By Sidie Sheriff….
• Under colonial rule in Sierra Leone, Kono District (because of its diamonds) was almost treated as a separate co…untry. Sierra Leoneans wishing to travel and settle down in Kono inside their own country needed to be issued or refused a sort of Green Card or Resident Permit after applying for it.
• Under colonial rule in Congo, the Katanga District (because of its diamonds) was almost treated as a separate country. Congolese wishing to travel and settle down in Katanga inside their own country needed to be issued or refused a sort of Green Card or Resident Permit after applying for it.
• The reason was simple. The Belgian Companies which were mining the diamonds in Katanga and the British companies which were mining the diamonds in Kono wanted to narrow down the chances of diamonds being smuggled from their mining plants and fields. So they did not want enterprising Africans who migrated to Kono or to Katanga to attract the precious stones away from the lands of the King of Belgium and Queen of England.
• The above is just one striking similarity between the mineral-rich regions of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and of Sierra Leone.
• Katanga and Kono have also been notorious for political controversies and conflicts associated with their rich minerals and with the divide-and-rule policies of their pre-independence colonizers and post-independence leaders.
• In 1966, for example, the central government of DRC nationalized the Union Minière du Haut Katanga, as Gécamines. In 1971, Katanga was renamed Shaba, from the Swahili word for ‘brass’ (a borrowing from Arabic shabah). Throughout the 1970s, further insurrections like the 1977 Shaba I were put down by the government with help from foreign nations. (Ref: the University of Minnesota Human Rights Library website: Katangese Peoples’ Congress v. Zaire, African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights, Comm. No. 75/92 (1995). Accessed 1 May 2007.)
• Does Congo’s Katanga history ring memory bells about Sierra Leone’s Kono history since independence through the war years of the 90s to present? In the recent past, out of every 10 news about Kono 9 has been negative. The drama has been endless – if Kono was not deposing its Mayor, Kono was at loggerheads with a mining company. If titans of Kono were not clashing at the top, the commoners of Kono were fighting at the bottom. All have been proxy wars – not on behalf of the Konos themselves and their future, but on behalf of some ‘Alagba’ in Freetown who wants the Konos to be constantly dancing or fighting against themselves with little time to focus on the real issues of just mining, mining governance, mining revenue management and a development that is environmentally sustainable.
• In summary, the conflicts in both Katanga and Kono have been driven by two “politics”, namely, the COLOR POLITICS between rival political parties (e.g. green versus red in Sierra Leone), and the FAVOR POLITICS within the same ruling party (e.g. VP Sumana versus EBK in Sierra Leone). There are lots of examples of the same trend in DRC.
• So think about it – Kono is a swing state, Katanga is a swing state. Kono is conflict-prone, Katanga is conflict-prone. Kono has diamonds, Katanga has diamonds. Kono has corporate vested interest from international multinational companies, Katanga has corporate vested interest from international multinational companies. Kono once attracted migrant populations from other parts of West/Central Africa (e.g. the Marakas from Mali, Senegal and the Gambia). Katanga once attracted migrant populations from other parts of West/Central Africa (e.g. the Marakas from Mali, Senegal and the Gambia). Kono has been ruled by the Central governments of Freetown through divide-and-rule. Katanga has been ruled by the Central governments of Kinshasha through divide-and-rule.