THE CHILD SOLDIERS AND BLOOD DIAMONDS OF SIERRA LEONE: HOW TO CREATE ECONOMIC TRANSPARENCY AND ACCOUNTABILITY by Kyler Hood

posted by Dr. James G. Hood
Friday, May 28, 2010

 THE CHILD SOLDIERS AND BLOOD DIAMONDS OF SIERRA LEONE: HOW TO CREATE ECONOMIC TRANSPARENCY AND ACCOUNTABILITY

  Introduction

            Television advertisements in the United States today overwhelm viewers with cutesy phrases such as “Every kiss begins with Kay” or “Diamonds are forever”, but the reality behind some of these expressions of love can be exceptionally tragic, usually violent. The World Press Review (1999) reports that “more than 300,000 girls—as well as boys—are forced to fight in wars throughout the world. Hundreds of thousands more are members of government armed forces and paramilitary groups”.[1] These groups of children are forced to commit extreme acts of violence and abuse drugs. Many victims report killing family members, randomly killing villagers, being raped or sexually violated in some way, and using drugs such as cocaine or alcohol.[2] Child soldiers, as they are called, are connected to international diamond trafficking in an extremely complex relationship. Since the illegal diamond trade and the conscription of child soldiers is so widespread, this discussion will focus on the forced recruitment of child soldiers in Sierra Leone and the corresponding international diamond trafficking in the black market. Diamonds sold illegally on the market from war torn areas are known as blood diamonds, war diamonds, hot diamonds, or conflict diamonds. Reported numbers of child soldiers vary, but researchers estimate that anywhere from 4,500 to 10,000 child soldiers fought in the civil war in Sierra Leone.[3] The illegal sale of diamonds contributes to the conscription of child soldiers because diamonds allow rebels like the Revolutionary United Front (RUF), the faction that invaded Sierra Leone in March of 1991, to finance operations and purchase arms. Controlling the illegal diamond may not stop the use of child soldiering, but it will significantly hurt the RUF’s ability to recruit child soldiers in order to mobilize and maintain their forces. Controlling the diamond trade needs to be a focal point for solving the problems created by the civil war between the RUF and the government of Sierra Leone and to prevent future wars in Sierra Leone; controlling the diamond trade in Sierra Leone will only be possible if countries in the international community and the United States work together to create economic transparency and accountability in the international diamond trade.

            In order to tackle the complex interrelationship of child soldiers and the illegal diamond trade, a reader must understand the geographical layout of diamonds in Sierra Leone; unfortunately, many diamond deposits are alluvial which makes them difficult to regulate. In addition, the conditions of the Sierra Leonean government made it weak and susceptible to foreign invasion, especially in regards to the regulation of the diamond industry. The history, motivations, and tactics employed by the Revolutionary United Front in order to recruit child soldiers and attempt to win the war also must be reviewed in order to understand the larger picture. Trading diamond for arms from Liberia was crucial for prolonging the war, and the diamonds for arms trade is only a small subset of the international diamond trading ring that has been operating in Sierra Leone since the 1930s. As the war in Sierra Leone progressed, the government of Sierra Leone became increasingly desperate, so they called in a security firm, Executive Outcomes, which created short term peace, but it actually created more long term problems for Sierra Leone. In 2001, the civil war in Sierra Leone finally ended, and peacekeepers led by the Economic Community of West African States Monitoring Group (ECOMOG) were set in place. Unfortunately, Nigerian members of the peacekeeping army were found to be maintaining a corrupt trade deal with the RUF, and they were sent home. The open border with the politically unstable Liberia offers the constant threat of invasion or arms smuggling. The illegal diamond trade also posed a direct threat to the international community. In light of all these problems for Sierra Leone, recommendations were made, and public outrage hastened the process. As a result of these deliberations the trafficking of blood diamonds was dramatically reduced; however, illegal trafficking still remains. As a result, the international community and the United States must continue to work together in order to ensure create economic transparency and accountability in the international diamond trade, so that nightmares like the use of child soldiers can be prevented.

Diamonds in Sierra Leone

            Diamonds are a valuable resource for the country of Sierra Leone because small amounts can bring substantial financial returns. The potential for lucrative diamond sales can be highly beneficial for Sierra Leone; however, it is also problematic because the high profit margins make the diamond industry a target for criminal activity.

 The geographical characteristics of the diamonds in Sierra Leone also pose social and environmental problems. In Sierra Leone, there are two types of diamond deposits: alluvial deposits and kimberlite dikes. Alluvial deposits are located in the west and central areas of Sierra Leone. Alluvial deposits are younger according to geological dating; therefore, they are more easily obtained in a process similar to gold panning. Retrieving this type of diamond is “precarious, tedious, poorly paid and unhealthy enterprise and one without a framework to protect miners.”[4] In addition to the poor condition for workers, large diggers produce large holes in the ground sometimes up to 30 feet deep. These holes promote erosion, soil loss, and they can obstruct roads, bridges, or other structures. The other type of diamond in Sierra Leone is kimberlite dikes. This type of diamond is easier to regulate because it requires heavy machinery and an overseeing organization to remove diamonds from rock.[5]

The Weak Government of Sierra Leone

            Britain’s management of a colony in Sierra Leone established a system of centered on exploitation. A small elite group dictated policy in order to exert complete control over every resource base. Diamonds were discovered in the 1930s and this discovery only served to strengthen the status quo. Peasants were largely excluded from the working sectors of the economy and little investment was made in bureaucracy including schools and the military[6]. As a result, of the government’s ineffectiveness in providing basic services, the legitimacy of Sierra Leone’s government broke down. Civil society and democratic accountability diminished. Civil society diminished as a result of the introduction of the so called “shadow state”. A shadow state works by providing the government with access to money, so it can appease certain clients, a sort of spoils system. In Sierra Leone the process works “By unleashing the full force of the oppressive state apparatus on civil society, as well as imposing forced savings on the peasantry (via the state-controlled Sierra Leone Marketing Board) the APC destroyed the enterprise of the people and their will to be governed.”[7] As a result of the actions of the All People’s Congress (APC), the peasant producers removed themselves from the governmental market system, the upper classes turned to the international markets, and a more elaborate system of illegal trade developed.

