Sierra Leone "Blood Diamonds" and the Blood Diamond Merchants

15 November 2007 at 06:33 | 2401 views

By Ahmed Ojullah Bangura, UK.

‘Blood diamonds’ are precious stones that are illegally and immorally used to fuel conflict in many resource rich countries. These stones are either smuggled or are part of legitimate diamonds exported to international markets. They are used by individuals, groups or rogue political elites in countries that believe in greed and lack moral esteem.

These categories of people have caused so much mayhem in many resource rich African countries through exchange of these diamonds for arms. Some of the acts committed as a result of this trade are not only unimaginable but also unforgettable. After years of brutal civil war fuelled by these blood diamonds, attempts have been made to bring some of the perpetrators to justice for crimes against humanity. But the dispensation of justice seems to be selective and subjective.

Sierra Leone is one of the countries worst affected by more than a decade of brutal civil war that left many raped, hundreds maimed, thousands killed, and tens of thousounds displaced. Ironically, the war was fought under the pretence of fighting against corruption and bad governance.

But unfortunately, what many Sierra Leoneans witnessed and experienced was a ‘paradox of war’. The war which was hoped to alleviate the then prevailing political, economic and social malaise in the country ended up bringing more hardship, brutality, greed, and more indicators of war.

Many diamond dealers, businessmen, and politicians took advantage of the collapsed state of affairs of the political system to provide security and social services. Eventually Sierra Leone was left at the mercy of ‘blood money’ individuals referred to as ‘Blood Diamond Merchants’. These are business cronies who seek illegal trade in diamonds and sometimes evade taxes on the trade that provoked and sustained conflict and destruction in Sierra Leone.

As a result of the colossal human suffering inflicted on the people of Sierra Leone, justice was needed to send the chapter of the war to the past. But this attempt is viewed as conspiracy and an indication of double standards. Those who have been tried for their role in the conflict look like scapegoats in my view. They face justice now while many more who aided the war in similar circumstances walk like diplomatic freemen.

It is a fact that Charles Taylor never fought as a rebel soldier in Sierra Leone but he is on trial for allegedly aiding the RUF/SL during their reign of terror. Like Charles Taylor, Libya’s Muhammad Khaddafi was accused of training the core of the RUF in Libya; whilst Ivory Coast became a safe haven for the late RUF leader Foday Sankoh, and Burkina Faso became a transit point for arms and mercenaries under the auspices of both heads of states.

It is apparently justifiable that the political leaders of these countries played diabolic roles during the senseless brutal war in Sierra Leone. Unequivocally, there are other individuals who traded arms for diamonds and even facilitated shipment of these arms from Western and former Soviet states to kill Sierra Leoneans of all ages, sex and status. The pivotal reason for the behaviour of these ‘Blood Diamond’ Merchants was solely for our precious diamonds. They never had the moral act to take prudence decision for the sake of humanity and avoid the catastrophe that befalls our beloved land.

But what is perplexing to me is that why is Charles Taylor the only non-Sierra Leonean (Blood Diamond Merchant) to face trial for heinous crimes associated with our diamonds?

He, like many others, aided the RUF diabolically. The Heads of State of Ivory Coast and Burkina Faso, and Libya, facilitators of arms from European countries to Sierra Leone, should also be held accountable for their actions.

Academic writers and environmental groups have always pointed at the role of ‘Blood Diamonds’ in Sierra Leone’s darkest days. None of them is questioning the role of the merchants who traded in the very diamonds they refer to as ‘blood diamonds’. Can diamonds train mercenaries? Can diamonds kill? Can diamonds travel to Liberia, Ivory Coast, Burkina Faso, Libya or reach the international market in exchange for arms? Who were responsible? Was Charles Taylor the only one to answer for his role in Sierra Leone’s brutal war?

This is not justice. The history of the brutal war will be incomplete if we fail to bring to justice other ‘Blood Diamond Merchants’ (Africans and Europeans alike) in the conflict, who for immoral reasons aided and abetted the ‘war of untold stories’.