The Truth About Blood Diamonds

By: Ali Chauldry, Staff Reporter

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In America, the diamond is a symbol of love and commitment, destined to last forever. However, what if the gem lovers hold so dear was actually a symbol of destruction rather than adoration- fuel for civil wars, environmental destruction and human rights violations.

It’s sad to say that certain impoverished areas in countries with abundant valuable resources such as Sierra Leone, Angola, and the Democratic Republic of Congo, among others, have been reduced to nothing more than mining pits due to the unethical blood diamond industry.

In 1998, blood diamonds or conflict diamonds were officially identified by the United Nations Security Council 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.”

But is there more to the term than meets the eye? This definition means that you could legally sell a diamond that has been mined by children or was taken by violence, smuggling or torture, but if it funds rebel groups it is illegal.

For years, major diamond companies have had business with artisanal diamond mining. By definition, this means that the people mining would use digging pits or pan in riverbeds for diamonds; this, however, is often not done ethically or even humanely. For example, in 2008, reports began to surface of the Zimbabwe government massacring over 200 artisanal diamond miners in order to keep the industry’s profits.  Only three years later, hundreds of human rights violations by private security companies and Angolan military were reported in two mining areas in Angola during an investigation by journalist Rafael Marques. While international diamond sanctions have been made in Zimbabwe due to the coverage of the massacre, Angolan diamonds have managed to sneak past the diamond certification process since they are no longer apart of a civil war. Under the United Nations definition, they cannot be labeled as conflict diamonds.

To understand why this is, one must know the recent history behind the diamond industry in Africa.

Approaching the 21st century, four African nations: Liberia, Angola, the Democratic Republic of Congo and the Republic of Congo were all part of their own individual bloody civil wars. While each war was waged for different reasons, they all shared one thing in common; they were fueled by the diamond industry. Rebels would sell diamonds to international markets in order to fund weapons and other tools of war.  Two non-profit groups, Global Witness and Partnership Africa Canada, showed the world what was happening behind the curtains in the blood diamond industry and how consumers were buying diamonds from rebel groups of  African civil wars. Because of this, the Kimberly Process was launched in 2003 with the support of the United Nations in an attempt to hold diamond distributors to a higher standard. Now, it was the diamond industry’s job to make sure that no diamonds were being sold that were used to fund rebel groups; to ensure this, they were required to furnish certificates of authenticity.

However, the Kimberley Process does not actually stop diamonds mined in unstable and dangerous environments from being sold to the public; it only stops diamonds used in financing rebel groups (conflict diamonds) as stated on the Kimberley Process website. This lacking distinction shows how ineffective this method truly is and how it can often play a part in diamond laundering and other forms of corruption.

For more information on this issue we recommend the following:

Aljazeera’s “The Dark Side of Diamonds”




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