Embargoed To BBC News
Some believe the abundant resources could provide jobs in a poverty-stricken country
Power plants. Wind turbines. Solar panels. Homes. Schools. Where there is oil, there is money.And there is oil in Sierra Leone, Africa’s second poorest country. It is getting harder to find. Though it seems to be everywhere – in the wells, palm oil plantations, mining sites, fishing grounds and more. It is called the bush. It is a “fuel source of unlimited prosperity”, the BBC reports. And a “giant energy resource,” according to Sierra Leone’s President, Ernest Bai Koroma. “Rich in minerals, minerals of an unprecedented size, which should, we believe, transform our country into a modern and wealthy African nation,” he said. Huge reserves of iron ore, diamonds, chrome and other commodities are found in many parts of the country, both here and abroad. Government needs security In 1998, industry in Sierra Leone was brought to a standstill when rebels overran the capital, Freetown. The army, police and civil servants struck out on their own. Tensions between many security forces flared up, and thousands of extra troops were deployed to beef up security. For years it was a military driven state. But as the war ended in 2002 the authorities have been trying to introduce democracy and democracy brought in anger and hardship in a people who are hungry. Now, the UN has warned that if no progress is made, growing difficulties in establishing governance may cripple the country. Energy, it is believed, could help Sierra Leone deal with the security problems, while at the same time providing new jobs and markets for local people. Perhaps, then, foreign companies are not only on the hunt for oil, but also for so-called “natural gas.” The last President of Sierra Leone tried to make use of the country’s vast gas and oil reserves In March, businessman Julius Bai Koroma tried to persuade the UN to send a fact-finding mission to the country to investigate claims that the country had vast natural gas reserves. It turned down his suggestion. Now the UN is recommending that in the near future they send a mission to the country to investigate the claim. Such a mission may turn out to be right. Who knows? If given a chance, maybe the world’s richest countries, who make billions buying and selling oil and metals in the wake of the oil crisis in the Middle East and the volcanic ash crisis in Iceland, will also take time to help a people who could benefit by exporting their enormous natural resources. “It is a source of wealth for the country,” one businessman told me. “The government needs security and as long as that is provided I believe there will be progress.” Perhaps, just maybe, the world’s richest countries will heed their own advice and begin to protect and sell their wealth. If not, Sierra Leone will be left on its own, with very little oil to fuel its economy and little security to protect its borders. Natural resources could put Sierra Leone on the map.
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