IR344 Research Paper

IR344 Research Paper - 1 Although deeply revered throughout...

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Although deeply revered throughout the world for their timeless elegance, diamonds are the source of great conflict and brutal violence. As a natural resource, diamonds can be viewed as either a blessing or a curse. Sierra Leone, regarded as one of the poorest nations in the world, is endowed with great quantities of the gem. Although diamonds are merely small pieces of carbon with virtually no intrinsic value, the barter and trade of the stone fueled a devastating civil war in West Africa’s Sierra Leone between 1991-2002. The illicit diamond industry stripped Sierra Leone of potential economic success, and financed rebel groups to terrorize the country through human rights abuses, murder, rape and ambush. Although a complex topic that requires hundreds of pages of analysis, I will attempt to provide a general overview of the role smuggled diamonds played in the civil war in Sierra Leone. Furthermore, I hope to demonstrate the way in which the impacts of such an industry have serious implications for the lack of development in Sierra Leone. Sierra Leone’s “conflict” or “blood diamonds” fuel violence and human rights abuses, hindering the country from any political, economic or socio-cultural development. However, there is a circular relationship, as the lack of growth exacerbates the existence of war and horrendous human rights violations in the region. Sierra Leone, like other African countries such as Angola and the Democratic Republic of the Congo, is endowed with diamonds as a plentiful natural resource. However, simply because a country is blessed with such resources does not necessarily imply its ability to control, utilize and distribute them responsibly. Diamonds originating from war zones are known as “conflict diamonds” or “blood diamonds,” due to the illegal and inhumane manner in which they are extracted, produced, and exported. The United 1
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Nations defines conflict diamonds as “ 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.” (Anna Frangipani Campino, Security Council Affairs Division, the United Nations ) The first diamond in Sierra Leone was discovered in 1930 and significant production of the gem commenced in 1935. (Smillie, 26) However, diamond mining was under British control exclusively between 1935 until 1956. The Sierra Leone Selection Trust (SLST), part of the powerful De Beers cartel, established a complete monopoly over the industry at this time. Sierra Leoneans were not legally permitted to mine their own diamonds. As a result of such exclusive mining rights, illegal mining rose sharply in the 1950s, “with perhaps as many as 70,000 illicit diggers by 1953.” (Keen, 12) As foreign businesses exploited their diamond fields, local Sierra Leoneans began to harbor sentiments of deep resentment. They then actively
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IR344 Research Paper - 1 Although deeply revered throughout...

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