By ARJUN AP.
In the 1990s, vicious rebel groups in central and west Africa seized diamond mines using sale proceeds to prolong brutal civil wars and terrorism. Human rights abuses included rape, torture, amputations and mass murder.
Diamonds used to finance these atrocities are called blood diamonds or conflict diamonds.
Credible statistics on the blood diamond trade are elusive because once a diamond is polished its origin is almost impossible to trace. Criminals are able to trade rough diamonds for funds that allow them to break the law with little fear of being caught, including the purchase of illegal weapons.
Kimberley Process Watchdog
The Kimberley Process (KP) is an international initiative to stop criminals who profit from the illicit trade in rough diamonds. Under the KP’s global diamond certification scheme, participating countries must provide a written certificate that identifies the origin and target countries for all diamond imports and exports. Otherwise the diamond shipment must be impounded and reported to the KP. Secondly, KP-member countries must ban diamond trade with all non-member nations. Participating countries must provide diamond production and international trade statistics that help the KP Secretariat monitor the trade flow of rough diamonds.
An interesting book entitled “The Heartless Stone: A Journey Through the World of Diamonds, Deceit, and Desire” by Tom Zoellner, explains that blood diamonds persist as a major black market commodity at the cost of thousands of lives partly because conflict diamonds can be easily smuggled across African borders with forged certificates. Also, the Kimberley Process considers some countries like Angola as members in good standing because they are not technically at war. The fact is that diamond mining in Angola remains notoriously brutal, with miners killed for simply not following work orders.
Although the Kimberley Process has accomplished much since its launch at the start of 2003, some analysts estimate that blood diamonds still represent a large percentage of global trade in rough diamonds. According to DiamondFacts.org, An estimated US$13 billion worth of rough diamonds are produced yearly, of which approximately US$8.5 billion are from Africa (approximately 65%).
Blood Diamond Countries
Currently, the Kimberley Process lists 3 nations as real culprits responsible for blood diamonds.
- Zimbabwe: One of the poorest countries in Africa known for its corrupt government and blood diamond mining.
- Central African Republic: According to a U.N. panel of experts, an estimated US$24 million worth of conflict diamonds are still being smuggled out of the CAR. It’s approximately 140,000 carats of conflict diamonds that are flooding the international market.
- India: A country known for its child labor violations in the diamond industry. More than 20 percent of the employees in India’s diamond mining industry are children forced to work in awful conditions for very low wages polishing diamonds.
Terrorist organizations including al-Quaida and Hezbollah also use blood diamonds to finance global violence. To fund the September 11 attacks, al-Quaida converted about US$10 million into diamonds. This allowed bin Laden to circumvent the freeze on al-Quaida assets that the Clinton administration imposed after the 1998 terrorist attacks on U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania. Furthermore, Hezbollah uses Lebanese networks in Sierra Leone to raise funds through blood diamonds.
A History of Violence
In the past, Liberia was a key meeting place for rebels, terrorists and other criminal groups to exchange blood diamonds for weapons. Sanctions were imposed on the government by the United Nations from March 2001 to June 2007. During that period, the country was prohibited from mining, transiting and exporting diamonds.
In the late 1990s, Revolutionary United Front (RUF) rebels initiated a brutal civil war in Sierra Leone that left more than 50,000 dead and thousands of amputees. Sierra Leone is supposedly now at peace, exporting about $158 million worth of diamonds in 2016.
Angola’s civil war has resulted in the death and maiming of millions. Rebels from the National Union for the Total Independence of Angola (UNITA) generated almost $4 billion from blood diamonds between 1992 and 1999. Given the high-quality of Angola diamonds, one has to wonder whether the Kimberley Process has truly cleansed the blood diamond trade.
During the war in the Republic of Congo, hundreds of millions of dollars’ worth of blood diamonds used to be smuggled out of the country each year. Conflict diamonds have resulted in 2.5 million deaths plus millions of wounded, disabled and homeless victims including widows and orphans.
Stopping Blood Diamonds
The Kimberley Process has 54 participants representing 81 countries. A number of measures were agreed upon to strengthen the fight against the blood diamond trade. Specifically, the KP plenary agreed to:
- Publish the names of participants which habitually fail to submit statistics
- Highlight requirements related to handling illegal shipments
- Improve statistical data gathering and analysis
- Make oversight of the global diamond industry more effective.
After reviewing the Kimberley Process website, we noticed that the most telling findings and statistics about the blood diamond trade are restricted to participating nations only. Consumers who buy diamonds need to see more facts and statistics about conflict diamonds, and must demand to see Kimberley Process certificates before buying any diamond.
Only when a significant number of jewelry clients insist on seeing proof that diamonds do not come from conflict diamond countries will deadly blood diamond exports decrease.
Globalwitness.org – Zimbabwe: The state, the security forces, and a decade of disappearing diamonds