Blood Diamonds are mined in war zones, primarily in Africa. Insurgent groups sell them to fund their wars. Blood Diamonds, also known as Conflict Diamonds, are illegal and many people are killed in the process of mining them. Blood Diamonds are a huge social issue in places like Sierra Leone, Angola, Liberia, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo because many people have been murdered in process of mining these precious stones.
A History of Blood Diamonds
Many people who mine for the diamonds have been forcibly taken from their families and their homes by rebel groups who need the diamond revenue to continue their uprisings. They force innocent people to dig or sift through rivers in search of diamonds, and if workers tire or try to rebel, the insurgent soldiers hurt or kill them. It is suspected that more than 4 million people have died mining these diamonds. Sierra Leone Some of the worst atrocities took place in a small western African country called Sierra Leone. In the 1990s, savage fighting took place between the Sierra Leone government and the Revolutionary United Front (RUF). The RUF was an insurgency militia who tried to take over the country of Sierra Leone. It was started and led by Foday Sankoh. He received help from neighbor dictator Charles Taylor. The rebel group stood for a new type a government, they promised to give the diamond revenues to the people of Sierra Leone. After taking over some major diamond mines, the RUF did not keep their promise. Instead, the RUF supported their revolution by selling Blood Diamonds. The RUF became notorious for their child soldiers. Almost 23,000 children served for the RUF. The children were, at the youngest 7 and at the oldest 12. To make the kids killers they would force them to kill their parents or other horrific acts. They made soldiers take horrific names like “The Killer”, ”Wicked to Women” or “Bloodmaster”. Some officers would rub cocaine in the kids’ open cuts to make them insane and ready to kill. The RUF was notorious for the savage severing off limbs of the victims they did not kill. They cut off the limbs of tens of thousands of Sierra Leoneans; many of the victims were children. Many diamonds in Sierra Leone are called alluvium diamonds. Alluvium diamonds are diamonds that are moved by natural erosion and usually end up in rivers. Many diamonds in Sierra Leone are found in rivers where the erosion carries the diamonds. The miners, who were forced at gunpoint to mine, were treated like slaves if you had to go to the bathroom you had two right there where you were standing. The RUF forced them to work day and night until they were exhausted. This is a common torture tactic, it makes the prisoners less inclined to run away. When ever the RUF took over a big or rich diamond mine, the government would collapse economically. The soldiers of Sierra Leone were not able to get arms and ammunitions for themselves. Since the government could not pay its soldiers, some left the army and joined the RUF. Unable to fight off the RUF the government of Sierra Leone hired a mercenary group from South Africa called Executive Outcomes. Executive Outcomes was promised diamonds for their pay. They had a very strong air force, which they used to their advantage. In 1 month they had cleared almost all of the RUF from the diamond areas. Soon elections would start. In 1996 Ahmad Tejan Kabbah was elected president of Sierre Leone. He had many peace talks with the RUF, many were successful. Soon after his peace talks he ended the contract with Executive Outcomes. When Executive Outcomes had left nothing stopped the RUF from taking over again. When the RUF came back they were more brutal than ever. They used amputation as a technique to scare the government. They chopped the hands off of everyone who voted for Ahmad Tejan Kabbah. In 1997 Ahmad Tejan Kabbah was thrown out of government by the military and a general was installed as the leader of the country. The military welcomed the RUF into Freetown, the capital of Sierra Leone. It was called Operation Pay Yourself. Later in 1997 a Nigerian intervention force fought the RUF out of Freetown and reinstated Ahmad Tejan Kabbah as president. For a short amount of time he ruled until the RUF came back even stronger killing and raping everyone in their path. Their rampage lasted for two weeks until the Nigerian force battled them out again but the damage was done. 6,000 people were killed in the battle. In 1999 the United Nations pushed for peace. The RUF and Sierra Leone signed a peace treaty called the Lome Peace Accord. It called for a complete cease fire. It granted amnesty to all soldiers, even the RUF and it made the Sierra Leonean government share power with the RUF. The leader of the RUF, Foday Sankoh, was very greedy and power hungry. He tried to overthrow the government, but was held off by a U.N. peace keeping force. The U.N. force avoided the eastern part of Sierra Leone for almost a year. In 2000 the RUF started attacking more important places such as Freetown. A small but heavily armed British intervention force was sent to Sierra Leone. The RUF was crushed. Soon both the UN force and the British force had routed the RUF and finally captured Foday Sankoh. In 2002 Ahmad Tejan Kabbah then declared the civil war was over. In 2001 Doug Farah, a reporter, discovered a tie between Liberian smuggling of Blood Diamonds from Sierra Leone and Al Quad. One of his close correspondents, from Charles Taylor’s inner circle, told him that he had met with two terrorist from Al Qaeda, who were on the FBI’s most wanted list. He had sold them illegal diamonds a month ago. His correspondent told Doug of many meetings between the Liberian government smugglers and Al Qaeda.After their ten year attempt at taking over the country violently, the RUF were forced by the United Nations to disarm. They became a political party in 2002 but disbanded 5 years later. Angola Angola is a big country in the South west part of Africa. For more than 2 decades Angola suffered from civil war. The civil war started in 1975, when Portugal granted Angola freedom, two groups were formed. One was the Popular Movement for the Liberation of Angola (MPLA). They controlled the country from the capital of Rwanda. Another group was the National Union for the Total Independence of Angola (UNITA). UNITA was led by Joseph Savimbi. The United States supported UNITA. The MPLA used the revenue from the oil of the coast of Angola to arm their soldiers. In response UNITA took over all the diamond mines as a source of revenue. In 1992 UNITA took over 60%-70% of Angola’s diamond mines. Many of the people who were forced to work for UNITA became slaves to UNITA. UNITA had a complex way of selling their diamonds. Diamond dealers from all over the world would come to UNITA, sometimes forming joint mining partnerships. Many of the diamonds would go through Antwerp, Belgium. UNITA in one year made 3.7 billion dollars. When UNITA needed arms, weapons dealers would come to them and trade diamonds for weapons. No money was involved at all. In 1998 the United Nations banned all diamond trade from Angola that wasn’t certified by the country itself. Sierra Leone and Angola are just some of the countries in Africa plagued with the practice of mining and selling of Blood Diamonds. Other countries have also faced brutality similar to the people of Sierra Leone and Angola .
What you can do today The United Nations is trying to battle Blood Diamonds. They have implemented a process that certifies a diamond is conflict free. It is called the Kimberly Process certification scheme. When the diamonds cross international borders then need to be put into a tamper proof box, and put with a Kimberly Process certificate. The Kimberly Process has been very successful. Over 70 countries are part of the Kimberly Process. It has made it much more difficult for insurgent groups to sell diamonds mined under horrendous conditions to be sold internationally. So next time you buy a diamond ask the retailer to show you proof that your diamond is conflict free. If they don’t know about the warranty that proves the diamond is conflict free than ask for one until they can find it.
by David PM
United Nations department of public information, Conflict diamonds, United Nations department of public information, March 21, 2001, http://www.un.org/peace/africa/Diamond.html The world diamonds council, Diamond facts, http://www.diamondfacts.org/index-2.html Facts about Blood Diamonds, CBS broadcasting inc, December 11, 2006, http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2006/12/11/fyi/main2246715.shtml Blood diamonds-Conflict diamonds, What is the Kimberly process?, http://geology.com/articles/blood-diamonds.shtml Images sources http://geology.com/articles/blood-diamonds.shtml http://www.freedomnewspaper.com/Portals/0/mining_boy_without_hands(1).jpg http://www.diamondboycott.com/images/diamondsprice.jpg