George Soros and Sierra Leone

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Most Americans remember Sierra Leone for the “Blood Diamond” trade.  So WHY is George Soros SO INTERESTED in Sierra Leone?

Sierra Leone is slowly emerging from a protracted civil war and is showing signs of a successful transition. Investor and consumer confidence continue to rise, adding impetus to the country’s economic recovery. There is greater freedom of movement and the successful re-habitation and resettlement of residential areas.

Rich in minerals, Sierra Leone has relied on mining, especially diamonds, for its economic base. The country is among the top 10 diamond producing nations in the world. Mineral exports remain the main foreign currency earner. Sierra Leone is a major producer of gem-quality diamonds. Though rich in diamonds, it has historically struggled to manage their exploitation and export.

Annual production of Sierra Leone’s diamond estimates range between $250–300 million US$. Some of that is smuggled, where it is possibly used for money laundering or financing illicit activities. Formal exports have dramatically improved since the civil war with efforts to improve the management of them having some success. In October 2000, a UN-approved certification system for exporting diamonds from the country was put in place and led to a dramatic increase in legal exports. In 2001, the government created a mining community development fund, which returns a portion of diamond export taxes to diamond mining communities. The fund was created to raise local communities’ stake in the legal diamond trade.

Sierra Leone has one of the world’s largest deposits of rutile, a titanium ore used as paint pigment and welding rod coatings. Sierra Rutile Limited, owned by a consortium of United States and European investors, began commercial mining operations near the city of Bonthe, in the Southern Province, in early 1979. It was then the largest non-petroleum US investment in West Africa. The export of 88,000 tons realized $75 million in export earnings in 1990. In 1990, the company and the government made a new agreement on the terms of the company’s concession in Sierra Leone. Rutile and bauxite mining operations were suspended when rebels invaded the mining sites in 1995, but exports resumed in 2005.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sierra_Leone#Economy

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Billionaire George Soros Visits Sierra Leone

Karamoh Kabba
Freetown, Sierra Leone
February 18, 2008

The paradox that Sierra Leone is the poorest country in the world despite its abundant mineral resources is an inconvenient truth that is about to change. As part of his tour of West Africa, billionaire financier and philanthropist George Soros was in Sierra Leone this month to pledge his support for the country’s economic recovery.

Foreign Affairs Minister Zainab Bangura took great pride in introducing Soros to members of the media community in a press conference at the Bintumani seaside hotel pressroom in Freetown on Feb. 10. Bangura also introduced Aryeh Neier, president of the Open Society Institute in New York, and Nana Dakor, executive director of the Open Society Initiative for East Africa, an affiliate of the Open Society Institute. The Open Society Institute promotes democracy and good governance in African countries/

In his opening remarks, Soros spoke of his involvement in what he called the “big change” in the former Soviet Empire that created the “big opportunity” for him to become a philanthropist. He said he was in Sierra Leone to assist a nation that has held “free and fair elections, a process that is now leading to a democratic transition…

“We want to help build a free and open society.”

Kanu noted that the world has 3.5 billion people who depend on oil, most of whom are among the poorest on earth. “There is a shifting of blame from government to the [extractive] companies and from the companies to government,” he said. Citing Sierra Leone, he continued, “The people are not benefiting from the minerals. We don’t benefit much from our extractive industry.” He further explained that the Extractive Industry Transparency Initiative (E.I.T.A.) was formed by Western countries to ensure that the people benefit from the mineral resources of their countries.

When pressed by reporters to offer specifics on how he would help the people of Sierra Leone, Soros said his organization would help this previously war-torn West African nation in the area of “extractive mineral industry transparency policy formulation” and in “the development of civil societies.” He maintained that the natural resources belong to the people but that very often rulers used the resources to benefit themselves creating what he referred to as “the resource curse.”

Knowing very well that he would be preaching to the choir, Soros said, “I don’t need to explain to you what is resource curse. You have suffered much from it in the recent past.”

It appears that Soros and his Open Society are in Sierra Leone at the right time. But if by “recent past” Soros referred only to the infamous blood diamond days then he needs an update on the recent unrest in Kono district. Police and mining security officers responded in December to a demonstration for mining policy reforms with brutality that led to the shooting of at least one youth activist.

