After several adjourned dates the trial of the former president of Liberia, Charles Taylor, yesterday finally commenced in earnest with the first prosecution witness taking the stand.
A former volunteer of the Canadian University Service, Ian Smillie who is an expert in diamonds, said he taught English and French for one school year in a secondary school in Koidu, Kono District.
On why he became interested in diamonds, the witness explained that “one cannot live in that area without concerning yourself with diamonds as the town was the centre of diamonds in Sierra Leone.”
Mr Smillie further stated in his evidence that Koidu town was similar to that of any rush town as thousands of people went there to mine diamonds.
The witness told the court that in 2000 the government of South Africa held a meeting for countries with diamonds and that after several meetings the Kimberlite process was initiated.
“The Kimberlite process requires that all rough diamonds traded internationally should have a government’s certificate… that is the government should know where every diamond is coming from and also the government will be able to trace a particular diamond,” he noted.
Speaking about the year diamonds was discovered in Sierra Leone, the prosecution witness said it was around 1930 and that mining was controlled by the Sierra Leone Selection Trust.
Sierra Leone’s diamonds, Mr Smillie revealed, had the highest value as compared to other countries like Canada as they cost over $200 a carat.
The witness added that even though the Sierra Leone Selection Trust was in charge of mining there were about 500 illicit miners but that they were chased by the police as the only organization that had authority to mine was the Sierra Leone Selection Trust.
The witness added that Liberia also had diamonds but that it had a reputation of low level value as their diamonds cost between $25-30 per carat.
During the war, he stressed, miners were engaged in artisanal mining and that the RUF was the sole controller of mining areas especially the one in Koidu.
Lots of evidence were submitted to substantiate his evidence about the role diamond played during the war.