Komba Johnbull, Sierra Leon Teenager Who Found A Diamond Worth $6.5m only to Get $115k!

Komba JohnBull Sierra Leon Teenager who found Peace Diamond

In the hot center of Sierra Leone, in the green embrace of the Koryardu village in Kono district, a story unfolded. It was a story marked by sunlight and stones.

The main character? A 16-year-old miner named Komba Johnbull, his rough hands holding a discovery that could change his life. Or at least, that’s what he thought.

Komba Johnbull
Komba Johnbull in 2017

What caught his eye? A huge 709-carat diamond, a giant gem sparkling with the promise of good wealth. This was in March 2017. This wealth wouldn’t just be for him but for his village too. It could be a symbol of hope in a land scarred by problems like fighting and poverty.

Komba Johnbull and the Peace Diamond

This was no normal gem. It was the 15th largest diamond ever found in the world, a big shiny rock which was later named the “Peace Diamond.” This is after years of civil war in Sierra Leone which lasted decades (mainly attributed to the diamonds) and thus nicknamed ‘Blood Diamonds’.

Peace Diamond

News of this find spread through the dry land, bringing dreams of better days. People hoped for more money (some speculated it could be worth 50 million dollars), education, and healthcare.

They dreamed of a way to escape the struggles of their everyday lives. Johnbull and his four fellow artisanal miners saw a future filled with money, a shiny way out of their hard work. One of the miners advised him to hide from other people in the mining field to avoid any issues.

But going from a raw stone to a shining fortune is tricky in Sierra Leone. There are many dangers and legal issues. In Sierra Leone, the small-scale (artisanal) mining industry, which supports many families, works in a gray area.

Traditional customs clash with government rules. By law, Johnbull could not sell the diamond directly. The government had to be involved.

To make matters more complicated for the teenager, the rights to this diamond also belonged to his sponsor, Pastor Momoh, who paid for their digging, food and supplies. Negotiations started, a tense dance between hope and reality.

So How Much Was Komba Johnbull’s Diamond Sold?

Pastor Momoh chose to hand over the Diamond to the government instead of going the black market way. After several unsuccessful auctions, finally, the “Peace Diamond” was sold in December 2017 for a staggering $6.5 million at an New York auction.

Peace Diamond Sierra_Leone Kambi Johnbull


It was bought by the famous British jeweler Laurence Graff. This enormous sum could build schools, clinics, pave roads, and change the story of a forgotten village. But for Johnbull and his team, the money trickled down. They got only $115,000 each, a small amount compared to the enormous amount their discovery brought.

The rest, a confusing mix of claims and deductions, got lost in bureaucracy. The Sierra Leone government took a big (60%) $4.1 million as per the law, and Pastor Momoh got $2.4 million ( from which he paid his miners including Komba) as the mining license holder.

For Johnbull and his friends, the diamond that promised freedom became a painful reminder of the unfairness in their country. The significantly small amount he received he bought a house in Freetown and a good portion of the balance he spent some trying to get documents to study abroad in Canada (but failed) and later Ghana.

Komba Johnbull in 2018
Komba Johnbull in 2018

The last time Aljazeera interviewed him he was left with about $10,000 as per the interview.

Their story is more than just a personal tragedy. It shows the complicated power dynamics in the diamond trade in Africa. The ones who risk everything in the earth often end up with the smallest share of the reward.

It highlights the tricky relationship between taking resources from the earth and development. If not managed fairly, the earth’s blessings can turn into a curse. The government only pledged to $980,454 out of the 4 million dollars to develop Komba’s village and the projects have taken an eternity.

Komba Johnbull’s story is not just about one boy and his big diamond. It is a small version of a whole country’s struggle. It reflects the challenges faced by countries with lots of resources, trying to share wealth fairly.

It is a call for action, asking for openness and responsibility in the mining industry. It wants safeguards to make sure the communities facing the struggles of extraction get the rewards they earn.

As the shine of the “Peace Diamond” fades, it leaves a question behind. Can Sierra Leone people change their story? Can they break free from being exploited and make sure the wealth under its soil creates a better future for everyone?

Komba Johnbull, now a young man, carries the weight of this question on his strong shoulders. His eyes, once lit by the dream of diamonds, now hold a glimmer of a different hope. It is the hope for a more fair and just future, where the earth’s riches benefit not just a few lucky ones but all the communities in the darkness.

To some extent we can say the diamond changed Komba’s life, for at least he was able to move the to the city, own a house and stop artisanal mining (at least for now).

Komba Johnbull today
Komba Johnbull in 2023 in Freetown

Closing Remarks

The story of Komba Johnbull is not finished. It’s a story that needs to be heard and rewritten. But not with diamonds. It needs to be rewritten with justice, openness, and a shared vision for a Sierra Leone where the true value of its treasures shines on everyone.


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