Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Conflict diamonds in Africa- an illegal money spindle,big bucks and names involved

On first december 2000,the United Nations General assembly unanimously recognized the role of conflict diamonds or blood diamonds in fueling wars and illegal sales of weapons.In 2003,a UN initiative called the Kimberley process vowed to end this illicit relationship between smuggling of diamonds and purchase of arms. The Kimberley process was designed to certify the origin of rough diamonds from sources which are free of conflict.It also prevented local warring factions from financing their wars by means of an illegal diamond trade.

Blood diamonds or conflict diamonds

Conflict diamonds first captured the world's attention during the brutal conflict in Sierra-Leone during the late 90's. Rebel groups such as the National Union for the Total Independence of Angola (UNITA) and the Revolutionary United Front (RUF) took control of diamond mines and used forced labour or slave labour to dig and scavenge for diamonds. These diamonds were then sold at a handsome profit to jewelry and luxury goods companies. It is suspected that Cartier, Bloomigdale's, Bulgari and Harry Winston were all part of this trade though it is very difficult to prove so as it becomes impossible to prove the origin of a diamond once it is cut and 'cleaned'. Top notch companies also bought blood diamonds in bulk quantities and stored them in underground vaults so as to keep the demand(and subsequently,the prices) at a perennial high.

The money earned by the rebel groups in this manner was channelized into several other illegal activities,particularly (in procuring) arms and ammunition. Entire cities and towns were bombed and many innocent civilians killed in the subsequent gunfire. Those who survived the battering were taken in-the young boys were recruited as troops in the RUF(they were young and could be trained and brainwashed),the strong adult men in their prime were used as 'hands' in the diamond mines. The onslaught continued and sent the African economy reeling-unable to cope with turbulent conditions.

Thus a continuos cycle of exchange and trade-a supply and demand chain was setup between the diamond  trade and arms and ammunition trade-both flourished financially and the sale of one fed the other-a symbiotic relationship was setup. Arms were used in battles to secure mines and diamonds were used to procure arms.


Nearly 136,00 kg or 130 million karats of gem stones are sold each year,earning annual profits of over $26 billion.Of this figure a minimum of 4% is netted from the sale of blood diamonds.

Though the Kimberley process has in a long way stanched Africa's bleeding,it has not completely eradicated blood diamonds-they continue to be sold.

A fact: Surat is the center of the world's diamond cutting and polishing industry. Ninety-two percent of the world's diamonds are crafted here. It continues to remain the single largest passage for blood diamonds.

A suggestion - watch the movie Blood Diamond for a comprehensive take on the subject.

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