Siaka Stevens election as president of the one-party government in 1971 highlighted the start of “thuggery” in the politics of Sierra Leone. Stevens used a system of “crony capitalism”. He punished those who opposed him with violence or whatever other means available at his disposal and awarded those who opposed him with proceeds from the sale of diamonds. Government spending exceeded income in the 1980s, so Stevens made economic adjustments in an appeal to obtain foreign aid. His efforts, however, failed and created rising inflation and unemployment. As a result, certain services (i.e. medicine and schooling) became privatized, and the legitimacy of government was further threatened.[8]

Joseph Momoh was elected in 1985, and he tried to turn the country in a more fruitful direction than his predecessor. In order to start fresh, he called his government the New Order Regime, and he negotiated a long term financial strategy with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) in November of 1986, which gave Sierra Leone a credit of SDR40.53 million after certain macroeconomic conditions were met. Momoh began the process of trying to break down diamond smuggling and the hoarding of essential commodities and currency in order to regain money for the government and banking sectors, but his efforts were unsuccessful. Prices soared even higher and the IMF stopped its loan because interest could not be paid since the black market was not controlled.[9]

In addition to the economic problems in which he had a hand, President Momoh’s ineptitude also served to exacerbate political problems in Sierra Leone. Unlike his predecessor, Momoh was not well liked by the APC, so he was unable to effectively limit the corruption of ministers. Momoh also had Francis Minah executed for treason because Minah was apparently plotting an overthrow based on Momoh’s unpopularity. The execution of Minah infuriated large numbers of people from the Southern Province. In effect, the execution of Minah pitted Momoh against “the Temmes from northern and central areas of the country and the Mendes from the south. Together, these two groups account for about 60% of Sierra Leoneans.”[10] After this incident, Momoh encouraged people to join groups delineated according to ethnicity. As a result, ethnic tension soared and the economy of Sierra Leone fell further still. Calls for change and multiparty discussion were led by the Sierra Leone Bar Association; in response, the government argued that such talks were illegal.[11]

The Beginnings of the Revolutionary United Front (RUF)

            A group known as the Revolutionary United Front entered Sierra Leone from Liberia in March 1991. The group was coming out of the civil war in Liberia. Smillie (2000) argues “The RUF’s initial premise seemed sound: they demanded free and fair elections, along with social and economic justice for a country that had fallen to the bottom of the United Nations human development index.”[12] However, if the RUF did have a legitimate starting premise, it was not widespread or a central tenet of its ideology because that premise did not withstand the duration of the RUF’s campaign. In fact, Bariagaber (2006) argues “the RUF…had no coherent economic ideology or program for action…simply put the RUF was not a revolutionary organization.”[13] Montague (2002) reinforces the lack of democratic idealism on the part of the RUF: “The RUF movement was essentially a kleptocratic effort cloaked in revolutionary rhetoric.”[14]

The Liberia Connection

 The RUF army was led by Foday Sankoh, a former Sierra Leone Army (SLA) corporal coming out of Liberia.[15] Researchers argue that Charles Taylor, a prominent warlord in the Liberian civil war, was angered with Sierra Leone’s aid of the Economic Community of West African States Monitoring Group (ECOMOG)’s interference in the Liberian civil war. Sierra Leone allowed ECOMOG to use its airport to fly planes that bombed Taylor’s armies and prevented him from taking Monrovia, the Liberian capital.[16] As a result, “Charles Taylor provided support for…the RUF that included facilities for training in Liberia, instruction in guerilla warfare, weapons, and fighter from Liberia.”[17] At The Hague, Charles Taylor is currently being tried for war crimes and his involvement in the war in Sierra Leone[18].

Child Soldiers

            In order to understand the pressing need for transparency in Sierra Leone’s diamond industry and eliminate our country’s economic entanglements with blood diamonds, we need to understand what is meant by the term “child soldier”. Jo Becker (2005) writes that “in May 2000, the United Nations (UN) adopted the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child, establishing eighteen as the minimum age for participation in armed conflict, or forced recruitment, and for any recruitment by nongovernmental groups”[19]. Despite this international legislation, it is estimated that 300,000 children, both girls and boys, serve as child soldiers throughout the world[20]. Of this number, the ‘“United Nation’s Children’s Fund says at least 4,500 children fought in the eight year civil war. Other groups put this number as high as 10,000.’” [21]

            Like other countries in Africa, the child soldiers are forced to join the Revolutionary United Front, which constitutes a coercive act that is psychologically damaging in itself.  The act of coercing children to join the rebel army is damaging to the children because they are not old enough to decide to join the army for themselves, and they are robbed of their childhood. De Silva et al. (2001) defines the conscription of child soldiers as “abuse” or more clearly “‘The involvement of dependent, developmentally immature children and adolescents in armed conflict they do not truly comprehend, to which they are unable to give informed consent, and which adversely affects the child’s right to unhindered growth and identity as a child.’”[22]

            As if the act of conscription is not psychologically damaging enough, the manner in which it is done adds more psychological and physical trauma. The first step in becoming a child soldier is forced murder, of the family and everyone related to the abducted child. This horrific action serves two purposes for the RUF. The murder molds the children into killing machines, and it encourages them never return home since all familial ties are cut and villages will never forgive them for the atrocities that the soldiers committed[23]. In addition to outright murder, the RUF encourages child soldiers to cut off people’s hands, so they cannot physically vote. Losing a hand also serves as a chilling reminder to follow the demands of the RUF or suffer the consequences. Since the child soldiers no longer have parental figures in their lives, military leaders provide limited amounts of food, protection, and shelter. This phenomenon creates a “surrogate family relationship” that keeps child soldiers loyal to the RUF. 

