No Man's Diamonds - Brutal Unrest and Political Conflict in Sierra Leone in the Late 1990's

No Man’s Diamonds

Global attention was placed at the occurrence of conflict diamonds for the first time when Sierra Leone was undergoing a troubling period of brutal unrest and political conflict in the late 1990’s. Around this time, the way in which conflict diamonds were mined illegally to fund these uprisings was so great that these diamonds made up almost four percent of the total global production of diamonds ("Blood Diamond Facts" ). “ ‘Diamonds are forever’ it is often said, but lives are not. We must spare people the ordeal of war, mutilations, and death, for the sake of conflict diamonds” (Nations ). The price paid by the lives of innocent civilian, and the extensive trauma caused in the lives of survivors makes the selling and buying of conflict diamonds a crime against humanity. With ample attention placed on this crisis in the late 1990’s and early 200’s many believe that because the world no longer hears about these crimes, they no longer exist, but this issue is still of enormous humanitarian concern in many countries around the world today. West African nations that produce and trade conflict diamonds hinder economic growth and development, enslave children as laborers and soldiers, and foster violence against innocent people.

Conflict diamonds are defined as “jewels that originate from areas controlled by forces or factions opposed to legitimate and internationally recognized governments and are used to fund military action in opposition to those government, or in contravention of the decisions of the Security Council” ( Nations). The illegal intake of money to fund these civil wars put on by rebel groups slows the development of these third world nations drastically. For decades the governments in place greedily distributed the wealth of the nation among a very select few, in the process it prevented its people access to education or even the means to acquire basic necessities (Gyorgy). In order for these developing nations to advance forward, aids from wealthier countries are essential. Due to the light that was placed upon this crisis most countries able to support these developing countries united with the United Nations and any aid being given to these nations were suppressed ("Conflict Diamond Issues" ). The United States stands out amongst many of the economic giants who stopped their monetary support. On July 29th, 2003 led by executive order 13312 the Clean Diamond Trade Act (CDTA) was implanted (Huvane ). The United States is the consumer of the majority of the world’s supply of diamonds, and had these governments been acting in good faith with its nation’s best interest in mind, the profit made from the United States alone, from legally mining and selling these jewels, their economies and standard of living would have seen a significant improvement.

The vast supplies of rough diamonds in these West African countries are used by the rebel forces to finance arm purchase and conduct other illegal activities (Nations). Once these diamonds emerge in the markets it becomes nearly impossible to trace the origin, therefore leaving the rebel forces free to continue on committing war crimes and crimes against humanity (Petrou). When these happenings were discovered the Security Council led by the United Nations took immediate provisions to mitigate this issue. Under Chapter VII of the United Nations Charter, sanctions were applied against UNITA in Angola and the Sierra Leone rebels (Bell). In June 1998 resolutions 1173 and 1176 were put in place to ban the direct and indirect import of any diamonds without being controlled through the Certificate of Origin issued by the government of Angola, and on July of 2009 resolution 1306 imposed the same ban on Sierra Leone (Nations). On March 2001 resolution 1343 was applied in Liberia by the New Sanctions Committee of the Security Council, posing an arms embargo on the country (Nations). Not only have these governments and rebel wars attracted a negative outlook on these countries, but they have also delayed their ability to rebuild itself and emerge in the world market.

In Sierra Leone and Liberia, where the main focus is placed on these conflict diamonds, thousands of civilians have lost their lives and kids have been forced to become soldiers to fight these wars (Moszynski). In an interview conducted with Claudia Anthony who lived in these conflict diamonds war zones for over a decade, readers can feel through her detailed explanation and account of these crimes, how it not only destroyed innocents physically but also mentally. In a segment of her interview she comments, “At Lakka, there were over a thousand children between seven and sixteen. They told specifics surrounding how they carried out some of the worst atrocities and it gave me nightmares. Sometimes I thought ‘Will they ever be children again?’ Some of them responded to trauma therapies, but having interviewed so many of them, I think that the memory of the atrocities committed will always revisit them. The trauma of war…” (Gyorgy). Due to lack of regulation and the war state, these children were forced into the labor of conflict diamonds, or forced to act as soldiers (Moszynski ). They were put in dangerous positions and assigned challenging duties, such as moving earth from pits, descending from ropes into small holes or pits where landslides were likely to happen, to being forced to kill and torture innocent people, sometimes their own families (Moszynski ). A study conducted in Angola states that 16% of the mining workforce are children under the age of sixteen (Chettle). They are forced into these jobs because of the lack of education, poverty, and war (Chettle). Possibly one of the most impacting glimpses of what these children who were turned both into diamond miners or soldiers, comes from the movie “Blood Diamond” released in late 2006. In this movie, the spectator can see a visual of the crimes being committed, and what the extent of the damage done to these children. According to an UNICEF study since 1990 more than 2 million children have died from this conflict and over 6 million have been left horribly injured or disabled ("Conflict Diamonds." ).

The violence committed to the residents of these western African countries is the most shocking and brutal parts of the conflict diamond war. In her interview Claudia Anthony stated “Revolutionary United Front (RUF) rebels have raped girls and women, hacked off people’s limbs, kidnapped children, and perpetrated other abuses during its 10-year insurgency” (Gyorgy ). These innocent people were terrorized into compliance with the rebel’s demands, and in many cases brutally murdered, raped, or mutilated (Nations). Thousands of those who survived or escaped still had to learn how to carry on their lives without a part of their body. These diamonds plagued these nations for decades, and the scars that were left behind will never be forgotten by those innocent civilians in which violence fell upon.

Ten years after the discoveries and resistance placed against these horrendous crimes, conflict diamonds now account for less than one percent of the diamond market. Although this is an amazing milestone, it can’t be forgotten that as long as there is an innocent person suffering and paying the price for these wars, measures must remain in place, be regularly monitored, until it is completely eliminated. These crimes under no circumstance should be tolerated by society and conflict diamonds does not have a place in the world.

Works Cited

Bell, Udy. "SIERRA LEONE: BUILDING ON A HARD-WON PEACE." UN Chronicle. 01 Dec. 2005: 42. eLibrary. Web. 04 Mar. 2011.
"Blood Diamond Facts." Buzzle. Buzzle.com, 2011. Web. 4 Mar. 2011.
Chettle, Judith. "Deadly jewels." World & I. 01 Mar. 2003: 223. eLibrary. Web. 04 Mar. 2011.
"Conflict Diamonds." U.S. Department of State. Bureau of Public Affairs, 2011.
Web. 4 Mar. 2011.
"Conflict Diamond Issues." Brilliant Earth. Brilliant Earth Inc., 2010. Web. 4
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Gyorgy, Anna. "War and the need for citizen action: Voices from Sierra Leone." Peacework. 01 Jun. 2001: 9. eLibrary. Web. 04 Mar. 2011.
Huvane, Kathleen. "U.N. cracks down on "conflict diamonds"." World Watch. 01 Sep. 2001: 9. eLibrary. Web. 04 Mar. 2011.
Petrou, Michael. "WORLD: The long arm of Charles Taylor versus the law: His trial may spell an end to the African Big Man, and new hope for a continent." Maclean's. 04 Jun. 2007: 26. eLibrary. Web. 04 Mar. 2011
Moszynski, Peter. "Death by Diamonds: Children are the victims in Africa's grab for riches." Toward Freedom. 31 Oct. 2000: p 10. eLibrary. Web. 04 Mar. 2011.
Nations, United, comp. "Conflict Diamonds." United Nations. United Nations
Department of Public Information, 21 Mar. 2001. Web. 4 Mar. 2011.