From Awareness Times Newspaper in Freetown

African Minerals Agreement: Deal Or No Deal?
By Sylvia Olayinka Blyden
Aug 24, 2010, 17:12

There is a popular Television programme in the United Kingdom known as ‘DEAL OR NO DEAL?’ It basically is a Game Show hosted with participants who are given a Gambling Scenario similar to that referenced in the English phrase of A Bird in The Hand is Worth Two in the Bush. The participants are given an option of a lower sum of money they are assured they will definitely go home with or an option of gambling for a higher amount but with no assurance that you go home with anything.

DEAL OR NO DEAL is the situation that the Government of Sierra Leone has been recently faced with in the scenario whereby Frank Timis’ African Minerals had shown clear indication of immediately providing employment and increased revenue for Sierra Leone as against as-yet-unknown Chinese, Kazakhstani, etc. investors promising to bring even higher dividends and benefits for this country if part of the Tonkolili concessions are taken from Frank Timis and given to them.


President Koroma has now finally decided that a Bird in the Hand was worth two in the Bush and so in the face of tremendous resistance from Donors and back-stabbing by certain disloyal members of his Government who are busy bad-mouthing him, President Koroma signed the Lease Agreement to ensure Frank Timis’ African Minerals was granted the rights to all the portion they had been exploring.


As if moved by a spiritual bond (some say ‘green dollar notes’ but I don’t have evidence to substantiate this!!), ALL elected parliamentarians including SLPP MPs have endorsed President Koroma’s decision. They metaphorically all endorse that a bird in the hand is worth two in the Bush. They are satisfied with the current ‘Deal’ and have told the Chinese, Kazakhstanis, etc, they want ‘No Deal’ with them.


Angry people objecting to the Agreement and those in favour, have been telephoning this writer in droves and droves for the last one week. So also have those in support of the Agreement been contacting me in a ceaseless flow. The two sides flatter me by insisting that my pen is currently one of the most powerful shapers of public opinion in Sierra Leone right now and so they want my pen to reflect what they believe to be the correct way of analyzing the issue. I have been bombarded with phone calls on the African Minerals Agreement but truly speaking, I have not found time yet to read it or absorb its contents so I cannot speak on it. I am too inundated with other issues right now. However, given the contemporary topical importance, I will now give straight comments from the pro and anti factions and also, in this edition, my team is reporting on what transpired in Parliament to help our readers make up their minds for themselves on the issue.


To start off, those objecting to the deal cite neighbouring Liberia whose President, Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf struck a much better Iron Ore deal with Mittal Steel when she was assisted by international Donors to draw up an alternative better to the one she inherited. They claim that British and other international Donors want to come and assist us draw up a similar agreement. They claim that the amount of concession given to African Minerals is so large that it will not be mined out even within the lifetime of our grandchildren and so it will delay benefits from the Ore. They are also bitter that just like the London Mining Deal, this particular African Minerals one contravenes large swathes of Sierra Leonean Laws not limited to just the 2009 Mines Act but also the GST Laws. They hold a very dim view of the integrity of Frank Timis and cite his previous illicit drugs convictions and his bad record on international Stock Exchanges especially with respect to Regal Petroleum and believe that the Chinese group especially, are more credible than Timis.


In contrast, those in favour of the African Minerals Agreement tell me that since Mittal Steel is nowhere near Sierra Leone at present, one cannot blame too fast the Sierra Leone Government (Executive & Legislature) for wishing to fast-track the country’s development with the ‘Bird’ they currently have in their hand as against the abstract ‘two’ in the Bush. They also say it would be sheer ungratefulness for this country to undermine Frank Timis’ huge investment risk since he it was, who, together with Gibril Moseray Fadika, had “re-discovered” Tonkolili 66 years after British Firms abandoned the rich Iron Ore deposits to fallow all this while. They say contrary to those who cite Frank Timis’ bad record in Stock Exchange and his drug convictions as reasons why he should not be encouraged, the reality, they believe, is that Frank Timis is a hero who gambled a huge amount of money. They cite how years and years ago, he spent well over twenty million dollars in aero-magnetic flights to delineate the richness or otherwise of the Iron Ore deposits in Sierra Leone.


As I have stated earlier, I do not know if Timis is a hero. I have no real opinion on the man right now. I also do not know anything about the Agreement that has created such a furore and caused me to receive so many, many phone calls.


I however do have respect for our Sierra Leone brother Gibril Moseray Fadika, a key member of African Minerals. Fadika and I both received National Honours on the same day on Sierra Leone’s Independence Day of 2007. We sat together at State House throughout the auspicious occasion and I had a rare opportunity to analyse his mindset as he was so excited on that day that he let his guard down and allowed me to quietly psycho-analyse him without him noticing. Over time, I can today say with conviction that Fadika is tenacious and hardworking but very humble and also very loyal when he declares his support for you. Some 18 months ago, I actually overheard him saying he will take a bullet for Ernest Koroma because Ernest Koroma has overlooked his previous loyalty to SLPP and instead Koroma placed what African Minerals can do for Sierra Leone, above partisan suspicions. At that time, He sounded like he really meant it. That is Moseray Fadika. A brother I like and respect.


However, for Frank Timis, I do not have any opinion right now nor do I have any opinion on what President Koroma’s Government has signed that Parliament has ratified. I will give my opinion somewhere down the line when I properly understand the Agreement.


Meanwhile, in this edition is our coverage of what went down in Parliament last Friday 20th August 2010 when the entire House unanimously ratified the Mining Lease Agreement between the Government of Sierra Leones and African Minerals Plc. despite a section of Civil Societies’ criticisms that the Agreement contravened Laws of Sierra Leone. The Parliamentary Gallery was jam-packed with Civil Society Activists and important representatives from the Donor Community in Sierra Leone who tried hard to lobby elected MPs to reject Frank Timis but the MPs just like President Ernest Koroma all said, NO DEAL! Those Donors left Parliament disappointed.


Our Readers can make their own conclusions on the matter. Was it a Deal or No Deal? You can read our report on what was said in Parliament and then you can decide! Meanwhile, I promise that I am eventually going to grab a copy of the African Minerals Agreement for myself following which I will come out with my own position on whether it is a Deal or not a Good Deal. It might take a while for me to grasp the issues behind why President Koroma and the entire Parliament (APC,SLPP,PMDC) think it is a good deal whilst some Donors and some Civil Society Activists think otherwise but I will definitely be coming out with my own position on the African Minerals Agreement. If only to serve the interests of my loyal reader base! STAY TUNED PLEASE.

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