“Some men will kill, risk death, their honor, and their humanity in search of treasure. Yet, in the end, they cannot kill enough or steal enough to satisfy their hunger for more.” – Author Unknown –
1991 – Sierra Leone – The western African nation is embroiled in a brutal civil war. Innocent people are being killed, mutilated, raped, and abducted, mainly due to the warfare waged by a rebel group; the Revolutionary United Front (RUF).
The RUF claims that they support causes of justice and freedom. But, as time moves on, they begin to control the villages and prevent the local people from voting for the new government by chopping off their limbs with machetes. Voting on paper ballots is more difficult when you have no fingers to write. Most ballots are soaked in blood like the red sand that dominates the landscape of the country.
Adults are not the only target of these barbaric criminals. Victims include women, children and infants.
Children are either killed or taken into captivity. Those taken into captivity are beaten and re-educated to become sadistic killers.
As mass atrocities escalate, the President of the United States, Bill Clinton, and the inept United Nations react with speeches, protests, condemnations, and minimal humanitarian support. Our nation refuses to use our superior military force to destroy the RUF.
The situation is further complicated by the vast diamond mines that exist in Sierra Leone. RUF militia kidnap the strongest men in the villages and make them slaves in the mining operations in order to get access to funding, continued support of their actions, and personal wealth.
1992 – 2002 – The RUF is mining up to $125 million of diamonds yearly. Since diamonds are used as a funding source, they also create opportunities for tax evasion and financial support for further war crimes. During this time, the United Nations Security Council imposes diamond sanctions upon Sierra Leone. These sections are as ineffective as the leaders who impose them. The United Nations and its sanctions are completely ignored by the RUF.
As a result of this inaction, according to National Geographic News, the suffering created by rebel groups account for over four million deaths in the African population and injuries to over two million civilians. Sierra Leone is listed as second highest producer of what many countries consider “conflict diamonds.” Few leaders around the world refer to these diamonds by their true nature; “blood diamonds.”
2022 – Unfortunately, there has been little change in Sierra Leone. On paper, the civil war ended in 2002. However, the country still provides 1% of the world’s production of diamonds, after Angola, which produced 2.1% in 2016. 15% of Sierra Leone’s diamond production is blood diamonds.
Sierra Leone remains in an unstable political situation, although the country has elected a new government. This government continues to produce blood diamonds, use of abuse by the security forces, including rape and the use of brutal force on detainees; including children.
Forced child labor, which took place in Sierra Leone after the civil war, still exists. As they need a huge number of workers, the security forces kidnap and force young adults to be their slaves. Children are forced to join their army as soldiers and women continue to be raped. They even burn entire villages. Thousands of men, women, and children are used as slaves to collect diamonds with their bare hands to dig in mud along river banks.
Sierra Leone saw an increase of over $140 million in 2005 and attempted a percentage return of export tax to diamond mining communities.
Today, the atrocities in Sierra Leone are a memory. Life has improved. People are healing and have hope. But, blood diamonds have not disappeared in other parts of the world. They never will.
There is another factor involved in this story; demand.
Countries across the world crave diamonds more than any other natural resource other than oil. While oil is necessary for national security, diamonds are not. If the demand for diamonds was not present, there would not be a need to supply them.
Diamonds are rare and beautiful. Culturally, they are a symbol of love between married couples in the United States. I am proud that my wife wears the wedding ring passed down from my grandmother, Meme. They will always be in demand and people will always seek ways to obtain them. There is nothing wrong with that because the vast majority of nations export them in ethical and legal ways.
I would just ask that the next time you or I purchase a diamond, we inquire into the source of a “girl’s best friend.”