Until the year 1998, diamonds were known as “a girl’s best friend” mainly because of their ability to captivating and alluring sparkle and beauty. They gained international recognition as a symbol of love, marriage, romance, purity, and wealth. For centuries, diamonds contributed heavily in the jewelry industry as they were used to make fine jewelry including rings, bracelets, and necklaces for women across the globe (Davidson 9). In all these centuries, diamonds have always been valued as an exceptionally lucrative, expensive, and rare commodity. Apart from their captivating sparkle, diamonds also have the highest thermal conductivity and rigidity as compared to any other metal or stone across the world.
However, most of the diamonds in the market have an ugly origin marked with bloodshed and unending suffering for innocent people. These diamonds account for over 25% of the diamonds in the current market (Le Billon 219). In 1998, the British non-governmental Global Witness organization brought to light the link between diamonds and tremendous suffering in most parts of Africa in a report titled A Rough Trade. This led to most diamonds from Africa being known as “conflict diamonds” or “blood diamonds.” According to the United Nations, conflict diamonds refer to all diamonds whose origin is African regions controlled by factions and powers that oppose legitimate governments that are internationally recognized (Davidson 12). This argumentative essay argues that conflict diamonds have primarily contributed to the violation of human rights and that the Kimberly Process should reexamine its definition of conflict diamonds to ensure all diamonds are conflict-free.
Why Conflict Diamonds Are Bad and Possible Alternatives to Them
According to the report published by the British NGO, diamonds have been used to fund weapons and support violence in war zone regions in Africa. These regions include the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Angola, Liberia, Sierra Leone, and Cote d’Ivoire (Davidson 17). Since the beginning of the 20th century, illegal international traders bought diamonds illegally in exchange for a significant supply of weapons to African rebellion groups (Le Billon 223). These groups which include the Revolutionary United Front in Sierra Leone, Liberians United for Reconciliation and Development and the New Forces rebel group in Cote d’Ivoire use force children, disadvantaged men, and women to bow to their demands using violence.
Most of the blood diamonds are stolen while being shipped to various international countries. The rebellious groups seize others during legal mining operations from legitimate and licensed miners while others are produced through forced labor provided by captured and oppressed women, men, and children (Le Billon 219). These blood diamonds are then smuggled into the international diamond market and traded as legitimate diamonds. Research shows that most of the weapons traders and dishonest diamond sellers facilitate the inhuman activities of these violent, rebellious acts in these African regions.
The Blood Diamonds in Sierra Leone
Conflict diamonds in Sierra Leone influenced a wide range of social implications to the country and led to the downfall of the social structure in Sierra Leone. Revolutionary United Front (RUF) captured both children and miserable adults and forced them to work long hours in the diamond mines. The RUF also used child soldiers to wage war against the Sierra Leone government (Howard 139). This rebel group kidnapped children at an extremely young age and taught them how to use guns. Most of these children are radicalized and can comfortably shoot at and kill government officers as well as civilians. According to research, poverty creates a huge opportunity for labor exploitation in Sierra Leone (Le Billon 225). More so, the problems created by the high poverty levels create loopholes for other malicious people and groups to profit out of the misery of other disadvantaged individuals. Being a Third-World country, vast populations of individuals living in Sierra Leone live in extreme poverty as they live from hand to mouth (Howard 139). As such, the RUF initially seemed to be a helpful group fighting for the rights of the citizens but turned out to be very cruel as it took complete advantage over the civilians.
The Revolutionary United Front forcefully and purposely took charge of the daily lives of helpless children and adults, regardless of what the cost was to make sure they had a competitive advantage over the government (Le Billon 231). The RUF never paid all the individuals working in the diamond mines or involved in smuggling of the conflict diamonds Individuals, instead, they had to comply with the rules and regulations set by this group or risk being killed. The terrorist acts carried out by the RUF had both national and international social implications (Howard, 141). Children who were forced to become child soldiers were ordered to hunt down and murder their friends and family members to show loyalty to the group. The amount of mental and psychological trauma that came with being a soldier in the RUF ultimately ruined the lives of many children forever. Civilians also live in constant worry because they are never sure whether they will live long enough to see the light of a new dawn.
