, Volume 78, Issue 6, pp 997–1012 | Cite as

Diamond exploitation in Sierra Leone 1930 to 2010: a resource curse?

  • Sigismond Ayodele WilsonEmail author


This paper uses the resource curse hypothesis to explore diamond exploitation in Sierra Leone during the period 1930–2010. Focusing on national and local level analysis, it examines whether the net impact of diamond exploitation was a ‘resource curse’ or ‘blessing’ during four time periods: colonial and early post-independence era, the APC era, the civil war period, and post-war era. The paper argues that the net impact of diamond exploitation in Sierra Leone has not been constant; rather it has changed between resource blessing and curse over different major periods of Sierra Leone’s history and at local and national scales since inception of diamond exploitation. This paper illustrates that during the period 1968–1992 patrimonial politics undermined official diamond exploitation and significantly contributed to a pendulum shift in the net effects of diamond exploitation from resource blessing to curse. The study shows that the net effect of diamond exploitation was: a resource blessing (especially at the national level) prior to 1968; more of a resource curse during the APC era; a full blown manifestation of the curse during the civil war period; and that governance of the diamond sector has improved sufficiently in post-civil war Sierra Leone to start the gradual transformation of diamonds to resource blessing, at national and local levels.


Diamond exploitation Resource curse hypothesis Resource blessing Patrimonial politics Diamond governance Sierra Leone 


