The Real Cost of Diamonds
Sierra Leone is blessed with some of the world’s richest resources such as titanium, gold, and diamonds. Despite these rich resources, Sierra Leone ranked last on the United Nations Development Programme’s Human Development Index in 2001, making Sierra Leone the poorest country in the world at that time. (Renner, 2002, p. 22) So how can a country so rich in resources be so poor? Sierra Leone’s extreme poverty level is caused by the diamonds they mine and the corruption that surround them. The fight for control of these diamonds in Sierra Leone started a ten year civil war between the Government Allies and the Rebel United Front (RUF) that killed more than 50,000 people, displaced half the country’s population, and subjected a country to horrendous human rights violations. This conflict brings up the following questions: 1.
What role do diamonds play in such a conflict?
Who is the Rebel United Front, what were there intentions, and what were their actions? 3.
What were the government allies’ intentions and actions? 4.
What did the outside world do to help end this conflict?
This paper on the real cost of diamonds will focus on these four questions. What role do diamonds play in such a conflict?
In 2001 Ibrahim Kamara, Sierra Leone’s United Nations ambassador was quoted saying, “We have always maintained that the conflict is not about ideology, tribal, or regional difference…The root of the conflict is and remains diamonds, diamonds, and diamonds.” (Renner, 2002, p.22) According to Rasna Warah (2004), Africa’s three most diamond producing countries Sierra Leone, Angola, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo also happen to be the counties with the most conflict and poverty. This relationship of diamonds, conflict, and poverty is largely caused by the corruption, stealing, and smuggling of diamonds by rebel forces as well as the government. When diamonds are illegally sold to fund a rebel group the diamonds are known as “conflict” or “blood diamonds.” The official definition of conflict diamonds, “are diamonds 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 governments, or in contravention of the decisions of the Security Council.” (UN.org) Groups such as the Rebel United Front, use the sale of diamonds to buy weaponry, food, supplies, and other illegal activities such as drugs to help them gain control of more diamond mines and overthrow the government. The United Nations’ estimates the RUF’s annual income from the illegal trade of diamonds to be around $125 million dollars, a very large amount considering the small size of the group. (Campbell) Who is the Rebel United Front, what were there intentions, and what were their actions?
The Rebel United Front originally formed to overthrow the government which they believed to be corrupt and accused them of mismanagement of their resources. They felt it was wrong that a country with such resources should have such extreme poverty and were willing to do anything to gain power. The RUF promised to share the diamond resources as well as provide free education and health care. In the RUF manifesto the RUF described that their “strategy and tactics of this resistance will be determined by the reaction of the enemy forces - force will be met with force, reasoning with reasoning and dialogue with dialogue.” Despite these somewhat innocent statements and goals of the RUF, they eventually became corrupt also as they began to attract others who saw the opportunities of profits from the diamonds. (Shah, 2001) With this corruption and greed, the Rebel United Front lost their innocence and became violent and committed horrible acts against human rights. The Rebel United Force’s most horrendous acts were their use of children in the war. The RUF forced children to become prostitutes and soldiers, and...
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