The conflict diamond industry in Sierra Leone has resulted in a series of chain events which have dramatically altered the landscape and environment the West African countries. Firstly, the extensive diamond mining activities that have been taken place have negatively affected Sierra Leone’s landscape (Le Billon 254). The mining of illegal diamonds has led to the loss of plant resources as well as the extinction of unique wildlife habitats due to the destruction of vegetation (Howard 153). More so, rebel groups such as the RUF have taken over large portions of the land to meet the demands of the Blood Diamond industry. This means that areas that should be used for agriculture are dug up and degraded, along with fertile forestry areas leading to less food production and desertification. At an international level, the conflict diamond industry in Sierra Leone has contributed to Global warming which is afflicting nations across the world.
Blood Diamonds in the Democratic Republic of the Congo
The Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) prides itself in the enormous reserves of gold, copper, gems, cobalt, timber, as well as uranium (Burnett 28). Nonetheless, the most valuable resource in this country is the large diamond reserves and the pillar to the DRC’s economic development. Unfortunately, although DRC is ranked among the largest diamond exporters across the world the country is also one of the least developed nations in the world. The DRC diamond reserves directly correlate to the instabilities and sufferings experienced in the country. According to the United Nations, the mining of diamonds plays a significant role in the constant civil wars in DRC because the money collected from selling conflict diamonds is used to fund rebel forces that terrorize most parts of the region (Burnett 31). Bloody wars characterize DRC as different political parties, and illegal militaries seek to expand and maintain their authority over the region. According to the UN, the main reason why diamonds are the primary source of financing the rebel groups is that diamonds yield high revenue per unit weight, can be used instead of hand currency exchange, are accessible in all segments and are easy to smuggle and transport.
Rebel groups such as Congolese MLC rebel group and the RCD-Goma take advantage of the diamond industry to fund its illegal activities in DRC. These rebel groups smuggle and traffic conflict diamonds through the Central African Republic. The Central African Republic serves as the largest base for criminal activities as it provides weapons in exchange for diamonds to most of the rebel groups in DRC (Omeje 156). The trafficking of illegal diamonds largely violates human rights due to the bloody wars and child trafficking and also seriously impairs the economic development of the country. Large sums of revenues that are generated by state-owned miners such as Societéminière de Bakwanga (MIBA) are never sent to the state treasury but are channeled into the hands of an elite group of government officials who enrich themselves at the expense of the country’s development. The increased poverty levels and the low standard of living among the Congolese societies only lure them to join the illegal diamond trade thus facilitating civil wars.
Although MIBA is an illegal diamond company that is protected by the government, it has to employ over 1,300 security guards provide security in the diamond mines (Omeje 158). Regardless of such efforts, security challenges remain an alarming problem given that over a thousand rebels and illegal traders attempt to sneak into the mines illegally every night. Only an insignificant number of these rebels who sneak into the mines are arrested though security competence is largely to blame for this problem. More so, most of the security guards in the MIBA mines lack any form of training which makes it hard for them to protect the mines. Additionally, the security force requires effectiveness because of widespread corruption among the security guards. Most of the rebel personnel and illegal traders who gain access to the mining sites do so through the assistance from security guards in exchange for blood money or a portion of the mined diamonds (Omeje 158). In DRC, security guards are prone to corruption because of the poverty level such corruption attracts a considerable amount of money.
Nonetheless, the considerable amount of power that a security guard yields often results in a serious violation of human rights violations. Every month, hundreds of illegal miners are seriously injured or killed by security guards given that some of the trespassers are unarmed. Under such circumstances, shooting and killing illegal miners is a serious violation of human rights.
