Throughout Western Africa, the quest for diamonds has taken control of many of people and affected the stability of economic and governmental status throughout the nation. The diamond mines have caused civil wars, which have resulted in many casualties over the years.
Possibly the major cause of the diamond wars is human nature, as it is human nature that sparks the desire to own diamonds. Due to the amount of people who are seeking diamonds and the limited resources of the mineral, the diamond market has become a major source of conflict in Western Africa.
Throughout Western Africa, rebel groups have formed in an effort to gain control over diamond mines in Angola, Sierra Leone, and Liberia. The Diamond Wars have destroyed these areas, which could potentially become well-developed nations if the conflicts did not exist. While countries like Botswana and Namibia are using diamonds properly to stimulate their economies, rebel groups in Western Africa are preventing these nations from doing so.
Throughout Africa, diamonds are the main natural resource. Diamond mines are usually controlled by either rebel groups or by the government. In addition to these groups, groups of natives are often found scouting the countryside for diamonds, which they sell on the black market.
The majority of the world has little knowledge of how important diamonds are to many African nations and how much the international demand for diamonds has affected these areas. Many countries in Africa rely on diamonds to stabilize their economy.
Perhaps the countries most affected by diamonds are Western Africa nations, including
Angola, Sierra Leone, and Liberia, which are in the midst of a civil war created by the competition for diamonds.
Competing for Diamonds
In many Western and middle African nations, the control of diamond mines is a major economic issue. "Due to the abundance of petroleum and diamond reserves, Angola could potentially be a wealthy nation, but remains undeveloped due to decades of war." Angola is one of the most conflicted regions in Africa today.
National Union for the Total Independence of Angola (UNITA), a rebel group, has been in constant conflict with the Popular Movement for the Liberation of Angola (MPLA) for about twenty years.
These two groups have created a civil war in Angola as both groups fight for control of the country. As a result, the country is covered in land mines that kill many innocent people on a daily basis. Still UNITA refuses to relinquish diamond mines to the MPLA government and the country remains in a dangerous civil war.
There are many Western African countries with similar problems with diamond wars. One of the most crucial problems exists in Sierra Leone, which is in the midst of a diamond war. "Between 1991 and 1999, the war claimed over 75,000 lives, caused half a million Sierra Leoneans to become refugees, and displaced half of the country's 4.5 million people."
While the conflict in Angola is mainly over control of the government, the quarrel in Sierra Leone is mainly caused by money. "The point of the war may not actually have been to win it, but to engage in profitable crime under the cover of warfare." Up until the 1980's, DeBeers, the largest diamond company in the world, was directly involved with Sierra Leone's diamond trade.
In the 1980's, the company removed all of its Sierra Leone offices, dealing with the country's diamond industry indirectly. This indirect connection involves smuggling diamonds out of Sierra Leone and into other countries that do business directly with DeBeers. The diamonds are then marketed internationally and sold to people of other nations.
Another example of an economy that has been economically hampered by the diamond wars is Liberia, which is also engaged in a diamond-induced civil war. The Liberian government has been accused of taking part in many illegal operations dealing with the diamond industry.
Charles Taylor, the president of Liberia, stands accused of supporting rebel groups over the years. Taylor has been accused of trying to gain from the civil war in Sierra Leone. "The United States has threatened to impose sanctions against Liberia for allegedly helping to transfer arms across its border to Sierra Leone's Revolutionary United Front (RUF) rebels in exchange for diamonds." Taylor denied these accusations.
According to research, "the years of fighting coupled with the flight of most businesses has disrupted formal economic activity. A still unsettled domestic security situation has slowed the process of rebuilding the social and economic structure of this war-torn country."
The civil war in Sierra Leone started in 1989 when The National Patriotic Front of Liberia (NPFL), led by Charles Taylor, invaded Liberia to gain control of diamond mines, killing many innocent civilians. Many native Liberians fled their home country to find safety. The civil war resulted in mass chaos and many problems for Liberia.
Over 10% of the population, mostly innocent civilians were murdered; about three-quarters of the population became either refugees or displaced people; out of the 60,000 rebel fighters that were recruited by the warlords, about 60% were "child soldiers," and most of them are now suffering from "drug addiction,"- and "posttraumatic stress syndrome;" and women and girls were reported to have suffered the most: they were raped and murdered with impunity by all the warring factions."
Would-Be Success of Diamond Countries
Many African countries are experiencing success in diamond mining, as a result of managing to avoid the diamond wars. Botswana, the world's largest diamond producer, is one of the most prosperous countries in Africa and its economy is fuelled by diamonds. "Botswana has the strongest economy in Africa, and also has the highest GDP/person in Africa. The dependence on diamond mining activities on Botswana's economy is great." (NY Times) Botswana is a country near South Africa that is bordered by Namibia and Zimbabwe.
Its discovery of diamond mines in the late 1960's has provide great economic potential for the country. "By the beginning of the 1980s, diamonds had well overtaken beef as the country's leading foreign exchange earner and in 1981, diamond exports accounted for 40% of total exports and rose rapidly thereafter to reach approximately 80% of total foreign exchange earnings by 1989."
The majority of Botswana's success is due to its successful importing industry, which is known as the " Gem of Africa." Many diamond businesses have excelled in Botswana, including Debswana, a joint venture of DeBeers and the Botswana government. Debswana enjoys control over three large diamond mines in Botswana. One of Botswana's premiere diamond mines is located in Orapa. "(Orapa's) giant kimberlite pipe was discovered by DeBeers geologists in the late 1960's and the mine became operational in 1971...." Botswana has since cut its ties with DeBeers because of the ongoing controversy dealing with the diamond market, yet the country still enjoys a strong economy.
Botswana is an example of what West African diamond countries could be capable of if they did not have the burden of rebel groups and civil war. The economies of these countries could make them well-developed nations, rather than battlegrounds of greed.
Fighting the Rebels
In many Western African nations, rebel forces have often used rough diamond reserves to finance arms purchases. They use other countries as trading and transit posts for their conflict diamonds. Once diamonds are brought to market, difficult to trace their origin and distinguish them from legitimate diamonds. This process has enabled the rebel groups to continue to make money from diamonds.
Many key players have become involved in ending the diamond wars, including world governments, inter-governmental and non-governmental organizations, diamond traders, financial institutions, arms manufacturers, social and educational institutions and other civil society players. Human rights groups have continually encouraged these players to combine their efforts, demand the strict enforcement of sanctions and encourage peace in Africa.
The massive destruction of the diamond wars in Sierra Leone has especially heightened the international community's awareness of the need to cut off sources of funding for the rebels, namely diamonds, in an effort to create peace in these countries.
The international diamond industry has resolved to block conflict diamonds from reaching market. Another key effort has been the launching of an inclusive, global consultation process of world governments, industry and civil society, referred to as the Kimberly Process, to develop an effective response to the problem of conflict diamonds.
The United Nations Charter says that targeted sanctions have been applied against groups like UNITA in Angola and the Sierra Leone rebels, including a ban on illicit diamonds. Diamond sanctions have also been applied against groups in Liberia.
In July 1999, after many years of civil conflict, negotiations between the Sierra Leone and government and the rebel group, Revolutionary United Front, with the help of United Nations and the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), allowed the signing of the Lome Peace Agreement. Both parties agreed to the cessation of hostilities, disarmament of all combatants and the formation of a government of national unity.
October 1999, the Security Council established the…