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How is it possible that a tiny, carbon based stone could effect the lives of millions upon millions of Africans, as well as the economies of numerous African nations so drastically?

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How is it possible that a tiny, carbon based stone could effect the lives of millions upon millions of Africans, as well as the economies of numerous African nations so drastically? The answer lies within human nature and our infatuation with these so called, "valuable," pieces of Earth. To own a diamond is the dream of countless people through out the world, but what most are not aware of, is the price that could have been paid to bring the gem to their hands. Innumerable innocent civilians have lost their lives; just so that special someone can look good for the night. Not all diamonds that come out of Africa are from areas in conflict, but it is estimated that up to 10-15% of the world's rough diamonds do. (NY Times) This is a scary statistic that should make a potential diamond purchasers think before he or she buys. In many parts of Africa, diamonds are the only means of industry. There are mines controlled by the governments, rebel groups and at the same time poor and desperate Africans dig through rocks in streams, hoping to find that one diamond that will feed their families for the week. Despite all of the violence and brutality, sales of diamonds actually rose 11% in 1999. In fact, Americans buy over half of the worlds diamond jewelry. (NY Times) These statistics point to the fact that most of the world is ignorant to the violence and brutality occurring constantly in nations such as Angola, Sierra Leone, and Liberia. Yet while diamonds fuel conflict in these countries, they fuel the stable economies in countries such as Namibia and Botswana. "Angola has the potential to be a wealthy developed African nation since it possesses large petroleum and diamond reserves, but due to nearly four decades of war, remains to be seriously underdeveloped." (Lewis) The nation of Angola is perhaps the most conflicted region in the whole continent.


In fact it is recommended by the government that foreign companies establishing themselves in Sierra Leone to provide their own protection. "The resurgence of internal warfare in 1999 brought another substantial drop in GDP. The fate of the economy in 2000 depends on the mid-1999 peace accord holding and the rebels reopening territory under their control." (CIA Fact Book) There is much debate over what should be done, security wise, in Sierra Leone. This diamond rich country could potentially become extremely prosperous if the proper policing was available. Organizations such as EO could be very helpful to the economy of Sierra Leone if they were permanently placed to hold rebel groups back from the new diamond producing businesses. Due to the fact that there is not a monopoly company in Sierra Leone, such as DeBeers, there is plenty of opportunity for smaller firms to establish themselves. "In the absence of a governmental capacity for self-protection, and in the absence of effective mechanisms for international protection, private security firms and mercenaries may be seen by some as the way of the future." (PACNET) There are other steps being taken in order to calm the situation in Sierra Leone. "[U.N. Security] Council members made the remarks in a statement following the first periodic closed-door review of a resolution adopted July 5 [2000] calling on all states to prohibit the import of all rough diamonds from Sierra Leone until the government comes up with a U.N.-approved certificate-of-origin regime." (CNN) This plan will hopefully prevent the RUF from making profits off their illegally mined 'blood diamonds.' Another country that is involved in these diamond wars is Liberia. It is thought that the Liberian government has been involved in illegal activities dealing with the trade of arms for diamonds. The president of Liberia, Charles Taylor, has been accused of supporting the RUF for some time now. Taylor has been blamed for trying to profit from the civil war in Sierra Leone.


In conclusion, diamonds are a fuel for both economic prosperity and at the same time drive other economies into the ground. Countries such as Angola, Sierra Leone, and Liberia have suffered immensely as a consequence of being diamond rich regions, while nations such as Botswana and Namibia have become extremely stable economically. When it comes down to the basic question of how diamonds affect an economy, an answer is not easily found. Possibly the determining factor is the control of diamond trade. In countries such as Namibia strict government control has keep smuggling and illegal mining almost completely out of the picture. Nations such as Sierra Leone, which have extremely minimal policing of diamond traffic, smuggling and illegal mining, have led brutal civil wars. A disturbing reality is that many people worldwide are not aware of the conflicts going on in these nations. Such violence and brutality should not go unnoticed by the global community. If more people were aware of the situation, action could be easily taken to solve the problems. These wars have been going on too long, and too many lives have been sacrificed for these rocks. Monopoly companies such as DeBeers do not help the struggle one bit. In fact they aid civil dispute by engaging in illegal activities as well. "If De Beers were to take a greater interest in countries like Sierra Leone, and if it were to stop purchasing large amounts of diamonds from countries with a negligible production base, much could be done to end the current high levels of theft and smuggling." (PACNET) Companies such as these overlook the conflict they often cause, just so they can make that extra money. The economic future looks quite grim for Angola, Sierra Leone, and Liberia. If they are to convert to economically sound nations it will take time and action. Strict policing must be implemented and rebel groups must be taken out of the picture. When one thinks about the value of a diamond, it does not seem worth the amount of lives that have been sacrificed for it.

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