President Koroma in Belgium – will he find a buyer for Sierra Leone’s second largest diamond?

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President Koroma arrived in Brussels yesterday Sunday, 29th October 2017, after lavishly spending over $700,000 on a political campaign parade on Saturday in the capital Freetown.

The parade was organised by ruling APC party central office in violation of general election rules, which clearly state that until the National Electoral Commission blows the whistle for start of political campaigning, all such rallies are unlawful.

Announcing the date for general and presidential elections in February this year, president Koroma made it clear that campaigning must not be held before the NEC has given the go ahead. This is what he said:

“Fellow Sierra Leoneans, announcement of the dates for elections is not an announcement for the start of the campaign period. The commencement of the campaign period will be announced by NEC. When that time comes, we expect every party and every individual to follow the rules and regulations set forth by the appropriate authorities.”

Elections are due in less than five months in Sierra Leone, and the main political parties are already campaigning across the country.

But critics are accusing the ruling party of abusing its power of incumbency and state resources to mount political campaign, giving itself an unfair advantage in advance of those elections.

Saturday saw one of the country’s most popular cultural masquerades – ‘paddle’ and thousands of ruling APC party supporters dressed in red – party colour, dancing in the streets – watched by the president and his hand-picked successor to his throne – Samura Kamara, by his side.

The government said it has no money to look after mudslide victims. But where did it find $700,000 to stage a political parade on Saturday – money that could be used to pay for healthcare, education, provision of clean drinking water and vital food supply for the hungry?

In the wake of the massive mudslide disaster in the capital Freetown two months ago, over $5 million was collected from donors by the vice president. Not a single cent has been accounted for, despite thousands of survivors of the disaster struggling to survive.

Food, medicine, and shelter are in short supply, as questions are being asked about the $5 million collected by State House.

As president Koroma arrived in Brussels yesterday, there are rumours he is helping to find a buyer for Sierra Leone’s second largest diamond, found early this year by a local pastor who handed the diamond to the government to assist in finding a legitimate buyer.

The government of Sierra Leone had previously valued the diamond at $80 million, but the highest offer received so far is said to be about less than $10 million.

But latest report on the sale of the diamond is that the 709-carat gem will be auctioned in New York on December 4, 2017 by the Rapaport Group of companies, if no buyer is found in Belgium. President Koroma is said to be hoping that with his presence in Belgium this week, a buyer could be found.

According to State House report, president Koroma is in Brussels to attend high-level talks with officials of the African, Caribbean Pacific States (ACP). It is understood that the discussions will include good governance, sustainable development, peace, security and stability, and Sierra Leone’s preparedness for the elections in March 2018.

Also, president Koroma will hold talks with officials of the European Council (EC), who it is understood have expressed serious misgivings and concern about the president’s undemocratic imposition of his handpicked successor, after he leaves office next year.

Discussions with the EC will focus on democracy, good governance, human rights, political inclusion, and social and human development. It is expected that president Koroma will be asked to guarantee a level playing field for all political parties at next year’s elections, and to ensure that they are free and fair.

Before returning home on Wednesday, 1st November, president Koroma will meet Sierra Leoneans living in France, the Netherlands and Belgium in a town hall style meeting to be held in Brussels.

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