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It is a great pleasure to visit Koidu once again and to be able to witness the progress that is being made to restore the daily lives of the citizens of this district. I can recall visiting in December 2001 when the security situation was still very fragile, economic activity in town was non-existent and there was hardly a roof to be found in the entire area. The evident progress since that time can be attributed to the efforts of many actors but I would like to pay special tribute to UNAMSIL and most particularly to the Armed Forces of Pakistan. Their conduct in Kono District and elsewhere in their sector of responsibility has been a model of military professionalism and the effectiveness of their outreach to the people of this area is a major reason why peace has prevailed and longer-term stability is being built. As the senior representative of the Government of the United States in Sierra Leone, I want to express my personal appreciation for the outstanding collaboration that PAKCON has consistently offered to support the efforts of my Mission in a region of the country where the need for assistance is particularly acute and its delivery is exceedingly difficult. We are most grateful.

As encouraging as the progress that is so evident here may be, we are nonetheless reminded of the role that this area and its principal product, diamonds, played in the terrible events of the last decade and indeed in the bad governance and corruption that have plagued this country for much of its independent history. The horrors that befell Sierra Leone were among those that made the term "blood diamonds" a part of the international vocabulary.

Much has changed in Kono but unfortunately much has not changed. Kono is one of the greatest sources of Sierra Leone's wealth but so little of that wealth benefits the people of Kono. So much of Sierra Leone's wealth is generated by diamonds and by the hard work of those who dig them and yet too little of that wealth has any impact on the life of the average Sierra Leonean. My government is firmly of the view that there can be no lasting peace in Sierra Leone, indeed no lasting peace in this region, until fundamental change assures that more of the wealth of Kono stays in Kono and more of the wealth of Sierra Leone stays in Sierra Leone. There is no other way to assure that the youth of this country are offered a future that does not involve violence. And there is no other way to insure that Sierra Leone diamonds do not continue to merit the label of "blood diamonds," because we must not lose sight of the fact that the same diamonds that once financed the terrorism perpetrated by the RUF may now or in the future support the activities of terrorist organizations elsewhere in the world.

It is with these concerns in mind that I want to thank you Mr. President for your presence and participation today as the Kono Peace Diamond Alliance is formally launched. Your support for the Alliance sends the strongest possible signal of your government's commitment to assuring that Sierra Leone does not simply return to "business as usual," the very manner of doing business that led this potentially rich country to rank at the bottom of the UN Human Development Index. The United States Government, working through USAID and its partner MSI, shares your vision and is proud to be working with your government, with DFID, the World Bank and many others to help make it a reality by strengthening your capacity to address critical issues in the mining sector.

The Kono Peace Diamond Alliance is a coalition comprising the Government of Sierra Leone, industry heavy weights like DeBeers, and Rappaport, representatives of local diamond mining and trading communities, financial institutions, international and local NGOs, Dfid and USAID - all working towards bringing more diamonds to the market through legal channels, promoting safe and environmentally sound mining practices, and securing a bigger share of the profits to the communities in which diamonds are found. It is funded by the Global Development Alliance that combines resources of the United States Government, business and civil society to work in partnership on implementing sustainable development programs. The Peace Diamond Alliance obviously brings together groups with very diverse interests and perceptions of the challenges that affect the diamond industry in Sierra Leone but we believe that working together they can serve a common goal - assuring that diamonds become a genuine asset to the economic future of this country and its people.