Harsh physical punishments and manual labor bestowed unbending order in this “family” hierarchy, and violence was reinforced with drugs. Work for child soldiers “was similar to that which one would expect of an adult soldier. It included…(digging trenches, kitchen work ect.) guard duty, front-line fighting, use of munitions and firearms and radio-communication…children were trained in the use of firearms and methods of self-destruction or suicide.” [24] Punishments included “kitchen or farm duty, being beaten, imprisonment, black mail, and death threats.” [25] Hans Veeken (1994) reports that drug use was encouraged: “Drugs were deliberately distributed.”[26] The RUF gave the drugs to desensitize the children to violence and promote wild behavior.

Girl Child Soldiers

            The RUF forcibly conscripted both boys and girls as child soldiers, but for girl child soldiers conditions were particularly harsh. A specific discussion about girl soldiers in Sierra Leone is important because Park (2006) reports that girls are usually lumped in the “children” category; however, “children” was meant to describe boys. Furthermore, girl soldiers made up 30% of RUF army, a significant proportion, and this unique category of child soldiers was not isolated and given the proper credit it deserves.[27] Girls experienced active combat and shared many experiences of the boys, but “it is overwhelmingly the experience of girl soldiers to be sexually violated.” [28] The instances of the sexual abuse of boy soldiers is likely higher than reports indicate, but  girl sexual abuse appears to be more common and they faced an additional challenge: “‘forced marriage’ is being prosecuted as a ‘crime against humanity’ in Sierra Leone’s post-conflict ‘Special Court.’”[29]

War in Sierra Leone

With mounting debt, and the inability to address the basic needs of Sierra Leone as a result of ineffective bureaucracy, the government of Sierra Leone was unable to effectively crush the rebellion led by the Revolutionary United Front. The government tried to gather revenue with the shrinking amounts of foreign aid, money from citizens living in other countries, taxes on rutile and bauxite, and fees from diamond mining. As a result of the already well established black markets for diamonds and other commodities, however, the government of Sierra Leone gained insubstantial profits from these ventures. Furthermore, the Sierra Leonean Army (SLA) was poorly trained and financed. As a result, the SLA soldiers would fight the RUF during the day and loot people’s houses by night, adding more to the civilians’ sense of chaos and fear.[30] Dena Montague (2002) provides a more succinct description of the SLA solder: “these soldiers became “sobels”: soldiers by day, rebels by night.” SLA soldiers would even work peacefully in the same mines as the RUF in order to profit from the diamond trade.[31] In response to the government’s inability to secure villages, locals organized Civil Defense Forces typically known as Kamajohs for protection.[32]

Diamonds for Arms

The RUF invaded Sierra Leone in the resource rich east in order to focus on the kimberlite and alluvial diamond deposits and the cash crops (i.e. coffee and cocoa).[33] Taking these valuable areas had two effects: it further weakened the established government of Sierra Leone, and it allowed the RUF to finance its operations. Silberfein (2004) writes “the war was always closely connected to the competition for resources, particularly diamonds, and this association was strengthened through time.”[34] Control of diamond areas allowed the RUF to trade diamonds for weapons. Infamous dealers and businessmen such as Lenoid Minin, Victor Bout, Talal El-Ndine, and Sanjivan Ruprah all provided or made the appropriate financial arrangements in order to import illegal weapons to Sierra Leone. Most arms shipments originated from Eastern Europe, and, in some instances, Libya. Imported weapons traveled into Burkina Faso from which point they were distributed throughout the country. The most common weapon for the RUF was the:

 AK-47 in addition to pistols, AK-74 rifles, G-3 rifles, FN-FAL rifles, and SLR rifles. The RUF machine gun arsenal consisted of the British GPMG and the Chinese 12.7 mm machine guns and RPDs, and sub-machine gun weapons were the British Sten and the Israeli Uzi. The rebels also made use of grenades, grenade launchers, mortars, antipersonnel mines, surface to air missiles, anti-aircraft guns, and Katyusha 122 mm rockets.[35]

This quotation mentions guns used by the RUF from all around the world, which emphasizes the international and complex nature of the illegal diamond trade.

The Diamond Trade in Sierra Leone

Diamonds were discovered in Sierra Leone in 1930 and De Beers was the major diamond company in Sierra Leone until the 1980s.[36] De Beers eventually did remove its operation out of Sierra Leone as a result of the inability to counter the ongoing black market trade of diamonds[37], but a thorough examination of its operation during its time in Sierra Leone will help to uncover how the illegal diamond trade operates. This company:

controls about 70 percent of the world’s diamonds.  De Beers sells a high proportion of its diamonds to traders, cutters, and polishers in Antwerp, Belgium…And because Antwerp also buys them independently, the combination of the diamonds that it gets from De Beers and from independent sources means that 70 percent of the world’s diamonds also go through Antwerp.[38]

