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Sierra Leone

Sekondi Accra

April 2011 marks the 50th anniversary of Sierra Leone's independence and it has many reasons to celebrate. The ability of keep the peace, which was finally re-established in 2002 after more than a decade of civil war, has been marked by a peaceful transfer of power through national elections as well as by a return of electricity to Freetown. However, the government does face some challenges, not the least of which will be the maintenance of government reform as the extraction of recently discovered mineral resources commences. Sierra Leone's transition from a war-torn country to an oasis of development will be gradual; it was only in September 2010 that the United Nations (UN) removed the last of its sanctions imposed during the civil war.

The governance outlook suffered a setback in May 2010 when the Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) chief, Abdul Tejan Cole, resigned his authority. Under his leadership, the ACC had won both praise and opprobrium after initiating high profile investigations of government appointees, including the Road Transport Authority executive director, Sarah Finda Bendu, minister of state, Leonard Balogun Koroma and former health minister, Sheku Tejan Koroma. All three lost their posts and Tejan Koroma was sentenced to five years' imprisonment in March 2010.

While some accused Tejan Cole of an unwillingness to investigate friends of President Ernest Bai Koroma, others expressed criticism of the government's inadequate support for the ACC chief. In July 2010, Koroma appointed Joseph Kamara, a former deputy prosecutor of the Special Court for Sierra Leone, as Tejan Cole's replacement. Kamara began his investigation by identifying ministers who failed to declare their assets as required by law. Among those cited were minister of state George Komba Kono, lands minister Dennis Sandi along with three deputy ministers. All were given a week to declare their assets or else face a fine and/or imprisonment.

When the All People's Congress ascended to power in September 2007, it promised to hold cabinet members to high standards through stringent performance reviews. Some political analysts expect the president to improve his electoral chances by awarding some ministerial appointments to the People's Movement for Democratic Change, the country's third party and a rival of the opposition Sierra Leone People's Party in the south.

The economy should benefit from a continual expansion of mineral extraction for many years to come. Diamond exports have begun to rise but still remain well below the pre-financial crisis apexes of 2007. In 2010, London listed African Minerals doubled the reserves estimate at its Tonkolili iron-ore project to 10.5 billion tons, placing it among the largest in the world. It has stated that it will begin production in 2011, but construction and additional infrastructure problems have caused delays. Anadarko's September 2009 discovery of oil offshore promises to change the dynamics of the local economy.

These developments should bring improved government revenues along with economic growth, which the IMF expects to increase up from 3.2% in 2009 to 4.5% in 2010 and 5.2% in 2011. Assuming international commodity prices remain strong, investor interest should not wane. In addition to mining and oil, the government is focused on the potential offered by new agricultural projects. In late 2010 the Sierra Leone Investment and Export Promotion Agency was in consultations with investors interested in establishing sugar-cane and palm-oil plantations, adding to the existing project by Addax Biofuels targeted at taking advantage of new European regulations on required ethanol levels in European Union (EU) petrol.

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Sierra Leone maintains an embassy in the United States at 1701 19th Street, NW, Washington, DC, 20009, tel. 202-939-9261, embassyofsierraleone.net; and a permanent mission to the United Nations in New York at 245 East 49th Street, New York, New York 10017, tel. (212) 688-1656.
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