Monday, May 4, 2015

Melissa Adams: Bloody Diamonds

(ENG 102 essay -- Professor Benton)

Bloody Diamonds

What girl doesn’t love to see the beautiful sparkle of a diamond on her finger? I don’t personally know a female who doesn’t love jewelry, period. There is something about the sparkle and flash that only a diamond can produce that starts the adrenaline pumping in women everywhere. I believe diamonds must have a special power, because I’ve seen so many grown women turned into little girls by a diamond on their finger. They can spend hours out of their day holding their hand just right so they get their own personal light show. This power I believe the diamond to possess isn’t just over females, it definitely has a power over men as well. The power isn’t magic as one might believe if you just hung out in a jewelry store for a day. This love of diamonds by women has brought out unbelievable greed and inhumanity in men and women around the world. The mesmerizing sparkle of a diamond has blinded people to the fact that there is very real human suffering going on to get to that diamond. Some choose to believe the companies who say their diamonds are “conflict free” because it makes them sleep better that night when they go to bed with that “blood diamond” on their finger, thanks to one of the most brilliant advertising campaigns ever making diamonds the “symbol of love”.

Diamonds have been used to help fund devastating civil wars in west and central Africa killing some 4 million people. Millions more have been maimed or displaced from their homes in countries including Sierra Leone, Angola, Democratic Republic of Congo and Liberia. (Conflict: 1-3) Africa produces 65% of the world’s diamonds. (Hughes:2) Alluvial diamonds are found over vast areas of the territory just a few inches or feet below the surface of the earth unlike the diamonds mined in the deep kimberlite pipes in Botswana, Canada and Russia. Because of the high weight to value ratio, and the ease with which they are mined and smuggled, and the endemic corruption in the global diamond market, alluvial diamonds became a ready target for rebel armies. (Diamonds: 2) Diamonds provided the majority of UNITA’s (National Union for the Total Independence of Angola) funding. Between 1992 and 1998 UNITA obtained an esti- mated minimum revenue of US $3.72 billion from diamond sales alone to finance its war with the government. (Rough: 5)

It was not long before diamonds were used by the Revolutionary United Front (RUF) to fund the civil war in Sierra Leone, with assistance from Liberia’s warlord President Charles Taylor. It was then taken up by rebel and invading armies in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) and has affected the diamond industries of Guinea and Cote d`lvoire as well. As much as 15% of the world’s $10 billion annual rough diamond production fell into the category of conflict diamonds in the late 1990’s. The health and educational infrastructure of these countries was destroyed and development was reversed. Millions of people were displaced from their homes and hundreds of thousands lost their lives as a direct result of these wars plus hundreds of thousands more died from indirect causes. (Diamonds: 3)

Greg Campbell wrote the book Blood Diamond during his travels to Sierra Leone, while there he happened across a 17 year old boy who had escaped from the RUF. He had been kidnapped by the RUF at the age of 9 and his parents killed in Makemi, north-central Sierra Leone. He was forced to fight with the rebellion or face execution. He was given an AK-58, a more powerful version of the AK-47, which can hold up to 75 rounds of ammunition per magazine. After six weeks of training in guerilla warfare he was ordered into battle. Four kids in his unit were killed when they refused to fight or kill anyone. The boy said that while he had not chopped off any hands himself, he had seen it done and when asked why they cut off hands his reply was “to scare people, to get the diamonds and make them leave the mines.” (Campbell: 551)

Of course none of these atrocities could take place without a buyer for these diamonds being mined in Africa. The biggest buyer of all is De Beers Co. and its Central Selling Organization (CSO). The De Beers Co. and its CSO have dominated the international diamond industry for the last 100 years; sorting, valuing, buying and selling around 80% of the worlds diamond production. De Beers annual reports in the 1990’s clearly states the companies involvement in buying Angolan rough diamonds, at the height of the civil war in Angola and when UNITA was in control of the majority of the diamond production in Angola. Given that De Beers were, according to their own reports, buying a substantial proportion of Angolan rough diamonds, at a time when a large section of the countries diamond mines were under UNITA’s control, one could conclude that the drive to keep the lucrative outside market buoyant was a primary concern – despite the consequences this might have for the people of Angola during this period. De Beers also added as side notes in their annual reports that they have played a key role in supporting the Angolan economy and its people. (Rough: 4) De Beers has been responsible for advertising for the diamond industry for many years.(Rough: 7) The propaganda of trying to convince people twenty years ago that they were supporting African communities and helping to build the education and health systems is still included in diamond advertising today, to convince buyers that their diamonds are conflict free.