  1. Abdullah, I. (1997). Bush path to destruction: the origin and character of the Revolutionary United Front (RUF/SL). Africa Development, 22(3/4), 45–76.Google Scholar
  2. Abrahams, A. (2001). Dancing with the chameleon: Sierra Leone and the elusive quest for peace. Journal of Contemporary African Studies, 19(2), 205–228.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Akiwumi, F. A. (2006). Conflict Timber, Conflict Diamonds: Parallels in the Political Ecology of 19th and 20th Century Resource Exploitation in Sierra Leone. In K. Konadu-Agyemang & K. Panford (Eds.), Africa’s development in the twenty first century: Pertinent socio-economic and development issues (pp. 109–126). Aldershot: Ashgate.Google Scholar
  4. Akiwumi, F. A. (2011). Global incorporation and local conflict: Sierra Leonean mining regions. Antipode,. doi: 10.1111/j.1467-8330.2011.00945.x.Google Scholar
  5. Alao, A. (1999). Diamonds are forever … but so also are controversies: Diamonds and the actors in Sierra Leone’s civil war. Civil Wars, 2(3), 43–64.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Arellano-Yanguas, J. (2011). Aggravating the resource curse: Decentralisation, mining and conflict in Peru. Journal of Development Studies, 47(4), 617–638.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Auty, R. M. (Ed.). (2001). Resource abundance and economic development. London: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  8. Awoko. (2012). Mines Ministry pays Le1.5b as DACDF May 31, 2012.Google Scholar
  9. Bannon, I., & Collier, P. (Eds.). (2003). Natural resources and violent conflict. Washington: The World Bank.Google Scholar
  10. Brunnschweiler, C. N., & Bulte, E. H. (2008). Linking natural resources to slow growth and more conflict. Science, 320, 616–617.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Collier, P., & Hoeffler, A. (2000). Greed and grievance in civil war. World Bank, Policy Research. Working Paper 2355.Google Scholar
  12. Davies, V. A. B. (2000). Sierra Leone; Ironic tragedy. Journal of African Economies, 9(3), 349–369.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Davies, V. A. B. (2008). Sierra Leone’s economic growth performance, 1961–2000. In B. J. Ndulu, S. A. O’Connel, J. Azam, R. H. Bates, A. K. Fosu, J. W. Gunning, & D. Njinkeu (Eds.), The political economy of economic growth in Africa 1960–2000 (pp. 660–696). London: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  14. Fearon, J. (2005). Primary commodity exports and civil war. Journal of Conflict Resolution, 49(4), 483–507.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Fithen, D. C. (1999). Diamonds and war in Sierra Leone: Cultural strategies for commercial adaptation to endemic low-intensity conflict. PhD Dissertation, University College London.Google Scholar
  16. Garrett, N., Mitchell, H., & Levin, E. (2008). Regulating reality. Reconfiguring approaches to the regulation of trading artisanally mined diamonds. In K. Vlassenroot & S. V. Bockstael (Eds.), Artisanal diamond mining: Perspectives and challenges (pp. 126–158). Belgium: Academia Press.Google Scholar
  17. Gberie, L. (2005). A dirty war in West Africa the RUF and the destruction of Sierra Leone. Bloomington/Indianapolis: Indiana University Press.Google Scholar
  18. Golfa, S. (1989). Foreign involvement in the diamond mining sector and its relationship to development, 1920 to 1988: Case study Kono district. BA (Hons) Dissertation, Department of History, Fourah Bay College, University of Sierra Leone.Google Scholar
  19. GOSL. (1956). The alluvial diamond mining ordinance. Freetown: Government of Sierra Leone.Google Scholar
  20. GOSL. (1970). Report of the mines division of the ministry of lands, mines and labour 1965–69. Freetown: Government Printing Department.Google Scholar
  21. GOSL. (2009). The mines and mineral act, 2009. Freetown: Government of Sierra Leone.Google Scholar
  22. Grant, J. A. (2005). Diamonds, foreign aid, and the uncertain prospects for post-conflict reconstruction in Sierra Leone. The Round Table: The Commonwealth Journal of International Affairs, 94(381), 443–457.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Grant, J. A. (2010). Natural resources, international regimes and state-building: Diamonds in West Africa. Comparative Social Research, 27(1), 223–248.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Grant, J. A. (2011). The Kimberley process at ten: Reflections on a decade of efforts to end the trade in conflict diamonds. In P. Lujala & S. A. Rustad (Eds.), High-value natural resources and post-conflict peacebuilding (pp. 159–179). London: Earthscan/Taylor & Francis.Google Scholar
  25. Grant, J., & Taylor, I. (2004). Global governance and conflict diamonds: The Kimberley Process and the quest for clean gems. The Round Table: The Commonwealth Journal of International Affairs, 93(375), 385–401.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Greenhalgh, P. (1985). West African diamonds 1919–1983 an economic history. Manchester: Manchester University Press.Google Scholar
  27. Hayward, F. M. (1972). The development of a radical political organization in the bush: A case study in Sierra Leone. Canadian Journal of African Studies, 6(1), 1–28.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Hirsh, J. L. (2001). Sierra Leone: Diamonds and the struggle for democracy. Boulder: Lynne Rienner.Google Scholar
  29. Hughes, T. (2006). Conflict diamonds and the Kimberley process: Mission accomplished or mission impossible? South African Journal of International Affairs, 13(2), 115–130.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Humphreys, M., Sachs, J. D., & Stiglitz, J. E. (Eds.). (2007). Escaping the resource curse. New York: Columbia University Press.Google Scholar
  31. Jenkins-Johnston, B. (2008). Report of the Jenkins-Johnston commission of inquiry into the Koidu disturbance. Freetown: Government Printer.Google Scholar
  32. Kabia, J. M. (2008). Greed or Grievance? Diamonds, Rent-Seeking and the Civil War in Sierra Leone (1991–2002). In K. Omeje (Ed.), Extractive economies and conflicts in the global south, multi-regional perspectives on rentier politics (pp. 93–106). Hampshire/Burlington: Ashgate Publishing Limited.Google Scholar
  33. Keen, D. (2005). Conflict and Collusion in Sierra Leone. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.Google Scholar
  34. Kolstad, I., & Wiig, A. (2009). It’s the rents, stupid! The political economy of the resource curse. Energy Policy, 37, 5317–5325.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Lahiri-Dutt, K. (2006). ‘May God Give Us Chaos, So That We Can Plunder’: A critique of ‘resource curse’ and conflict theories. Development, 49(3), 14–21.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Le Billon, P. (2005). Fuelling war: Natural resources and armed conflict. London: International Institute for Strategic Studies.Google Scholar
  37. Le Billon, P. (2008). Diamond wars? Conflict diamonds and geographies of resource war. Annuals of the Association of American Geographers, 98(2), 345–372.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Le Billon, P., & Levin, E. (2009). Building peace with conflict diamonds? Merging security and development in Sierra Leone. Development and Change, 40(4), 693–715.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Leighton, N. O. (1974). The Lebanese in Sierra Leone. Transition, 44, 23–29.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Levin, E. A. (2005). From poverty and war to prosperity and peace? Sustainable livelihoods and innovation in governance of artisanal diamond mining in Kono District, Sierra Leone. MA Thesis, The University of British Columbia.Google Scholar