Blood Diamonds in Angola
By the end of 2001, over 500,000 individuals had been killed because of diamonds in Angola. More so over 1 million people had been displaced over the same by the Union for the Total Independence of Angola (UNITA) (Cook 211). UNITA is a rebel group in Angola that has waged war against legal, political parties such as the Liberation of Angola (MPLA) since 1974. Between 1992-98, UNITA engaged in illegal mining of diamonds to fund its war against the government. This rebel group used diamond money to buy weapons and train soldiers who included children. This rebel group has caused tremendous suffering through terrorism for the last 27 years. Statistics show that UNITA sold blood diamonds worth $3.72 billion to facilitate their actions (Cook 116). After Angola’s Security Council recognized the evil behind UNITA’s success, it adopted many resolutions to undermine the illegal diamond trade. Some of these resolutions included the Lusaka Protocol, the Act of 1997, and the Act of 1998. However, these Acts did little in controlling the rebel groups from terrorizing civilians or engaging in the trade of blood diamonds.
In 2011, Marques de Morais published an article known as Blood Diamonds: Torture and Corruption in Angola. In this book, the author details over 500 cases of torture and 100 murders that had been perpetrated by Angolan soldiers as well as the guards in the private mining companies. Although this article provoked the anger of powerful business interests and various Angolan generals it shows how conflict diamonds have led to the sufferings of many individuals and families in Angola (Cook 109). Since 1912 to present, the history of diamond exploration has been marked by serious acts of terrorism in Angola, only registering shifts in ideological motivations in justifying the same recurring crimes. From the colonialism period, through the Marxist-Leninist period to the present, attempts of undermining blood diamonds and establishing a legal market economy have always been faced with the same cruelty and abuse of human rights by the government, private miners, and rebel groups. Unlike other nations where the blood diamonds exist, the private commercial interests, as well as the official state entities, have always established common strategies to optimize diamond production and the profits, based on physical abuse of innocent civilians, and socio-economic exploitation of the local workforce and communities.
Establishment of the Kimberly Process
Horrified by The Rough Trade report, the United Nations, as well as other NGOs across the world, began strategizing various ways of controlling the diamond industry by imposing various agreements that would provide the traders with certifications proving the source of their diamonds as a legitimate source (Bieri 196). This led to a certification process that has been known as the Kimberly process which was established in 2003 (Davidson 11). The certification would show that the diamonds were legally produced, exported and sold via legal channels approved by various authorities and that they in no way connected to the conflict diamonds that aid terrorism in Africa or promote violence in rebel regions.
The Kimberly Process aimed at helping to eliminate the illegal diamond market thus limiting financial access to the rebel groups. This process banned the diamonds produced in all conflict regions as they regarded them as illegally produced diamonds and therefore not to be bought by any legal dealers or diamond producers across the globe (Bieri 198). The Kimberly process demands that legal diamonds be provided with certifications that enable various producers to ascertain that the diamonds are not linked to the illegal diamond trade. Also, retail customers are encouraged to for certification papers upon purchasing diamonds from the sellers. Since its establishment, the Kimberly process has primarily reduced the number of conflict diamonds smuggled to the international market.
In essence, the Kimberly process was not established political purposes but for humanitarian reasons. Apart from controlling the illegal diamond trade, this initiative also supports African societies by offering financial aid and empowers their healthcare systems and education in numerous ways (Davidson 17). However, given that 65% of the international diamonds come from Africa, officials managing the Kimberly process believe banning the diamond trade in Africa is not a viable solution because diamond trade helps to develop these countries (Bieri 198). The officials feel that developing the education system and enrolling more students as well as guiding African societies in these areas with humanitarian regulations and laws will help them to prosper this suppressing the illegal diamond trade. Most of the countries that suffered from civil wars before the Kimberly process certification was initiated are now enjoying the peace and some stability and can access healthcare services and improved educational services.
