The sparkling wonders called diamonds are the world’s most cherished and prized possessions. Who could have ever imagined that these glittering jewels have had a macabre history, rooted in bloodshed, especially in Central and Western Africa? Here, rebellious groups and warlords illegally traded diamonds to finance wars and conflicts against established governments. The earnings from these illicit diamonds were used to finance conflicts in Angola, Liberia, Ivory Coast, the Democratic Republic of Congo, and others in the 1990s. Hence, these African diamonds came to be known as conflict diamonds or blood diamonds.
Some historical facts about conflict diamonds
- In the 1990s, the world market was flooded with African conflict diamonds, which were being traded in the underground market.
- The African scenario was characterized by many conflicts launched by rebels, factions and even warlords. The common man was forced to be a part of this gruesome design. Even children were exploited beyond imagination and had to work in inhuman conditions to extract diamonds for these hardcore criminals. The revenues from these blood diamonds financed these conflicts.
- Angola, finally free from Portuguese domination in 1975, witnessed many uprisings since 1974. Popular Movement for the Liberation of Angola (MPLA), Union for the Total Independence of Angola (UNITA) and National Liberation Front of Angola (FNLA) were actively involved in a civil war that started in 1974, and culminated in 2001. UNITA had traded in illegal diamonds worth US$3.72 billion during the period 1992 to 1998. This astronomical sum was diverted to funding the rebels.
- Liberia was also involved in a gory civil war from 1989 to 2001. The then Liberian President, Charles G. Taylor, supported the Revolutionary United Front, which was actively involved in dreadful and inhuman terrorist activities in Sierra-Leone, a neighbor. The President aided the rebels with weapons and warfare training and techniques in return for the blood diamonds.
Steps taken to eradicate conflict diamonds
Alarmed by the influx of African conflict diamonds, the UN Security Council adopted and passed a resolution in 1998, imposing a ban on buying diamonds from Angola.
The World Diamond Congress came up with a resolution in 2000 that empowered the diamond industry to stop the sales of conflict diamonds. The resolution envisaged:
- International certificates to be issued on the import and export of diamonds
- Only sealed and tamper-proof packages of diamonds should be used
- Right to charge trading in conflict diamonds as a criminal offence
- A ban to be imposed on anyone involved in trading of these illicit diamonds
The governments of 69 countries adopted the Kimberly Process Certification Scheme to uphold human rights and justice. These measures have resulted in 99% of global diamonds being certified as non conflict diamonds.
Conflict free diamonds have benefited millions of people. The income generated by this sector has facilitated healthcare facilities, free education and also resulted in the elevation of the standard of living for the common man.