Soros, however, told the audience of mostly reporters demanding specific ways he intended to help Sierra Leone that his organization in collaboration with the United Nations Development Program would create a capacity-building fund that will help the people of Sierra Leone with intellectual capacity building through fellowship funding. He explained that the program would help qualified Sierra Leoneans who want to return home to work in the interest of the people do so, as opposed to the World Bank and International Monetary Fund expatriates who “have their own agenda that often works in the interest of governments and the institution they represent.”

Later, outside the press conference, Lamin, a concerned citizen said, “This is the point; [one] especially developing economies often find difficulty grappling with. But coming from a world-renowned financial speculator, political activist, and philanthropist would likely drive the message through.”

Soros engaged his audience in a lengthy explanation that his support was not unconditional though he may have liked what he heard. Once in power, he said, governments are tempted to do differently from what they originally set out to do. As an example, he cited the Rose Revolution in Georgia, which was “a bad experience” for him. Although he was “quite impressed” with the Georgian leader at first, his organization became the main critic of the government when that ruler became autocratic.

“I don’t expect such in Sierra Leone,” Soros said, expressing his optimism in the leaders here.

I asked Soros about his being referred to by his critics as more of a political activist than a philanthropist. He responded that his organization would be embarking on the development of civil societies, something entirely different from the intellectual capacity-building project in the extractive mineral industry he would be helping the government of Sierra Leone with through the formulation of transparent mining policies. In his own words, he called himself a “political philanthropist.”

The deputy minister for trade and industry, Mabinty Daramy, has since her appointment demonstrated an unfaltering commitment to the building and encouraging of a strong private sector economy, which she has said “would help to reduce the growing youth unemployment in Sierra Leone.” At this point in the press conference, she found an opportunity to interject her ministry’s agenda into the equation:

“Mine is a commentary as opposed to a question. As a financial speculator your [Soros’] reflexivity, financial markets, and economic theory resulted in huge financial profit for you in 1992. When Britain failed to adhere to all European financial market trends, you bought 10 billion pounds that made 1 billion pounds profit on black Wednesday from the Bank of England for which you were dubbed ‘the man who broke the Bank of England,'” she said with comic effect. “We welcome you along with your ingenious financial speculations skills and unparallel philanthropy to Sierra Leone. On a serious note though, we will not mind to dub you the man who built the bank of Sierra Leone.”

http://worldpress.org/Africa/3072.cfm

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It appears that Soros and his Open Society are in Sierra Leone at the right time. But if by “recent past” Soros referred only to the infamous blood diamond days then he needs an update on the recent unrest in Kono district. Police and mining security officers responded in December to a demonstration for mining policy reforms with brutality that led to the shooting of at least one youth activist.

This incident was the reason for the suspension of mining activities that the foreign minister mentioned in her opening statement when she spoke about problems in the mining industry and the government’s reaction to them, although she failed to state the reason for the suspension and the subsequent government inquest into the matter.

Soros, however, told the audience of mostly reporters demanding specific ways he intended to help Sierra Leone that his organization in collaboration with the United Nations Development Program would create a capacity-building fund that will help the people of Sierra Leone with intellectual capacity building through fellowship funding. He explained that the program would help qualified Sierra Leoneans who want to return home to work in the interest of the people do so, as opposed to the World Bank and International Monetary Fund expatriates who “have their own agenda that often works in the interest of governments and the institution they represent.”

Later, outside the press conference, Lamin, a concerned citizen said, “This is the point; [one] especially developing economies often find difficulty grappling with. But coming from a world-renowned financial speculator, political activist, and philanthropist would likely drive the message through.”

http://www.sierraeye.net/200802197112/people/billionaire-george-soros-visits-sierra-leone.html

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Video Message From George Soros At Sierra Leone Trade & Investment Forum

George Soros delivering a message of support to Sierra Leone and President Koroma during Sierra Leone Trade & Investmnet Forum – London 18/11/2009

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From Chinamining.org

Sierra Leone Hopes to Draw Mining Investment

Updated: 2010-01-06

But while a peaceful Sierra Leone looks like a better investment bet than some of its more turbulent neighbors-Guinea suffered a coup d’etat a year ago and has been racked with violence ever since-the country’s tenuous peace remains vulnerable to turmoil spreading across its borders.

