Roger Weller, geology instructor
Conflict diamonds are diamonds illegitimately trafficked to finance terror in war-torn regions, especially in central and western Africa. The United Nations’ definition of conflict diamonds is as follows: “Conflict diamonds are diamonds that originate from areas controlled by forces or factions opposed to legitimate and internationally recognized governments, and are used to fund military action in opposition to those governments, or in contravention of the decisions of the Security Council.” Most recently, such diamonds are referred to as “blood diamonds”.
While the wars in
Sierra Leone and Angola are now concluded, and combating in the Democratic
Republic of the Congo has decreased, the crisis of conflict diamonds has not
ceased to exist. Diamonds mined in rebel controlled areas in Cote d’Ivoire, a
West African country in the center of an explosive tension, are reaching the
international diamond market. Conflict diamonds from Liberia are also being
illegally transported into neighboring regions and exported as falsely apart of
the legitimate diamond trade.
FIGURE 2: 14-year-old Adaman Kamara lost both her hands to rebels during Sierra Leone's civil war, which was funded in part by conflict diamonds in the 1990s
Conflict diamonds caught the world’s attention during the tremendously vicious conflict in Sierra Leone throughout the late 1990s. For the duration of this time, conflict diamonds accounted for 4% of the world’s diamond production. Illegitimate diamonds have also been exploited by rebels to fund conflicts in regions such as, Angola, Liberia, Ivory Coast, the Democratic Republic of Congo and the Republic of Congo.
Some African countries that generate diamonds have countless rebels who have historically utilized the diamonds to fund conflict. These countries are now making a conscious effort to eliminate the business of harvesting and trading illegitimate diamonds. The participants from several countries are members of the Kimberley Process.
The Kimberley Process
is a multiparty government, industry and civil society proposal to halt the
surge of conflict diamonds. In July of 2000, the universal diamond industry
made it understandable to the international society of its zero tolerance policy
concerning conflict diamonds. Therefore, dedicating its purpose to eliminating
the exchange of conflict diamonds, it worked in collaboration with the United
Nations, both governments and non-governmental organizations. Also included are
Global Witness and Partnership Africa Canada to develop the Kimberley Process
Certification System. This system was officially embraced in 2003 with the
intention of guarding against conflict diamonds entering the legitimate diamond
supply series. The diamond industry also implemented a voluntary System of
Warranties to promise consumers that their diamonds originate free of conflict.
FIGURE 3: A diamond merchant shows his wares June 15, 2001 in Kenema, Sierra Leone. Despite its pledge to support the Kimberley Process and Clean Diamond Trade Act, the Diamond Industry has fallen short of implementing the necessary policies for self-regulation. © Chris Hondros/Getty Images.
Global Witness’ ‘Combating Conflict Diamonds’ campaign, commenced in 1998, it uncovered the role of diamonds in financially supporting conflict. This put the diamond business, formerly masked in concealment, into the international focus. Developing international demands from Global Witness and other NGOs mandated that governments and the diamond exchange take immediate action to abolish the trade of conflict diamonds.
Past reports have surfaced alleging possible links between al-Qaeda and the illicit trade in “blood diamonds” purchased from rebel groups in Africa. The immeasurable amounts of money and weapons traded in return for the diamonds have facilitated some of the bloodiest and most unimaginable civil wars in Africa.
During the period of the 1998 bombings of the United States’ embassies in Kenya and Tanzania, al-Qaeda purportedly transferred cash into high-value commodities, including diamonds. Countless participants of al-Qaeda’s exclusive group purchased diamonds in Liberia and from Revolutionary United Front rebels in Sierra Leone, according to research conducted by various media outlets.
The repositioning into diamonds occurred as al-Qaeda’s assets were frozen. A great deal of verification originates from Western intelligence reports and from the trials of al-Qaeda suspects post September 11, 2001; as well as the bombings of the United States’ embassies in East Africa.
Global Witness has estimated that al-Qaeda unlawfully acquired $20 million through buying diamonds. Hezbollah, a Shiite Muslim organization associated to Lebanese protesters, utilized diamonds to obtain financial funds. Israel attempted to prohibit associations in Sierra Leone.
The Unites States became a part of the movement to combat the illegal harvesting and sale of conflict diamonds. On January 18, 2001, President Clinton produced Executive Order 14194 which forbids the importation of rough diamonds from Sierra Leone into the United States in agreement with the United Nation’s declaration. On May 22, 2001, President Bush created Executive Order 13213 which legitimately restricted rough diamond smuggling from Liberia into the United States. Liberia has been acknowledged by the United Nations as substituting as a venue for conflict diamonds from Sierra Leone.
The United States
endorsed the Clean Diamond Trade Act on April 25, 2003 and produced the
Executive Order 13312 on July 29, 2003. The Clean Diamond Trade Act established
the legislation to execute all laws in accordance with the agreement created by
the United Nations.
Existing principles of conflict free diamonds insist on an origin certified to be free from human rights abuses, violence, environmental destruction or child labor. Conflict free diamonds must be freely tracked from their country and individual mine of origin with certification available.
The Conflict-Free Diamond Council incessantly supervises and inspects the diamond industry in pursuit of the paramount practices that guarantee diamonds are conflict-free. The following are guidelines created by the Conflict-Free Diamond Council to help consumers verify the legal authenticity of a diamond. The guidelines are as follows:
· The diamond must be mined, cut, and polished in the same region or territory without crossing any national borders.
· The diamond must be laser engraved with a serial number, then scanned and recorded in a confidential, centralized database.
· The diamond must pass through a stringent monitoring system.
· The facilities where the diamond is mined, cut and polished must adhere to global labor and fair wage laws and must employ local residents.
· The diamond must have a certificate from the regional government program certifying that the diamond was mined, cut and polished in that area.
In conclusion, it is possible to discontinue the harvesting and sales of conflict diamonds. Countless countries and regions have joined to effort to abolish the brutal and sadistic process of acquiring diamonds and the ill intended sales of conflict diamonds.