The majority of diamonds exported from Antwerp are legally mined diamonds from other African countries (e.g. Botswana, Namibia, and South Africa). However, many diamonds are coming from countries that have few diamond resources (e.g. Burkina Faso, Côte d’Ivoire, Guinea and Libera). What explains the difference in what is actually mined in countries and what is exported? The answer is simple—illegal diamond mining. Diamonds are mined in countries like Sierra Leone and shipped out of other countries in Africa. Using Liberia as an example, Belgian records indicate that “Liberia is on record as having exported something like 30 million carats worth of diamonds to Antwerp…Liberia over that period of time probably did not have the capacity to export more than half a million carats.”[39] Passing a blood diamond off for a legitimate diamond is easy because “Rather than recording the country of origin, they record the country of ‘provenance.’”[40]

            De Beers left Sierra Leone after 1985 bringing in Lebanese and then Israeli investors until small mining firms, “juniors, entered Sierra Leone in the mid-1990s. Three of the juniors (i.e. Rex Diamond, AmCan Minerals, and DiamondWorks) came into Sierra Leone, and they were required to provide their own protection. As a result DiamondWorks brought in Executive Outcomes, which the government would later requisition for its services.[41]

Executive Outcomes: Short Sighted Results

As the war continued in Sierra Leone, the RUF survived because it had a wide resource base including cash crops cultivated by coerced labor and the growing access to scattered alluvial diamond deposits. The RUF pushed forward towards the Kono and Kenema Districts, but “By early 1992 the SLA was able to sustain its counter-offensive and the RUF were actually being pushed back.”[42] It seemed that the government of Sierra Leone had prevailed; however, the government did not take into account the continuing support that Liberia provided for Sierra Leone. Liberia continued to supply arms, so the RUF re-armed and reorganized and spread itself throughout the eastern side of Sierra Leone. The wide dispersal of the RUF made it difficult to completely combat the entire RUF army.[43] The conflict continued and the government became more strained until, in January 1995, the RUF took over the Sierra Rutile and Sieromco diamond mines which almost made the government unable to repay IMF loans.

As a result, the government of Sierra Leone decided to seek outside military assistance. Executive Outcomes, a private military firm, agreed to fight for Sierra Leone only if the firm was paid 1.8 million a month and if its associate, Branch Energy Ltd, gained a 30 million dollar diamond mining contract. Executive Outcomes came into Sierra Leone with “a small battalion of approximately 150 soldiers. Their use of helicopter gunships, pre-assault mortar barrages, and ground assaults proved to be extremely effective against the RUF.”[44] Executive Outcomes also taught fighting skills to the Mende hunters organized as Kamajohs. No documented cases have shown that Executive Outcomes sold weapons to rebels in Sierra Leone, but “monitoring activities of private security companies is extremely difficult…the strong link between private security services and arms trafficking highlights the short term and selective gain on behalf of the government.”[45] The intervention by Executive Outcomes weakened the legitimacy of the Sierra Leonean government because it was unable to address the country’s basic security needs.[46] Executive Outcomes intervention in Sierra Leone also strengthened the relationship between diamonds and the black market weapons trade. Executive left Sierra Leone on January 1997 leaving the government with “a debt of 30 million dollars to Executive Outcomes, a ten percent decline in the gross domestic product, and a thirty five percent rise in inflation.”[47] The dire economic situation will leave Sierra Leone vulnerable to future invasions in the same way that it contributed to the collapse of the government in the first place.[48]

The West African Problem

Sierra Leone is a member state of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS). This group is divided into two groups that often come into conflict: the Francophone states. The Francophone states include Burkina Faso, the Ivory Coast, and Togo and they have ties with France and Anglophone Liberia. The predominantly Anglophone countries include several countries, Nigeria, and Sierra Leone. The situation between these two groups supposedly “promotes West African co-operation, but the reality is much more complex.”[49]

            In the context of Sierra Leone, an election was held and Tejan Kabbah was elected President of Sierra Leone in February 1996. In May 1997, officers of the Sierra Leonean army overthrew President Kabbah who went to Guinea. Koroma, the leader of the new regime, allowed the RUF to join his new government. In 1998, an Economic Community of West African States Monitoring Group (ECOMOG, a branch of ECOWAS) sent an army led by Nigerian into Freetown which overthrew Koroma’s government. ECOMOG troops defended Freetown until a ceasefire was arranged in 1999. In October 1999, the United Nations created the UN Mission in Sierra Leone (UNAMSIL) overseen by General Vijay Kumar Jetley. Under this agreement, some ECOMOG troops were supposed to work for the UN and others were supposed to go back to Nigeria; however, “the Nigerian army was reluctant to leave Sierra Leone and dismantle its secret partnership with the RUF in an illegal diamond mining scheme…Although the war was winding down, the RUF continued to import small arms and light weapons into Sierra Leone and export blood diamonds in a collaborative effort with the Nigerian army.”[50]

An Uneasy peace

In January 2002, Sierra Leone’s civil war was declared officially over, and, at that time, the UN said that 45,000 fighters had been disarmed. In 2004, reports indicate that 70,000 civil war combatants were disarmed and reintegrated into Sierra Leone. Strangely enough, the disarmament program implemented by the UN seems to have encouraged the sale of weapons because “under the UN disarmament program, former combatants are paid approximately $300 in exchange for weapons. Combatants have imported weapons from Guinea and Liberia, which are then sold to the UN for profit; weapons are then bought again for a cheaper price on the black market.”[51]In June 2004, war crimes trials begin in The Hague. In January 2008, Charles Taylor’s trial for war crimes continues after a delay and is still in process.[52] Unfortunately for Sierra Leone, this long conflict has made “this West African country uncomfortably reliant on foreigners.”[53]

The Problem of Liberia

During the civil war in Sierra Leone, a civil war raged in Liberia, which contributed arms and training to RUF soldiers. As the war in Sierra Leone ended, the conflict in Liberia continued. Liberia has a major impact on Sierra Leone because the two countries share an open border and the borders are areas where criminals often congregate.[54] The relative instability in Liberia therefore contributed and continues to contribute to the instability in Sierra Leone.

