Diamonds, foreign aid, and the uncertain prospects for post-conflict reconstruction in Sierra Leone

Diamonds, foreign aid, and the uncertain prospects for post-conflict reconstruction in Sierra Leone

External and internal resources for the recostruction of Sierra Leone

This article examines the external and internal dimensions and resources of post-conflict reconstruction in Sierra Leone. Foreign aid represents the bulk of the external sources of support, though its imminent reduction is a significant concern. Internally resources, such as diamond exports, offer much potential as a means to spur economic growth and reconstruction, but diamonds may also very well disrupt reconstruction efforts.

The paper finds that:

  • while foreign donors have been financing many reconstruction projects it is uncertain what level of international aid will be received by Sierra Leone in the medium and long term
  • internal sources of reconstruction are equally uncertain: while diamond exports have been growing at a healthy rate since the final years of the civil war, particularly since the official end of hostilities at the beginning of 2002, a number of obstacles remain:
    • diamond smuggling and illicit mining persist in Sierra Leone, despite the strengthening of legislation
    • regional instability may place the diamond mines at risk once again should hostilities resume in Liberia or emerge in Guinea
    • it is risky to rely on a single commodity for the bulk of export earnings, especially as diamond resources themselves are finite
  • the present challenge is to focus on more medium- and long-term reconstruction solutions, entailing more conventional forms of development
  • the psychological and physical trauma endured by the people of Sierra Leone cannot be ignored by efforts to spur economic growth and reconstruction as this is crucial to prevent a resumption of the vicious cycle of greed and grievance that led to the outbreak of civil war in the first place.
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