  41. Levin, E., & Turay, A. B. (2008). Artisanal diamond cooperatives in Sierra Leone: Success or Failure? Accessed 5 Jan 2011.
  42. Lisk, F., & Van der Hoeven, R. (1979). Measurement and interpretation of poverty in Sierra Leone. International Labor Review, 118, 713–730.Google Scholar
  43. Lujala, P. (2010). The spoil of nature: Armed civil conflict and rebel access to natural resources. Journal of Peace Research, 47(1), 15–28.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Lujala, P., Gleditsch, N. P., & Gilmore, E. (2005). A diamond curse? Civil war and a lootable resource. Journal of Conflict Resolution, 49(4), 538–562.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Maconachie, R. (2009). Diamonds, governance and ‘local’ development in post-conflict Sierra Leone: Lessons for artisanal and small-scale mining in sub-Saharan Africa? Resources Policy, 34, 71–79.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. Maconachie, R. (2012). The Diamond Area Community Development Fund: Micropolitics and community-led development in post-war Sierra Leone. In P. Lujala & S. A. Rustad (Eds.), High-value natural resources and post-conflict peacebuilding (pp. 261–273). Oxon/New York: Earthscan.Google Scholar
  47. Maconachie, R., & Binns, T. (2007a). ‘Farming miners’ or mining farmers’? Diamond mining and rural development in post-conflict Sierra Leone. Journal of Rural Studies, 23, 367–380.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. Maconachie, R., & Binns, T. (2007b). Beyond the resource curse? Diamond mining, development and post-conflict reconstruction in Sierra Leone. Resources Policy, 32, 104–115.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  49. Mehlum, H., Moene, K., & Torvik, R. (2006). Institutions and the resource curse. The Economic Journal, 116, 1–20.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  50. National Advocacy Coalition on Extractives [NACE]. (2009). Sierra Leone at the crossroads: Seizing the chance to benefit from mining., Accessed January 31 2011.
  51. Network Movement for Justice, and Development [NMJD]. (2010). Diamonds, blood and tears: The relationship between Koidu Holdings Ltd. & the Affected Property Owners of Kono. Focus on Mining Companies Series No. 1.
  52. PAC. (2006). Diamond industry annual review: Sierra Leone 2006. Partnership Africa Canada.
  53. PAC. (2009). Diamonds and human security annual review. Patnership Africa Canada. Accessed 15 Jan 2011.
  54. Reno, W. (1995). Corruption and state politics in Sierra Leone. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  55. Richards, P. (2001). Are forest wars in Africa resource conflict? The case of Sierra Leone. In N. L. Peluso & M. Watts (Eds.), Violent environments (pp. 65–82). Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press.Google Scholar
  56. Robinson, J. A., Torvik, R., & Verdier, T. (2006). Political foundations of the resource curse. Journal of Development Economics, 79, 337–468.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  57. Ron, J. (2005). Paradigm in distress? Primary commodities and civil war. Journal of Conflict Resolution, 49(4), 443–450.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  58. Rosen, D. M. (1973). Diamonds, diggers, and chiefs: The politics of fragmentation in a West African society. PhD Thesis, Department of Anthropology, University of Urbana-Champaign.Google Scholar
  59. Ross, M. L. (1999). The political economy of the resource curse. World Politics, 51(2), 297–322.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  60. Ross, M. L. (2001). Extractive sectors and the poor. Report issued by Oxfam America,
  61. Ross, M. L. (2004). How do natural resources influence civil war? Evidence from thirteen cases. International Organization, 58(1), 35–67.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  62. Ross, M. L. (2006). A closer look at oil, diamonds, and civil war. Annual Review of Political Science, 9, 265–300.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  63. Ross, M. L. (2007). How Mineral-Rich States Can Reduce Inequality. In M. Humphreys, J. D. Sachs, & J. E. Stiglitz (Eds.), Escaping the resource curse (pp. 237–255). New York: Columbia University Press.Google Scholar
  64. Sachs, J. D., & Warner, A. M. (2001). The curse of natural resources. European Economic Review, 45, 285–306.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  65. Saylor, R. G. (1967). The economic system of Sierra Leone. Durham, N.C.: Duke University Commonwealth-Studies Center.Google Scholar
  66. SLST. (1961). S. L. S. T. and the people of Sierra Leone. Freetown: Government Printer.Google Scholar
  67. SLST. (1966). Diamonds, the story of SLST. London: Newman Neame Limited.Google Scholar
  68. Smillie, I., Gberie, L., & Hazleton, R. (2000). The heart of the matter: Sierra Leone, diamonds & human security. Ontario: Partnership Africa Canada.Google Scholar
  69. Taylor, I., & Mokhawa, G. (2003). Not forever: Botswana, conflict diamonds and the bushmen. African Affairs, 102, 261–283.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  70. Temple, P. (2008). Diamond sector reform in Sierra Leone: A program perspective. In K. Vlassenroot & S. Van Bockstael (Eds.), Artisanal diamond mining: Perspectives and challenges (pp. 234–252). Belgium: Academia Press.Google Scholar
  71. Thompson, A. (2004). Introduction to African politics. London: Routledge.Google Scholar
  72. Van der Laan, H. L. (1965). The Sierra Leone diamonds. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  73. Wilson, S. A. (2011). Sierra Leone’s illicit diamonds: The challenges and the way forward. GeoJournal, 76(3), 191–212.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  74. Wilson, S. A. (2012). Company-community conflicts over diamond resources in Kono District Sierra Leone. Society and Natural Resources: An International Journal, doi: 10.1080/08941920.2012.684849.
  75. Zack-Williams, A. B. (1990). Sierra Leone: Crisis and despair. Review of African Political Economy, 49, 22–33.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  76. Zack-Williams, A. B. (1995). Tributors, supporters and merchant capital. Brookfield: Avebury.Google Scholar
  77. Zack-Williams, A. B. (1999). Sierra Leone: The political economy of civil war, 1991–98. Third World Quarterly, 20(1), 143–162.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  78. Zulu, L., & Wilson, S. (2009). Sociospatial geographies of civil war in Sierra Leone and the new global diamond order: Is the Kimberley process the panacea? Environment and Planning C: Government and Policy, 27(6), 1107–1130.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  79. Zulu, L., & Wilson, S. (2012). Whose minerals, whose development? Rhetoric and reality in post-conflict Sierra Leone. Development and Change, 00, 1–29. doi: 10.1111/j.14567-7660.2012.01788.x.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Rogers State UniversityClaremoreUSA

Personalised recommendations