Blood Diamonds

Monday, September 3, 2007

It has been said that war is the price of peace? Angola and Sierra Leone have already paid too much. Let them live a better life. Ambassador Juan Larrain, Chairman of the Monitoring Mechanism on sanctions against UNITA.

Three weeks before Christmas, a couple walk through London's Hatton Garden diamond district looking for a diamond engagement ring.

Three weeks before Christmas in Angola it's a different story. The International Day of the Disabled is taking place. Many of those taking part are the victims of civil war. A war that has horrendously disfigured combatants and non-combatants alike, a war financed by diamonds.

Diamonds maybe a girl's best friend, but diamonds are paid for in blood. In the mines of Koidu, Sierra Leone, "a mixture of RUF militants, adult and child conscripts and local miners has turned every possible diamond site into a pile of mud". The illicit diamond trade has led to war, suffering and violence in Angola, the Congo and Liberia. In Sierra Leone this trade has left a trail of summary execution, torture and indiscriminate machete attacks.

Diamonds are hard to track and easy to smuggle. Once hidden they are undetectable by airport sniffer-dogs, maintain their value in the market and are hard to identify, making it extremely difficult to know where your diamond earrings, ring or necklace were mined. In the UK, diamonds often name Switzerland as their country of origin - diamond mines in Switzerland?

A rebel's best friend?

"Diamonds are forever" it is often said, but lives are not. We must spare people the ordeal of war, mutilations and death for the sake of conflict diamonds" Martin Chungong Ayafor, Chairman of the Sierra Leone Panel of Experts

Angola was once the plaything of superpowers. Gaining independence from Portugal in 1975, a vicious civil war engulfed it for 26 years. The conflict between the Marxist government, the MPLA (Popular Movement for the Liberation of Angola) and Jonas Savimbi's UNITA (National Union for the Total Independence of Angola) rebels killed an estimated 500,000 people in the last decade and displaced half a million Angolans in the last few years.

Whenever the UN has tried to stem the flow of aid to the rebels the greed for diamonds has always defeated them. For example, the 1993 UN arms and petroleum embargo was ignored by Zaire's former president Mobutu Sese Seko. Zaire continued to channel arms to UNITA (from 1994-1997), using the profit from diamond sales. In 1997 Mobutu was overthrown and the UN Security Council imposed a ban on the export and buying of UNITA diamonds, but they continued to end up on high street.

Global Witness, an NGO, revealed in 'A Rough Trade: The Role of Companies and Governments in the Angolan Conflict', that UNITA had earned $3.7 billion from the diamond trade in the 1990's. A UN report in October 2001 stated $1 million of diamonds were smuggled out of Angola every day, a quarter of which went to fund UNITA's war effort.

Davinos Greeno works for the eco friendly and fairtrade coffee directory that lists 100s of Organic and Ethical Companies and we also have Ethical Articles for you to read or publish.

Author: By: Davinos Greeno
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