Koidu Holdings negotiated an agreement to resettle
residents in housing constructed by KH, but residents have
been unhappy with weekly evacuations and the pace and style
of construction.

-------------- --------------
USAID PROGRAM DIAMOND SECTOR INITIATIVE FOSTERS REFORM
-------------- --------------


8. (U) Post's USAID-sponsored diamond sector initiative has
played a mediating role in the KH dispute, and is providing
assistance to diminish the role of diamonds as a source of
domestic and regional instability by decreasing illicit
mining and trading. The program also is helping to increase
diamond proceeds to benefit local diamond-producing
communities.

--------------
WEAK JUDICIARY PART OF CORRUPTION
--------------


9. (U) The Sierra Leonean judiciary continues to lack
capacity to effectively charge, prosecute, and convict
diamond-traffickers. A December 6 news article in the
independent newspaper Standard Times reported that on
December 1, a magistrate court acquitted the son of Minister
of Mineral Resources Mohamed Swarray Dean on five counts
under the Anti-Money Laundering Act of 2005 of possession of
illicit diamonds and foreign currency. Alpha Deen and his
business partner were being held on suspicion of
diamond-trafficking, but the presiding magistrate said that
they had been wrongly charged and ordered that the diamonds
and $120,000 be returned to Mr. Dean and his associate.

--------------
COMMENT
--------------


10. (C) Many challenges remain for the artisanal mining
industry in Sierra Leone and much remains to be done to
increase the amount of diamonds going through proper channels
as accorded by the KP certification process. In particular,
the GoSL continues to lack the capacity to effectively
monitor and regulate the diamond mining sector as indicated
by continuing high levels of illicit diamond trading.
Currently, there is no evidence to suggest that diamonds
mined in Sierra Leone are being used to destabilize the
current peace. The Ambassador, who has seen the film, warned
fellow members of the High Level Steering Committee for
Diamond Sector Reform (including the Ministers of Finance,
Mineral Resources, and Local Government) that the movie's
long-lasting damage to Sierra Leone's image might be greater
than to the diamond industry. They were unconcerned,
apparently believing that the disclaimer at the end of the
movie ("Sierra Leone is at peace") would offset the graphic
violence throughout the film. END COMMENT.
HULL