Danger for the International Community

Terrorists around the world exploit the diamond trade for their benefit. Cindor Andrea Reeves, a person firmly integrated in the diamond trade when the RUF fought in Sierra Leone, describes the living quarters he provided for a group of businessmen, “a guest house for one such group, whose members plastered the walls with posters of Osama bin Laden and watched videos of Palestinian suicide bombings”, and he even identified:  

al-Qaeda operatives Ahmed Khalfan Ghailani, Fazul Abdullah Mohammed and Abdullah Ahmed Abdullah, wanted for their role in the August 1998 bombings of U.S. embassies in Tanzania and Kenya. It was clear that al-Qaeda was converting cash assets into diamonds in preparation for an impending crackdown on its financial networks. [55]

Gberie (2001) adds “there is a direct link between the capacity of terrorists to wreak havoc, and their ability to raise money through shady business, especially business involving valuable export commodities.”[56] Therefore, if former President George W. Bush’s war against terror is to be successful, the United States will have to make the diamond trade more transparent, so illegal traders will be held accountable. As a result, terrorists will not have the financial means necessary to coordinate attacks against the United States and other countries around the world.  

Initial Recommendations

As a result of the aforementioned problems created by the illegal diamond trade in Sierra Leone, the international community conducted several investigations which put pressure on the diamond industry and governments around the world to make adjustments in order to stop the illegal diamond trading taking place in Sierra Leone. In a pivotal report, Ian Smillie (2000) makes a list of recommendations designed to stop or severely limit the illegal diamond trade in Sierra Leone: “diamond specific initiatives aimed at increasing human security and democracy…the government of Sierra Leone must ensure full transparency in diamond purchasing…systems must be developed for the payment of fair prices to legitimate small miners…incentives for larger scale mining operations.”[57] The report also suggested that Belgium must not accept diamond exports from countries like Liberia until the proposed changes were implemented, and that diamonds should be marked from their country of origin, not their country of provenance.[58] The European Union (EU) reacted strongly against the recommendations, particularly to the recommendation for tighter border security. Tighter border security would require nationalization of borders which would impede the easy flow of people and goods that the EU had so far enjoyed.[59]

Public Outcry

By degrees, with international reporting the global community became aware of the illegal diamond trade and the plight of child soldiers in Sierra Leone. The surge in publication of books, songs, and movies describing the violent civil war and its victims highlights the discontent in the global public after the official end of the war. Numerous books were published detailing the atrocities committed by the RUF.  A Long Way Gone Memoirs of A Boy Soldier by Ishmael Beah paints a horrific picture of the struggles child soldiers faced. The movie, Blood Diamond, describes a family in Sierra Leone trapped in a web of diamond smuggling and violence as they struggle through the civil war in Sierra Leone. Most of these artistic pieces describing the conflict in Sierra Leone are not released until after new measures are taken by the international community, but they highlight the fomenting anger and corresponding call to action on the part of the international community.

Executive Orders

The wheels of bureaucracy turned slowly around the world; so, not surprisingly, no immediate action was taken on the part of the international community. However, on July 23, 2003 President George W. Bush declared a state of emergency and issued Executive Order 13194 which “imposed restrictions on the importation of rough diamonds into the United States from Sierra Leone. I expanded the scope of that emergency in Executive Order 13213 and prohibited absolutely the importation of rough diamonds from Liberia.”[60]

The Kimberley Process

Working in conjunction with the international community:

the United States and numerous other countries announced in the Interlaken Declaration of November 5, 2002, the launch of the Kimberley Process Certification Scheme (KPCS) for rough diamonds, under which Participants prohibit the importation of rough diamonds from, or the exportation of rough diamonds to, a non-Participant and require that shipments of rough diamonds from or to a Participant be controlled through the KPCS. [61]

The Clean Diamond trade act was passed by Congress on April 25, 2003, and it gave President the authority to take the necessary steps to successfully set the Kimberly Process into practice: “In General—The President is authorized to and shall as necessary issue such proclamations, regulations, licenses, and orders and conduct such investigations, as may be necessary to carry out this Act.”[62] Most important the Clean Diamond Act outlines the penalties for smugglers,

In addition to the enforcement provisions set forth in subsection (b)—(1) a civil penalty of not to exceed $10,000 may be imposed on any person who violates, or attempts to violate…any…regulation issued under this Act; and (2) whoever willfully violates…any…regulation issued under this Act, shall…be fined not more than $50,000, or, if a natural person, may be imprisoned for not more than 10 years, or both; and any officer, director, or agent of any corporation who willfully participates in such violation may be punished by a like fine, imprisonment, or both.[63]

The actions by the United States working in cooperation with the international community created a significant decline in the estimated amount of illegal diamond trading. De Beers, still a major international vendor of diamonds, reports that, “as a result of the Kimberley Process’s success 99.8% of the world’s diamond supply is conflict free.”[64]

Unsolved Problems

Unfortunately, despite the enormous success of the Kimberley process as reported by De Beer, a company with vested interests, the KPCS is not perfect. Another report states, “Even the KPCS is not a foolproof scheme but it created the impact for which it was made. From a huge 4 to 5 percent of conflict diamonds before the KPCS, the number of dubious sparklers has come down to 0.5 percent now.”[65] An article entitled “Blood Diamonds Are Still A Reality” published on January 23, 2007 by Amnesty International reinforces this point: “Despite the fact that an international diamond certification scheme called the Kimberley Process Certification Scheme was launched in 2003, conflict diamonds from Côte d’Ivoire are finding their way through Ghana into the legitimate diamond market.”[66] Neither of these statistics explicitly estimate the number of conflict diamonds coming out of Sierra Leone, but it is logical to assume that conflict diamonds are still coming out of the country because the difficult nature of tracking the illegal diamond trade, and because, as before, diamonds from one country (i.e. Sierra Leone) can still smuggled into other countries with bribes.[67]

