The Quest for a Moral Diamond – by Monte Reel (Bloomberg News – December 18, 2018)

The Peace Diamond, and the miner who found it, are at the center of a new push to redeem African diamond mining.

From a pickup truck heading out of Freetown, Sierra Leone’s recent history is legible in the images that scroll beyond the passenger-side window. A hand-painted sign reading “Amputee Lodge” points to a structure serving victims brutalized by an 11-year civil war that ended in 2002. Next comes a billboard that says “Report Bribery,” a plea to resist the corruption blamed for siphoning away international relief funds and obstructing postwar recovery.

A faded canvas banner—“Only You Can Stop Ebola”—is a tattered relic from a 2014 outbreak that killed thousands. As we ascend the hills on the city’s periphery, a glance in the rearview mirror reveals a thick brown stripe running down the face of a distant slope: the scar from a 2017 mudslide that devoured the homes of at least 3,000 people, killing more than 1,100 of them.

For a break from all this misfortune and calamity, stop looking out the window and focus on the man in the passenger seat of the truck. His name is Emmanuel Momoh, and by general consensus, he’s the luckiest man in Sierra Leone. Until last year, Momoh, 44, wasn’t much different from anyone else in a country where more than 60 percent of the population lives on less than $1.25 per day.

He cobbled together his living by selling peanut butter to stores in Kono District, a remote and mostly rural region in the country’s east, and by preaching at an outpost of the Deeper Life Bible Church. The village he called home, Koryardu, consists of 47 cinder block and mud houses, and it’s where he’s headed now.

Millions of years ago, volcanic eruptions oozed across the riverine valleys of eastern Sierra Leone, embedding diamonds into the soil. This geological endowment, first identified in 1930, has since generated billions of dollars in international sales. Closer to home, it’s sustained smuggling networks, fueled wars, and wounded the environment, all while bestowing no visible benefits upon Koryardu and other rural villages.

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