Diamonds From Sierra Leone – A History Of Violence

Sierra Leone is a country in West Africa that has suffered severely due to continuous rebel activities from 1991-2002. This nation relies heavily on its mining activities – diamond mining in particular – but progress has been particularly slow because of corruption and civil uprisings.

Diamonds from Sierra Leone are controversial because a number of them are not actually legal. Not all of the annually produced diamonds, worth around $250-300 million, are channeled through legal conduits because many are smuggled. These so-called “blood diamonds” are widely known to be used to finace illicit activities such as laundering.

In 2001, the United States put an embargo on diamonds from Sierra Leone. Starting from the 1990s, the diamonds from Sierra Leone have been used to fund the RUF, or the Revolutionary United Front – led by Corporal Foday Sankoh.

Sierra Leone had its first diamonds mined in 1935. More than 1 million carats were harvested within two years following the first discovery, and over 55 million carats were mined by the company DeBeers between the years 1930 and 1998.

DeBeers, the only company granted mining rights by the Sierra Leone government until 1955, have been mining and distributing diamonds from Sierra Leone exclusively since the year it turned out its first diamond.

In the movie Blood Diamond, starring Leonardo DiCaprio, allegedly pressured the film’s producers into issuing a disclaimer stating that the events depicted in the film are fictional, but the company has denied this.

Diamonds from Sierra Leone have reportedly been spirited out illegally by 75,000 miners in 1955. In that same year, the new administration put an end to the DeBeers monopoly of the diamonds from Sierra Leone trade and allowed other companies to move in.

When insurgency broke out in the 1990s, rebel forces were reportedly getting funding for their activities by stealing diamonds. Thus, the term “blood diamonds.”

Unstoppable killings

The diamond trade continued to fund the RUF rebels who pursued their uprisings against the government. Despite an agreement between the RUF head and the government, the bloodshed went on. To put a stop to the anarchy, the United Nations then issued a directive that nobody could buy diamonds from Sierra Leone legally.

There were a few countries such as Liberia, however, which continued the trading of diamonds from Sierra Leone. It was a profitable underground business, and these unscrupulous individuals didn’t care about the repercussions, as long as they gained financially from their nefarious activities.

The diamonds from Sierra Leone were sold on the open market in Liberia, until this neighboring nation exported over four times the amount of their own diamond production – including them in the blood diamonds supplier list.

At present, certifications are issued to distinguish legally traded diamonds from the diamonds from Sierra Leone []. These Certificates are made to ensure that no one, as a buyer, would be supporting the killings that have been ravaging the nation.

This directive, however, is not foolproof and has not totally stemmed the illegal diamond trade from Sierra Leone

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Source by Jonathan Andrew

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