Israel is helping Sierra Leone combat its “blood diamond” image with a new mine and a new attitude.
The West African nation is making a conscious effort to build a different future, one based on foreign investments in construction of roads and buildings.
"Before the war began [in 1991] this was a major trading center because it is near the borders of Guinea and Liberia,” noted Sahr Musa Sessie-Gbenda, mayor of Koidu in an interview with the BBC. "Then during the hostilities the economy took a nose dive. Now, people are trying to rebuild again.”
Israeli businessman Benny Steinmetz, owner of Koidu Holdings, told the British-based news service that his newly refurbished mine means “work for the people and income for the country.”
Decades ago the mine provided diamonds with which rebels bought weapons – hence the term, “blood diamonds.” But today, the same mine is beginning to result in renewed foreign investment that creates jobs for people in the area.
The rebels with guns are no longer seen, and instead, market traders and police officers are in the streets.
People are working their fields in Sierra Leona, especially for the cocoa traders – a major export.
Sierra Leone is changing, and with it, the investors who for years were scared off by the “blood diamonds.”
The country is still more than 50 percent illiterate, but it is no longer controlled by rebels. And the war has been over for years.