Although the Kimberly Process has been highly recommended for its incredible success in suppressing the conflict diamond trade, most critics assert that certification process has many loopholes that allow conflict diamonds to enter the international market legally (Howard 146). According to research, it is currently straightforward for diamonds to slip into the global market any country across the world and still have all the certification needed to assure the diamonds are conflict-free. The first flaw of the Kimberly Process lies in the definition of a conflict diamonds. The certification process specifically defines a blood diamond as a rough diamond that is used by rebel groups and their allies to fund armed civil wars with a goal to undermine legitimate governments. The flaw with this definition can be perfectly illustrated through the Angolan or Zimbabwean nations where governments’ murder and torture both legal and illegal workers working in the mining sites (Howard, 139). However, their diamonds still enter the international market because they are certified as conflict-free by the Kimberley Process.
To be effective, the Kimberly Process needs to examine its definition of blood diamonds critically and employ strict sanctions against governments that torture and murder its citizens because of the diamonds. From the current definition, conflict-free diamonds are only guaranteed to enter the market through a particular type of conflict thus failing to prevent human rights violation entirely.
The second flaw of the certification process is that it is difficult and sometimes even impossible to track the exact origin of an individual diamond. The Kimberley Process only succeeds in tracking batches of diamonds as opposed to individual gems. Before reaching the certification process, diamonds change hands up to over 30 times and every time one buyer buys the gems, and there is a possibility that an unknown gem has been sneaked into the batch (Rush, & Rozell 102). Even though the Kimberley Process bans various countries that do not adhere to its standards from exporting diamonds, their gems are still smuggled across borders and then sold as certified gems.
As such buyers have a responsibility of helping the Kimberly Process in the fight against blood diamonds. Buyers should ignore all praises about how ethical a seller is. Instead, one should ask for documentation and be able to give details of the country where the diamond was obtained. Although the sellers may offer approved documentation, anyone on them who dodges the question is suspicious and should be investigated.
More so, retailers and individual shoppers should expect to pay more for conflict-free diamonds. Consumers should insist on buying diamonds from African counties such as Botswana and Namibia as they uphold human rights. These diamonds are likely to cost more because they passed through the right channels and have been taxed. Otherwise, diamonds from Angola and Zimbabwe are backdoor gems which have not been taxed, and retailers will be willing to sell them cheaply. Buyers must be very careful as no person would wish to propose with a blood diamond or gift their loved ones with diamonds resulting from the suffering of thousands of lives.
Currently, the diamond industry has employed over 10 million individuals and helps to bring growth and development in places where the trade is conducted legally. As such, if the diamond trade in these African countries is banned as completely illegal millions of people will lose their employment and most of the rebel groups will find other means to find their terrorist activities (Bieri 206). However, supporting and embracing the Kimberly Process by all countries internationally can convert slavery into legal jobs as well as smuggling into respected commerce.
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Burnett, M. Troy, ed. Natural Resource Conflicts: From Blood Diamonds to Rainforest Destruction [2 volumes]: From Blood Diamonds to Rainforest Destruction. ABC-CLIO, 2016: 23-87
Cook, Christopher R. “Diamonds are forever? Press coverage of African conflicts and the Westphalian filter of resource wars.” Journal of African Media Studies 8.2 (2016): 109-266.
Davidson, Nigel. The Lion that Didn’t Roar: Can the Kimberley Process Stop the Blood Diamonds Trade?. ANU Press, 2016: 2-21
Howard, Audrie. “Blood Diamonds: The Successes and Failures of the Kimberley Process Certification Scheme in Agnola, Sierra Leone, and Zimbabwe.” Wash. U. Global Stud. L. Rev. 15 (2016): 137-315.
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Omeje, Kenneth. “Rentier Politics and Low-Intensity Conflicts in the DRC: The Case of Kasai and Katanga Provinces.” Extractive Economies and Conflicts in the Global South.Routledge, 2017.153-166.
Rush, Savannah J., and Elizabeth J. Rozell. “A Rough Diamond: The Perils of the Kimberley Process.” Archives of Business Research 5.11 (2017): 98-211