Another big customer for rebels has been terrorist organizations needing to launder large amounts of cash. The most well-known terrorist group known to buy diamonds is Al Qaeda. They purchased millions of dollars’ worth of Sierra Leone diamonds for three years leading up to September 11, 2001. (Campbell: 1603) The rebels not only sold diamonds for money but also traded for weapons, fuel, food and medicine. In 1999 an estimated $75 million worth of gemstones had flowed from the RUF to the world market, a vast amount of capital for a bush army, moving completely undetected, untaxed and unrecorded. (Campbell: 2763)

Concerned about how the diamond fueled wars in Angola, Sierra Leone and the DRC might affect the legitimate trade in other diamond producing countries. The government of South Africa called for a meeting between diamond producing and trading governments, industry and non-governmental organizations in an effort to solve the problem of conflict diamonds. NGO’s had brought the problem of conflict diamonds to the public’s attention about eighteen months prior. The Kimberley Process was initiated in May 2000, in the town of Kimberley, where South African diamonds were first discovered in the 1860’s. It then took three years of meetings on a regular basis to develop an international certification system for rough diamonds- The Kimberley Process Certification Scheme. (PAC: 1-3) The scheme makes it illegal globally to trade any diamond without a government issued certificate proving the diamond has not been mined in an area in conflict. Voluntary and self-regulating the scheme is underpinned by national legislation passed by each member state and is endorsed by the United Nations Security Council Resolution 1459 of January 2003. (Hughes: 4)

Only two NGO’s were members of the Kimberley Process, PAC and Global Witness. At the time of the print of Tim Hughes article “Conflict Diamonds and the Kimberley Process: Mission Accomplished or Mission Impossible” in 2006 he brought up the danger in there only being 2 civic groups. The two groups PAC (Partnership Africa Canada) and Global Witness, have conducted groundbreaking research and investigation, they became central to Kimberley Process policy making and monitoring functions. The danger exists that their funding may dry up or they may embark on a different focus or concern. (Hughes: 5) On December 2, 2011 Global Witness announced their withdrawal from the Kimberley Process calling for the diamond trade to be held accountable and citing the KPCS’s refusal to evolve and address the clear links between diamonds, violence and tyranny has rendered it increasingly outdated. “Nine years after the KPCS was started, most consumers still cannot be sure where their diamonds come from, nor whether they are financing armed violence or abusive regimes” Charmian Gooch a founding director of Global Witness “The scheme has failed three tests, it failed to deal with the trade in conflict diamonds from Cote d `lvoire, was unwilling to take serious action in the face of blatant breaches of the rules over a number of years by Venezuela and has proved unwilling to stop diamonds fuelling corruption and violence in Zimbabwe. It has become an accomplice to diamond laundering- whereby dirty diamonds are mixed with clean gems.” (Global: 1-3) “Consumers have a right to know what they are buying and what was done to obtain it” added Gooch. “The diamond industry must finally take responsibility for its supply chains and prove that the stones it sells are clean.” (Global: 7)

PAC (Partnership Africa Canada) remains with the Kimberley Process because in their words “it is too important to fail and the prospect of a return to a world in which such a potentially dangerous commodity is unregulated is not an option. This is particularly true in a post 9/11 context in which diamonds lend themselves so easily to funding terrorist activities. The KP alone is an insufficient tool to respond to the myriad of ways in which criminal elements seek to illicitly control, smuggle from, and terrorize in, diamond producing zones.” (PAC: 8)

The diamond industry and the KPCS claim that the percentage of conflict diamonds in the market never reached more than four percent and that the number of conflict diamonds in the market now is lower than one percent. The truth is there is no way to know for sure. The illicit diamonds are entering the diamond pipeline long before they become jewelry, at jungle meeting places, village backrooms and Freetown bars when no one is looking. They’ll make their way into the legitimate exports of sellers who want to pad their parcels cheaply, safely sheltered by certificates issued by lax or bribed officials. The documents required by the Kimberley Process and the Clean Diamond Act will not stop the traffic. They’ll just make it harder to detect. (Campbell: 3032)

While the diamond fueled wars in Angola, Liberia and Sierra Leone have ended there are still human rights abuses going on in diamond producing zones at the hands of government soldiers instead of rebels and abhorrent working conditions for artisanal miners. If consumers would send the diamond industry a strong message by boycotting diamonds they would be forced to enforce the rules set forth by the Kimberley Process. But after so many years of conflict diamonds flooding the market, they will always be there. Who knows how many millions of dollars in diamonds are still hidden away by terrorist organizations that haven’t even entered the market yet and won’t until they need to cash in to fund their next attack?

Works Cited

Campbell Greg, Blood Diamonds: Tracing the Deadly Path of the World’s Most Precious Stones, Boulder, Westview Press, 2002 “Conflict Diamonds: Did Someone Die for that Diamond?” Amnesty International, 2015

“Diamonds, Death and Destruction: A History”, PAC Partnership Africa Canada, 2015

“Global Witness Leaves Kimberley Process; Call for Diamond Trade to be Held Accountable”, Global Witness, 2011,

Hughes Tim, “Conflict Diamonds and the Kimberley Process: Mission Accomplished or Mission Impossible”, South African Journal of International Affairs, 2006

“PAC and the Kimberley Process: A History”, PAC Partnership Africa Canada, 2015

“Rough Trade: The Role of Companies and Governments in the Angolan Conflict”, Global Witness, 1998,

No comments:

Post a Comment