Hillary Corgey" />
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Thursday, September 21, 2023


End dangerous diamond trade

The same cliched commercials run often, claiming a diamond is forever. The phrase "Diamonds are a girl’s best friend" is ingrained in our cultural memory. Diamond rings are considered a necessary component of a wedding. These overpriced chunks of carbon have an important place in Western society as status symbols and evidence of love. Despite this positive spin on diamonds, there are civil wars in Africa funded by the diamond trade.

It is claimed that Angola has the best diamonds in Africa. As a result of their valued status, they were used to fund a rebel group’s civil war. The National Union for the Total Independence of Angola went to war against the Popular Movement for the Liberation of Angola, the Marxist ruling party in the country.

UNITA used illegal immigrants to mine diamonds in the provinces of Lunda Sul and Lunda Norte. These workers are poorly paid and use their bare hands to dig up diamonds in riverbeds. Most of the diamonds were smuggled to Antwerp, one of the world’s biggest diamond markets.

As a result of UNITA’s monopoly on diamonds, Angolan corporation Endiama colluded with De Beers to keep the price of diamonds inflated. Almost $800 million went to UNITA’s hands as De Beers frantically bought up diamonds. Luzamba, a region lavish with diamonds, was given to Brazilian company OMS to mine. However, the UNITA thugs forced OMS to bargain with them.†

Sierra Leone’s nine-year civil war was partly supported by the illegal diamond trade. The Revolutionary United Front, a rebel group, took control of a diamond-rich area and frightened everyone with their atrocities, such as cutting off limbs of anyone in their way, including infants. Charles Taylor, a Liberian warlord and later president of Liberia, supplied arms for the RUF and benefited from the illegal diamond trade. The United Nations got involved a decade after the bloodshed started and placed a ban on Liberian diamonds, but could not enforce these sanctions. A year after the sanctions the UN finally sent peacekeepers but was not allowed to investigate RUF diamond mines. As many as 50,000 people were killed in the civil war, and the country was completely devastated.†

In 1999 a military coup destabilized Ivory Coast. The country had been mining diamonds because of a decline in cocoa prices, but the mining occurred at the same time as the Liberian and Sierra Leonean wars, interrupting the trade route. Rebels capitalized on the instability and made millions from the illegal diamond trade. Fortunately, the U.N. Security Council banned diamond exports, and mining was stopped.†

Despite the Clean Diamond Trade Act and Kimberley Process Certification Scheme, much still needs to be done about the "conflict diamond" trade before more wars commence.

According to a 2006 report from the U.S. Government Accountability Office, the U.S. does not inspect diamond imports or exports to see if they comply with the Kimberley Process and does not confirm shipments.

These "security measures" are nothing more than a public-relations stunt. Peace in diamond-rich areas can be illusory in the face of power struggles. There must be greater oversight for diamonds exported because these shiny clumps of carbon will always be in demand.

Corgey, a political science senior, can be reached via [email protected]

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