Diamonds. For many, these dazzling objects are symbols of deep, everlasting love; signs of purity, commitment, and new beginnings. But for others, especially those in diamond-rich countries, they're more of a curse than a blessing. All too often, the diamond mines of the world lead to civil wars, human exploitation, suffering, and all-out violence. It should come as no surprise that diamonds are some of the most valuable objects on the planet. With the potential for immense profit comes immense greed; and where there is human greed, violence and immoral practices naturally result.
In the past two decades, seven African countries have experienced brutal civil conflicts fueled by diamonds: Liberia, Sierra Leone, the Republic of Congo, Côte d’Ivoire, the Central African Republic, Angola, and the Democratic Republic of Congo. Diamonds intensified these conflicts because they were a source of revenue for rebel groups and government militaries. As groups battled for control of diamond-rich territories, bloodshed, rape, and even forced military enlistment among children ensued. The diamonds which fuel such violence are often called “conflict” or “blood” diamonds—as they have become known as today.
Only recently did the general public become aware of the presence of “blood diamonds” in the diamond market. They first captured the world’s attention during the vicious conflict in Sierra Leone in the late 1990s. In 1991, Sierra Leone had a rather corrupt government in place which openly condoned illicit diamond trading. This made the country unstable and vulnerable to armed rebellion. On March 23, a civil war began when a group of 100 fighters from Sierra Leone and Liberia invaded East Sierra Leone. Over a period of nine years, fighting between revolutionaries and government forces occurred around diamond districts. Although the conflict has been partially quelled by the U.N. and the U.S. Government, sporadic fighting still occurs in the region. Thousands of people have died and even more have been displaced from their homes. These scars will likely last for generations.
Unsurprisingly, consumers now demand that their diamonds are untainted by, and in no way associated with, inhumane practices. In an attempt to rid the diamond market of blood diamonds, the U.N. has instituted embargoes and employed peace keepers in African nations. The Kimberly Process has also recently emerged to combat this issue. But how effective have these initiatives been so far? Find out in the next blog.
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