Diamond mines in politically unstable parts of central and western African countries are controlled by few revolutionary groups and where innocent human lives are subjected to torture, terrorism, violence and human rights abuse and in many cases the ultimate prices - death. For years, diamonds have been mined, cut and polished at the cost of a human life, injury, pain, grave injustice, human rights abuses, child labor, violence, or environmental degradation in many parts of Africa.
As the journalist Douglas Farah writes, "Diamonds are valuable as currency in this conflict diamond trade for numerous reasons. They are easy to transport, easy to sell and retain their value over time. They do not rot and do not need to be held in special conditions".
"Stop Blood Diamonds" is an organization pledged to stopping the exploitation of the diamond trade by human rights abusers. Blood diamonds, often called conflict diamonds, are mined in war torn African countries by rebels to fund their conflict. The rebels grossly abuse human rights, often murdering and enslaving the local populations to mine the diamonds.
These rebel groups in Africa sell diamonds from these mines to fund their operations and these diamonds are called conflict or blood diamonds. The public concerns about the purchase of such diamonds leading to war and human rights abuses the diamond industry introduced the Kimberley Process in 2002. This process ensures that diamonds sold by such rebel groups are not sold along with other diamonds. The Kimberley process provides documentation and certification of diamond exports from diamond producing countries to ensure that the proceeds of sale are not being used to fund criminal or revolutionary activities.
Having such strict procedures also does not help curb the blood diamond trade to the fullest extent. Approximately 2% of diamonds traded today are possible conflict diamonds. This is due to the relative ease of smuggling diamonds across African borders and violent nature of diamond mining in nations which are not in a technical state of war and whose diamonds are therefore considered “clean".
Conflict diamonds are called such because these come from countries that suffer from terrorism and human rights abuses. Several groups which want to control diamond trade in these countries have killed many innocents. Conflict diamonds are also called blood diamonds. The money earned by selling these diamonds is also used to fund such terrorist activities of these groups in West African countries like Angola, Sierra Leone, Ivory Coast, Democratic Republic of Congo and the Republic of Congo (also known as Congo Brazzaville) and Liberia.
During the late 1990’s, blood diamonds caught the world’s attention during the extremely brutal conflict in Sierra Leone. It was estimated that 4% of the diamonds traded during that time were conflict diamonds.
There was an important study done to shed light on the Sierra Leone tragedy. It exposes how diamonds - small pieces of carbon with no great intrinsic value - have been the cause of widespread death, destruction and misery for almost a decade in the small West African country of Sierra Leone. Through the 1990s, Sierra Leone’s rebel war became a tragedy of major humanitarian, political and historic proportions, but the story goes back further - almost 60 years, to the discovery of the diamonds.
The diamonds are, to use the title of Graham Greene’s classic 1948 novel about diamond smuggling in Sierra Leone, The Heart of the Matter. In the 1960s and 1970s, a weak post-independence democracy was subverted by despotism and state-sponsored corruption. Economic decline and military rule followed. The rebellion that began in 1991 was characterized by banditry and horrific brutality, wreaked primarily on civilians. Between 1991 and 1999, the war claimed over 75,000 lives, caused half a million Sierra Leoneans to become refugees, and displaced half of the country’s 4.5 million people.
In July 2000, the global diamond industry announced its zero-tolerance policy towards conflict diamonds and continues to drive this policy. Sierra Leone is now at peace and exported approximately $125 million diamonds in 2006.