Suggestions for Improvement

            The Clean Diamond Act does provide legislation that punishes smugglers with a penalty of up to $60,000 with a possibility of receiving a 10 year prison sentence (assuming accused person gets the maximum penalty on all counts); however, the penalty of $60,000 is not a strong enough deterrent for diamond smuggling people working in the multi-million dollar diamond industry. Even the maximum fee of $60,000 would amount to a mere slap on the wrist for most corporations, an amount that some may be willing to risk considering the sizeable profits to be made in the illegal diamond trade. Opponents may suggest that the possibility of a 10 year sentence would be a powerful deterrent; however, the wording of the law states, “regulation issued under this Act, shall…be fined not more than $50,000, or, if a natural person, may be imprisoned for not more than 10 years, or both.”[68] The key word in this sentence is “or”. A convicted individual can receive a fine or a time sentence or both. In other words, a skillful lawyer may be able to argue a case successfully, so the perpetrator only receives a monetary penalty for smuggling, a penalty which was already demonstrated to be a symbolic punishment, not an effective deterrent. The monetary penalty should be increased, so that it would bankrupt potential perpetrators and time sentences should be mandatory because more stringent measures may deter some instances of illegal diamond smuggling.

By its very nature, the illegal diamond trade will be difficult to regulate, but many more steps will be necessary in order to avoid the ongoing trade of illegal diamonds. Other than legislation specifically attacking the illegal diamond trade (i.e. the Kimberley Process), more support from the international community will be necessary in order to pull Sierra Leone out of the economically desperate quagmire that gives rise to black market trading. Even today, Sierra Leone is ranked as one of the least developed countries in the world. As a result, it is unlikely that it will be able to rise up out of its economic depression alone. Nongovernmental agencies need must continue to provide support in order to build up infrastructure specifically focusing on education and medicine. The international community should also forgive any more remaining outstanding debts for Sierra Leone, and it should continue its peace keeping support. Peace keeping should also extend to the protection of diamond fields in Sierra Leone. With time and the implementation of my suggestions, the government of Sierra Leone may rise out of its economic slump, so pressures for black market trading will drop dramatically. Perhaps most importantly, consumers (especially those in the United States which provides a huge market) must demand conflict free diamonds from retailers and insist that proof be given to ensure that the diamonds being purchased are conflict free.

Conclusion

Even with the more stringent regulation and increased aid from the international community, the illegal diamond trade that facilitated the forced recruitment of child soldiers in Sierra Leone is a problem that will not be easily fixed. Some disheartened citizens of Sierra Leone have even described diamonds as more of a blessing than a curse. It is easy to see their point. The scattered diamond deposits, and weak government of Sierra Leone made it easy for the RUF to invade and fight for power. As the war raged, thousands experienced the horrors of forced recruitment while others experienced the lawless chaos carried out by child solders. The government of Sierra Leone held out hope, and it did meet with some success; however, the RUF simply regrouped and rearmed. In desperation, the government called in Executive Outcomes, a security firm, that created peace for the short term, but the firm’s presence mainly served to reinforce the connection between diamonds and weapon sales. ECOMOG peacekeeping forces were eventually set in place, but it took awhile before the corruption was removed from its ranks. Sierra Leone currently has peace and a relatively low reported rate of illicit diamond trading thanks in large part to the Kimberley Process and the Clean Diamond Act. These pieces of legislation, however, are not perfect. The Clean Diamond Act must have harsher penalties for diamond vendors in order to deter them from illegal diamond trading. The international community also must work with Sierra Leone in order to help rebuild its infrastructure, so people will not be forced to turn to the black market. The consumer, especially the American consumer, must also demand conflict-free diamonds. If all of the global community follows these recommendations, the country of Sierra Leone will see a better quality of life for its people over time, and the horrors experienced by child soldiers will be a distant memory.

Resource List 

Internet Articles 

“Are You Still Buying a Blood Diamond?” Commodity Online, http://www.commodityonline.com/news/Are-you-still-buying-a-blood-diamond-12898-3-1.html (accessed January 8, 2009).

 “Blood Diamonds Are Still a Reality,” Amnesty International, http://www.amnesty.org/en/news-and-updates/feature-stories/blood-diamonds-are-still-reality-20070123 (accessed January 16, 2009). 

“Executive Order 13312,” Administration of George W. Bush 2003, http://www.ustreas.gov/offices/enforcement/ofac/legal/eo/13312.pdf (accessed January 10, 2009). 

 “Global Justice on Trial,” Los Angeles Times, http://articles.latimes.com/2008/jan/08/opinion/ed-taylor8 (accessed February 10, 2009).

 “Kimberley Process,” De Beers, “http://www.debeers.com/page/socialresp (accessed January 9, 2009). 

“Public Law—108—19—April 25, 2003,” Public Law 108—19—108th Congress, http://www.ustreas.gov/offices/enforcement/ofac/legal/statutes/pl108_19.pdf (accessed January 11, 2009).

 “Time Line: Sierra Leone a Chronology of Key Events”, BBC News, http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/africa/country_profiles/1065898.stm (accessed January 7, 2009).

 Journal Articles 

Alfred B. Zack-Williams, “Sierra Leone: the political economy of civil war, 1991-98.” Third World Quarterly 20, no. 1 (1999): 143-162. 