A resurgence of mining is already taking place and new mine production from gold to iron ore is forecast to come onstream in the next two years.
Netherlands-based aluminum producer Vimetco NV bought a bauxite mine in Sierra Leone in July 2008 for $40 million from rutile-focused miner Titanium Resources Group Ltd. It currently produces about 1.2 million tons a year for export.
Titanium Resources is in the process of expanding its processing capacity of rutile, an ore high in titanium that is used to make paints, paper, plastics and drugs.
Cluff Gold PLC said it aims to be producing the precious metal at its Baomahun deposit in Sierra Leone by the end of 2012.

London Mining PLC is developing a first-phase project to produce 1.5 million tons of iron ore a year, and hopes it will be completed by the end of 2011.

Tractor and equipment seller Caterpillar Inc. said in November that Sierra Leone has the potential to become a major mining hub in west Africa, the equivalent of Ghana, and expects the country to be one of the company’s major growth areas on the continent.

But there are risks.

But the country is determined to avoid that and is aggressively advertising its mineral wealth and general investment potential. For example, in November it held an investment day in London attended by former U.K. Prime Minister Tony Blair and at which well-known investment manager George Soros gave a video message promoting the country.

http://www.chinamining.org/News/2010-01-06/1262756667d33081.html

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Sierra Leone: UN sanctions lifted

October 6, 2010

A very significant event happened recently in New York and that was the lifting of an arms embargo and other sanctions imposed onthe tiny West African state of Sierra Leone in 1998 at the height of that country’s brutal civil war.
A war largely financed and nurtured by Western multinationals and shady characters in Eastern Europe.Many analysts in and out of Sierra Leone are however amazed that the sanctions are only being lifted this year after the end of the war eight years ago in 2002. Most Sierra Leoneans we talked to thought (wrongly) that the sanctions had been lifted long ago, since 2002.
The sanctions, including the arms embargo, had however been effective in curtailing the flow of goods and services. Shekou Touray, Sierra Leone’s Permanent Representative at the United Nations said they (sanctions), affected economic recovery, trade, investment, and tourism in the country. Most investors tend to keep away from countries with arms embargoes and economic sanctions except those given the green light and militarily protected by UN troops and “military advisers” from powerful Western governments. As Hahn pointed out, “Western governments do what they want”, around the world including the violation of sanctions and they usually get away with it.  Other consequences of the 1998 sanctions from which Sierra Leone is trying to recover were that the country quickly became unattractive to major international airlines and shipping conglomerates because of the high cost of insurance occasioned by the sanctions which created an image of a very insecure and dangerous place to do business. The current Sierra Leone government therefore believes that the lifting of sanctions will bring down the cost of air tickets and freights and will multiply the number of business people and tourists visiting Sierra Leone.

In a related development, Sierra Leone’s president, Ernest Bai Koroma recently met with billionaire businessman George Soros in New York during which the two discussed trade and investment.

According to a report from the Sierra Leone mission in New York, Soros said his efforts in Sierra Leone were geared towards the “empowerment of the poor” and that he will soon launch what he called the “Sierra Leone Project” which he said will include investment in agriculture and fisheries. President Koroma was in New York for the annual UN General Assembly, an opportunity used by many heads of State from poor countries to connect or network with prominent business personalities and policy makers from rich and powerful countries.

Read more: http://www.digitaljournal.com/article/298556#ixzz14qagIW9N

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AGAIN……What ARE George Soros’ goals for Sierra Leone?

1.  “political philanthropist”…Velvet Revolution, Orange Revolution, Rose Revolution

2.   Sierra Leone Bank

3.   minerals/diamonds

Open Society Initiative for West Africa

Visit the Site:   http://www.osiwa.org

Open Society Initiative for West Africa (OSIWA) promotes the ideals of an open society where functioning democracy, good governance, the rule of law, basic freedoms, and citizens’ empowerment prevail. OSIWA collaborates with advocacy groups, governments, and other donors to create initiatives that enhance civil society. The initiative focuses its activities and grants on four key areas: governance; law, justice and human rights; health and development; and information and media. The initiative also develops special projects to address issues beyond its focus areas.

http://www.soros.org/about/locations/westafrica

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