By Michelle Graff
Graff,-MichelleThe most recent incident for me started on Saturday, when I was dropping off some jeans for hemming at a shop in Brooklyn. The gentleman who owns the shop, known in the neighborhood as A.B., has African passport masks hanging all over the store, and a map showing the continent’s capital cities pinned up behind the register.

When I asked A.B. where he was from in Africa he replied “Guinea,” and then proceeded to tell me that people in western African are nicer than those in southern Africa, where I have traveled. (Note: this is his opinion, not mine.)

After chatting with A.B. about Africa for a bit, I put down a deposit on my soon-to-be-shorter jeans and left. And that was that.

Fast-forward to the work week, when I come across an article detailing how the U.S. State Department recently inked an agreement to help one western African nation improve transparency in its mining sector. That nation was Guinea.

Situated on the western bulge of Africa between Guinea-Bissau and Sierra Leone, the country is 248,847 square kilometers (96,080 square miles) in size with a population of about 11.2 million, meaning it is roughly the size of the state of Oregon but has nearly three times the population.

Guinea’s current president, Alpha Condé, was elected in December 2010, in what was touted as the nation’s first free and fair election since winning its independence from France in the late 1950s.

It is also a country that the U.S. State Department is apparently looking toward for future supplies of rough diamonds.

Guinea map                                               world map

Late last week, the government announced a new partnership with the nation to try to improve transparency in its mining sector, with a focus on getting more Guinean diamonds certified by the Kimberley Process, minimizing smuggling and understanding the country’s overall capacity for producing diamonds.

In writing a story about this new partnership, I searched’s archives for mentions of Guinea.

The country received accolades from the State Department for its “collaborative efforts” back in June 2011 when the Marange issue threatened to tear apart the KP. The U.S. also praised the country’s increased oversight of rough diamond exports in 2009, though prior reports are indicative of problems in the country, including inconsistencies in trade and labor statistics.

I don’t have first-hand knowledge of the current situation in Guinea, but I do know it is country that still has its problems, which the State Department acknowledges.

But the U.S. government obviously thinks there is hope there, and the diamond-related headlines currently coming out of Guinea are decidedly less heinous than what we are hearing about other diamond-producing nations in Africa.

In Zimbabwe this week, a government official who recently released a report on missing diamond-mining money died in a mysterious car accident. The government in Angola, meanwhile, is busy defending itself against allegations of sexual abuse perpetrated against migrant female artisanal diamond miners while, at the same time, vying to move into a leadership role as KP vice chair.

Makes mining in Guinea sound good, doesn’t it?

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