Andrew J. Grant, “Diamonds, Foreign Aid and the Uncertain Prospects for Post-conflict Reconstruction in Sierra Leone.” The Round Table 94, no. 381 (September 2005): 443-457. 

Augustine S.J. Park, “‘Other Inhumane Acts’: Forced Marriage, Girl Soldiers and the Special Court for Sierra Leone.” Social & Legal Studies 15, no. 3 (2006): 315-337.  

Assefaw Bariagaber, “United Nations Peace Operations in Africa: A Cookie-Cutter Approach?” Journal of Third World Studies 23, no. 2 (2006):11-29. 

Bhavani Fonseka, “The Protection of Child Soldiers in International Law.” Asia-Pacific Journal of Human Rights and the Law 2, no. 2 (2001): 69-89. 

Corinna Schuler, “Child Soldiers of Sierra Leone.” World Press Review (December 1999): 45-46. 

Dena Montague, “The Business of War and the Prospects for Peace in Sierra Leone.” The Brown Journal of World Affairs 9, no. 1 (2002): 229-237. 

Hans Veeken, “Sierra Leone: People displaced because of diamonds.” British Medical Journal 309, no. 6953 (August 1994): 523. 

Harendra de Silva, and Chris Hobbs and Helga Hanks. “Conscription of Children in Armed Conflict—A Form of Child Abuse. A Study of 19 Former Child Soldiers.” Child Abuse Review 10, (2001): 125-134. 

Horst Rutsch, “Diamonds are the Heart of the Matter.” UN Chronicle  no. 2 (2000):47-50. 

Ian Smillie, “Gettting to the Heart of the Matter: Sierra Leone, Diamonds, And Human Security.” Social Justice 27, no. 4 (2000): 24-31. 

Jo Becker, “Child Soldiers Changing a Culture of Violence.” Human Rights: Journal Section of Individual Rights & Responsibilities 32, no. 1 (2005):1-3. 

Jo de Berry, “Child Soldiers and the Convention on the Rights of the Child.” The Annals of the American Academy 575, (May 2001): 92-104. 

John Pilger, New Statesman (May 2000):17. 

Judith Matloff, “Diamond Wealth Eludes Sierra Leone as Civil War brings in Foreign Troops.” Christian Science Monitor 88, no. 19 (December 1995): 6. 

Lansana Gberie, “Sierra Leone: The Clamor over Conflict Diamonds.” World Press Review (January 2002): 35. 

Marilyn Silberfein, “The Geopolitics of Conflict and Diamonds in Sierra Leone.” Geopolitics 9, no. 1 (2004): 213-241. 

Susan Shepler, “The Rites of the Child: Global Discourses of Youth and Reintegrating Child Soldiers in Sierra Leone.” Journal of Human Rights 4, (2005): 197-211.

 Theresa S Bettancourt and Stephanie Simmons and Ivelina Borisova and Stephanie E. Brewer and Uzo Iweala, and Marie de la Soudière. “High Hopes, Grim Reality: Reintegration and the Education of Former Child Soldiers in Sierra Leone.” Comparative Education Review 52, no. 4 (July 2008): 565-587. 

Tunde B. Zack-Wiliams, “Child Soldiers in Sierra Leone and the Problems of Demobilisation, Rehabilitation and Reintegration into Society: Some Lessons for Social Workers in War-torn Societies.” Social Work Education 25, no. 2 (March 2006): 119-128. 

Volker Druba, “The Problem of Child Soldiers.” International Review of Education 48, no. 3-4 (2002): 271-277. 

William Reno, “African Weak States and Commercial Alliances.” African Affairs 96, (1997): 165-187.


[1]Corinna Schuler, “Child Soldiers of Sierra Leone,” World Press Review, (December 1999): 45-46.

[2] Theresa S. Bettancourt and Stephanie Simmons and Ivelina Borisova and Stephanie E. Brewer and Uzo Iweala, and Marie de la Soudière, “High Hopes, Grim Reality: Reintegration and the Education of Former Child Soldiers in Sierra Leone,” Comparative Education Review 52, no. 4 (July 2008): 565-587. 

[3] Schuler, “Child Soldiers of Sierra Leone,” 45.

[4] Marilyn Silberfein, “The Geopolitics of Conflict and Diamonds in Sierra Leone,” Geopolitics 9, no. 1 (2004): 213-241.

[5] Ibid.

[6] Dena Montague, “The Business of War and the Prospects for Peace in Sierra Leone,” The Brown Journal of World Affairs 9, no. 1 (2002): 229-237.

[7] Alfred B. Zack-Williams, “Sierra Leone: the political economy of civil war, 1991-98,” Third World Quarterly 20, no. 1 (1999): 143-162. 

[8] Ibid. 153.

[9] Ibid. 154. 

[10] Ibid. 154.

[11] Ibid. 154.

[12] Ian Smillie, “Gettting to the Heart of the Matter: Sierra Leone, Diamonds, And Human Security,” Social Justice 27, no. 4 (2000): 24-31.

[13] Assefaw Bariagaber, “United Nations Peace Operations in Africa: A Cookie-Cutter Approach?” Journal of Third World Studies 23, no. 2 (2006):11-29. 

[14] Montague, “The Business of War and the Prospects for Peace in Sierra Leone.”  230.

[15] Silberfein, “The Geopolitics of Conflict and Diamonds in Sierra Leone,” 218.

[16] Zack-Williams, “Sierra Leone: the political economy of civil war, 1991-98.” 147.

[17] Silberfein, “The Geopolitics of Conflict and Diamonds in Sierra Leone,” 218.

[18] “Global Justice on Trial,” Los Angeles Times, http://articles.latimes.com/2008/jan/08/opinion/ed-taylor8 (accessed February 10, 2009).

