“People lose hands, legs, arms for real. Little was known of Sierra Leone and how it connect to the diamonds we own.”
These are lyrics from a recent song by popular hip-hop artist Kanye West regarding the human rights violations in Sierra Leone. Most people walk into jewelers around the world and drop thousands of dollars on diamond-studded jewelry without knowing the conflict behind their purchase. Fueled by the West’s desire for diamonds, wars raged in Sierra Leone over the rights to mine these precious stones for profit, causing deprivation and the displacement of innocent citizens and forcing children to take arms. Background of Sierra Leone
Sierra Leone is and always has been socially and economically underdeveloped. Diamonds account for fifty percent of the country’s exports, making the diamond industry the most profitable industry in Sierra Leone (Conflict Diamonds). As a former British colony, English is the national language of Sierra Leone, even though only 30% of its citizens are literate. Aside from a lack of education, sufficient healthcare is hard to come across in Sierra Leone. Like many other African nations, AIDS/HIV is a reoccurring problem. Seven percent of the population is infected with AIDS/HIV and the average life expectancy in Sierra Leone is forty years old (Conflict Diamonds). Due to their minimal lifestyle, the people of Sierra Leone have always been susceptible to human rights violations.
The Civil War in Sierra Leone: Causes
The main cause of human rights violations in Sierra Leone was a tragic, ongoing civil war in Sierra Leone. According to UN figures, corruption within the diamond sector forced Sierra Leone to become the poorest country in the world before the outbreak of the war (The Civil War in Sierra Leone). Without a significant source of income, the government had very little control of operations within the country. This allowed for the trafficking of weapons, ammunition and drugs. The trafficking of such items diminished the national security of Sierra Leone and increased crime between Sierra Leone and neighboring Liberia and Guinea (The Civil War in Sierra Leone). Poor living conditions in Sierra Leone resulted in many citizens who were unhappy with the government.
In 1991, the Revolutionary United Front formed under the leadership of a former Sierra Leone Corporal, Foday Sankoh. The Revolutionary United Front took on the motto, "No More Slaves, No More Masters. Power and Wealth to the People”(Revolutionary United Front). The goal of the Revolutionary United Front was to take over the government of Sierra Leone. The Revolutionary United Front was believed to be supported by Charles Taylor, the former president of Liberia, who wanted to destabilize Sierra Leone in order to gain control of its lucrative diamond industry (Sierra Leone Civil War).With a common goal of controlling the diamond industry of Sierra Leone, the Revolutionary United Front and Charles Taylor began a devastating civil war in Sierra Leone. The Civil War in Sierra Leone: Effects
After training and supplying in Liberia, the Revolutionary United Front began its campaign from Liberia into Sierra Leone in March of 1991 (The Civil War in Sierra Leone). It wasn’t long before refugees were forced to flee the country. After experiencing the brutality of the Revolutionary United Front, 107,000 civilians fled to nearby Guinea within the first four months following the Revolutionary United Front invasion (The Civil War in Sierra Leone). It wasn’t long before the Revolutionary United Front obtained significant power in Sierra Leone. In less than a year, they captured the city of Kono, the diamond mining capital of Sierra Leone (Brown). After obtaining millions of dollars worth of diamonds, the Revolutionary United Front used its relations with Liberian president, Charles Taylor, to enter the diamonds in the global market (Brown). Profits from the sale of diamonds were used to purchase weapons....
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