Monday, April 8, 2013

Appetite for Diamonds

   For a period of roughly 15 years, a typical day in the West African nation of Sierra Leone consisted of people ranging from adults to children being terrorized and forced to mine and harvest diamonds to fund Rebel factions fighting in the country’s civil war. But the Rebels aren't the only problem to these people, sometimes young children, who are forced under disgusting and inhumane conditions to work hundreds of hours a week. The worldwide appetite for diamonds - the United States is the world's largest consumer of the gem - has fueled military warlords and upheaval in nations subject to illegal arms trade, and thus, violence.
   In 2000, the U.N. accused Liberian president Charles G. Taylor of supporting groups like the Revolutionary United Front (RUF) insurgency in neighboring Sierra Leone, private military groups like Condor Security and The Spada Group, and even known terrorists in al-Qaeda by supplying weapons and training in exchange for blood diamonds ("blood diamond" refers specifically to diamonds mined in African war zones and sold to finance conflicts, and thereby profit warlords and diamond companies across the world.)

Charles G. Taylor

   In 2001, the United Nations applied sanctions on the Liberian diamond trade. In August 2003, Taylor stepped down as president and, after being exiled to Nigeria, faced trial in The Hague. On July 21, 2006 he pleaded not guilty to crimes against humanity and war crimes (he was found guilty in April 2012.) On May 30th 2012, he began a 50-year sentence in a high security prison in the United Kingdom. Liberia has been recognized by the United Nations for acting as a pipeline for blood diamonds from Sierra Leone.

   Around the time of the 1998 United States embassy bombings, al-Qaeda bought gems from Liberia as some of its other financial assets were frozen. Taylor, private military groups, al-Qaeda, and other mercenaries from all over the world, including the U.S., sold out on their own countries. They traded force for cash, intimidation for labor, gems for weapons, and blood for diamonds. The same American-born, former U.S. soldiers who served their country years before were now involved in a scheme that involved the deaths of the same people those soldiers once swore to protect. Their specific talents enabled these private armies to fund al-Qaeda and other terrorist groups to afford weapons and training supplies used in attacks all over the world. The links to American companies that have sold out their own country to take part in the lucrative diamond trade are expected to grow once again now that US occupation of the Middle East is being scaled back by the Obama Administration.

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