Conflict Diamonds in Sierra Leone

Essay by istealpants February 2009

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The UN definition of a conflict diamond or blood diamond is one that originates from areas controlled by forces or factions opposed to legitimate and internationally recognized governments and is used to fund military action in opposition to those governments. Sierra Leone diamonds are well-known among the jewelry world to be one of the best quality diamonds available today. With such a great natural resource you’d imagine that the country would have a strong economy, but it’s actually just the opposite, the diamonds have wreaked havoc over Sierra Leone for many years. The first diamond was found in Sierra Leone in the 1930s. Since then, it’s been nothing but brutality and violence in the country. In 1968, Siaka Stevens became the prime minister of Sierra Leone, and would be the first politician in Sierra Leone to realize how much power could be gained from controlling the diamonds. He made a large personal and political profit out of illegal diamond mining and trading and in the ensuing years, more and more diamonds started being exported illegally rather than through legal means.

In 1991, the Revolutionary United Front (RUF) attacked and argued that their goal was to combat crime and corruption but it soon became clear that their main aim was to take control of the diamond mines. Preying mostly on civilians, the RUF would take prisoners and enslave them to work in the diamond mines. The work conditions were horrible and they were usually punished for not working hard enough by amputation or mutilation in order to scare others who saw them afterwards. Once they had control of the diamonds, they used them to fund their rebellion and torture throughout Sierra Leone. This was really when the term blood diamond came about.

Even though in the past decade the United Nations...