[19]Jo Becker, “Child Soldiers Changing a Culture of Violence.” Human Rights: Journal Section of Individual Rights & Responsibilities 32, no. 1 (2005):1-3.

[20]Corinna Schuler, “Child Soldiers of Sierra Leone.” 45.

[21] Ibid. 45.

[22] Harendra de Silva, and Chris Hobbs and Helga Hanks. “Conscription of Children in Armed Conflict—A Form of Child Abuse. A Study of 19 Former Child Soldiers.” Child Abuse Review 10, (2001): 125-134.

[23] Tunde B. Zack-Wiliams, “Child Soldiers in Sierra Leone and the Problems of Demobilisation, Rehabilitation and Reintegration into Society: Some Lessons for Social Workers in War-torn Societies.” Social Work Education 25, no. 2 (March 2006): 119-128.

[24] Harendra de Silva, and Chris Hobbs and Helga Hanks. “Conscription of Children in Armed Conflict—A Form of Child Abuse. A Study of 19 Former Child Soldiers.”127.

[25] Ibid. 127.

[26] Hans Veeken, “Sierra Leone: People displaced because of diamonds.” British Medical Journal 309, no. 6953 (August 1994): 523.

[27] Augustine S.J. Park, “‘Other Inhumane Acts’: Forced Marriage, Girl Soldiers and the Special Court for Sierra Leone.” Social & Legal Studies 15, no. 3 (2006): 315-337.

[28] Ibid.  315.

[29] Ibid. 316.

[30] Silberfein, “The Geopolitics of Conflict and Diamonds in Sierra Leone.” 223.

[31] Montague, “The Business of War and the Prospects for Peace in Sierra Leone.” 231.

[32] Susan Shepler, “The Rites of the Child: Global Discourses of Youth and Reintegrating Child Soldiers in Sierra Leone.” Journal of Human Rights 4, (2005): 197-211. 

[33] Silberfein, “The Geopolitics of Conflict and Diamonds in Sierra Leone.” 231.

[34] Ibid. 225

[35] Montague, “The Business of War and the Prospects for Peace in Sierra Leone.” 231.

[36] Smillie, “Gettting to the Heart of the Matter: Sierra Leone, Diamonds, And Human Security.” 25-26.

[37] Silberfein, “The Geopolitics of Conflict and Diamonds in Sierra Leone.” 233.

[38] Rutsch, Horst. “Diamonds are the Heart of the Matter.” UN Chronicle  no. 2 (2000):47-50.

[39] Ibid. 47.

[40] Smillie, “Gettting to the Heart of the Matter: Sierra Leone, Diamonds, And Human Security.” 27. 

[41] Ibid. 28.

[42] Silberfein, “The Geopolitics of Conflict and Diamonds in Sierra Leone.” 235.

[43] Ibid. 236.

[44] Montague, “The Business of War and the Prospects for Peace in Sierra Leone.” 234.

[45] Ibid. 234.

[46] Silberfein, “The Geopolitics of Conflict and Diamonds in Sierra Leone.” 237.

[47] Montague, “The Business of War and the Prospects for Peace in Sierra Leone.” 235.

[48] Zack-Williams, “Sierra Leone: the political economy of civil war, 1991-98.” 152.

[49] Silberfein, “The Geopolitics of Conflict and Diamonds in Sierra Leone.” 235.

[50] Montague, “The Business of War and the Prospects for Peace in Sierra Leone.” 236.

[51] Ibid. 236.

[52]“Time Line: Sierra Leone a Chronology of Key Events”, BBC News, http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/africa/country_profiles/1065898.stm (accessed January 7, 2009).

[53] Judith Matloff,“Diamond Wealth Eludes Sierra Leone as Civil War brings in Foreign Troops.” Christian Science Monitor 88, no. 19 (December 1995): 6.

[54] Silberfein, “The Geopolitics of Conflict and Diamonds in Sierra Leone.” 219.

[55] Montague, “The Business of War and the Prospects for Peace in Sierra Leone.” 235.

[56] Gberie, Lansana. “Sierra Leone: The Clamor over Conflict Diamonds.” World Press Review (January 2002): 35.

[57] Smillie, “Gettting to the Heart of the Matter: Sierra Leone, Diamonds, And Human Security.” 27.

[58] Ibid. 28.

[59] Lansana, “Sierra Leone: The Clamor over Conflict Diamonds.” 35.

[60] “Executive Order 13312,” Administration of George W. Bush 2003, http://www.ustreas.gov/offices/enforcement/ofac/legal/eo/13312.pdf (accessed January 10, 2009).  

[61] Ibid.

[62] “Public Law—108—19—April 25, 2003,” Public Law 108—19—108th Congress, http://www.ustreas.gov/offices/enforcement/ofac/legal/statutes/pl108_19.pdf (accessed January 11, 2009).

[63] Ibid.

[64] “Kimberley Process,” De Beers, “http://www.debeers.com/page/socialresp (accessed January 9, 2009). 

[65] “Are You Still Buying a Blood Diamond?” Commodity Online, http://www.commodityonline.com/news/Are-you-still-buying-a-blood-diamond-12898-3-1.html (accessed January 8, 2009).

[66] “Blood Diamonds Are Still a Reality,” Amnesty International, http://www.amnesty.org/en/news-and-updates/feature-stories/blood-diamonds-are-still-reality-20070123 (accessed January 16, 2009).

[67] Montague, “The Business of War and the Prospects for Peace in Sierra Leone.” 235.

[68] “Public Law—108—19—April 25, 2003,” Public Law 108—19—108th Congress, http://www.ustreas.gov/offices/enforcement/ofac/legal/statutes/pl108_19.pdf (accessed January 11, 2009).



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