The Never-Ending ConflictSeptember 03, 15
Remember how all we used to hear about was conflict diamonds? Remember how they sort of went away, or at the very least we sort of managed to put them out of our minds? Well, no more. They are firmly back in the spotlight.
In fact, the past couple of weeks have been something of a mixed bunch on the conflict diamond front.
There was good news in the story that an American man had been arrested in Spain over charges of forcing civilians to mine diamonds in Sierra Leone between 1999 and 2001.
Michel Desaedeleer, who has US and Belgian citizenship, is suspected of forcing enslaved civilians to mine for diamonds in the Kono district of the country, which is horrifying and not an act that has any place in the 21st century.
It is good that people are being held responsible for their reprehensible actions, and the publicity behind the case is raising awareness that such situations are still ongoing.
“[The case] will help to raise awareness of the pivotal role played by financial actors in the trade of mineral resources that fuel armed conflicts in Africa and elsewhere,” Alain Werner, director of legal organization Civitas Maxima, which works to document the crimes and assist victims of the 11-year war in Sierra Leone, said, as quoted by The Guardian.
Bad news came out of the Central African Republic, however, where – shockingly (all sarcasm intended) – it turns out that the ongoing conflict in the country is still being partially funded by the illegal trafficking of diamonds.
This is certainly not “new” news and shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone. What compounded the depressing news coming out of the country is that neighboring Cameroon was, for the time, implicated in facilitating the illegal trade.
In its report on the situation, the CAR sanctions committee, the UN Security Council's panel of experts, says that all sides in the ongoing and tragic conflict are profiting from the trade in diamonds. It estimates that 140,000 carats of diamonds, worth $24 million, have been smuggled out of the country since an export ban was put in place in 2013.
Sadly, yet another diamond- and mineral-population is being deprived of the value of the natural resources it has the “fortune” to possess. Rather than using the revenues from the sales of hundreds of thousands of carats of stones to improve infrastructure, living standards and everyday life, once again, those same resources are being used to hold a country hostage for the benefit of a very few.
The committee’s recommendation that the Security Council urge transitional CAR authorities to suspend diamond-trading houses that purchase gems from areas "under direct or indirect control of armed groups," is understandable, but who knows exactly what the implications of this decision will be. In fact, in June, the decision to allow the CAR to resume diamond production was actually ratified at the KP intercessional meeting.
At the time, Joseph Agbou, the CAR’s minister of geology and mining, said the country would ensure the diamonds are mined from compliant zones – defined as suitably under government control, not subject to rebel-based or army group activity and allows the free movement of goods and persons, but that could all be about to end.
Still with the Central African Republic, CAR diamond trading firm Badica and its Belgium-based branch, Kardiam, have just been placed on a UN sanctions list for giving support to armed militia groups on both sides of the ongoing conflict in the country.
As to why this happened, Belgian federal authorities seized some 6,634 carats of diamonds, worth $1.7 million, from Kardiam in May 2014.
According to a report by Bloomberg, Belgian authorities said the stones probably originated in CAR and were smuggled out via the Democratic Republic of Congo and then Dubai.
The Dubai Diamond Exchange said the diamonds came from the Democratic Republic of the Congo with a valid certificate, so this is just another facet of the problem – truth and accountability.
And, should you think that the issue was more or less in the background in the consumer press, along came Time magazine this week with a huge story with the words “Blood Diamond” emblazoned on the opener. Clearly, we have a way to go with getting the work that the industry has been doing, or at least that is how it seems from the introduction: “it’s been 15 years since the global effort to ban conflict diamonds began, but the industry is still tainted by conflict and misery.”
While you may not agree with everything in the article, it is certainly worth a read and if the opening remarks are perhaps based more in drama than absolute reality, there are certainly many people that the industry relies on who are still suffering. It really is a conflict that never ends.
Have a fabulous weekend.