Diamondfacts.org

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Conflict diamonds captured the world's attention during the extremely brutal conflict in Sierra Leone in the late 1990s. During this time, conflict diamonds represented approximately 4% of the world's diamond production. Illicit rough diamonds have also been used by rebels to fund conflicts in Angola, Liberia, Ivory Coast, the Democratic Republic of Congo and the Republic of Congo (also known as Congo Brazzaville).

 

Following are African diamond producing countries where rebels have used diamonds to fund conflict in the past. These countries are now at peace - with rebels no longer trading in conflict diamonds - and are participants of the Kimberley Process.

Click on a country to learn more about its past conflicts and present-day status.

 

Angola

Democratic Republic of Congo

Liberia

Republic of Congo (also known as Congo Brazzaville)

Sierra Leone

 

Although the flow of conflict diamonds has been reduced to less than 1%, there is still one African diamond-producing country — Ivory Coast — that is under UN Security Council Resolution to prohibit the extraction and trade in diamonds. This country produces a very low percentage of the world's diamond supply. Click below to learn more about the Ivory Coast's situation and current status.

 

Ivory Coast

 

Angola

BACKGROUND


Angola is situated on southern Africa's Atlantic coast, bordering Namibia, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Zambia. A former colony of Portugal, with a current population of 12.3 million, Angola gained independence in 1975.

Portuguese is the official language of Angola. Average life expectancy is 37 years and the country has a high prevalence of infectious diseases including HIV/AIDS, typhoid, malaria and hepatitis. A particular issue for the country is land mines, laid during the civil war, which continue to blight the countryside and threaten the livelihoods of thousands of inhabitants.

Diamonds were first discovered in Angola in 1912. For the next 40 years, the industry was exclusively based on alluvial diamond mining (mining that extracts diamonds from deposits of sand, gravel and clay, which have been naturally transported by water erosion and deposited along either the banks of a river, the shoreline or on the bed of the ocean). In addition to diamonds, Angola has a range of other natural resources including petroleum, iron ore, phosphates, copper, feldspar, gold, bauxite and uranium. Oil production and its supporting activities contribute about half of Angola's GDP and 90% of exports.

 

CIVIL WARS AND DIAMONDS


The country failed to find stability following independence and was thrown into several civil wars between two opposing factions - UNITA and MPLA - for the next 27 years. The conflicts, which cost up to 1.5 million lives, started in 1975 and ended in 2002. During the civil wars in Angola, rebel groups traded diamonds to fund armed conflict (known as conflict diamonds). In response, the UN applied sanctions to ban the rebels' trade in conflict diamonds in 1999.

 

PRESENT-DAY ANGOLA


Much of Angola's infrastructure was damaged during the civil war and remains so today, with subsistence agriculture providing the main livelihood for half of the population.

Angola is making significant progress towards long-anticipated elections. Today, conflict diamonds are no longer traded in Angola. Angola is a participant of the Kimberley Process and currently produces approximately 9% of the world's diamonds.

 

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Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC)

BACKGROUND


The Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) is situated in central Africa, northeast of Angola.

The official language of the Democratic Republic of Congo is French. Average life expectancy is 57 years and the country has a high prevalence of infectious diseases including HIV/AIDS, typhoid, malaria and hepatitis. Natural resources include diamonds, copper, crude oil, coffee and cobalt.

Artisanal mining (small-scale digging by individuals, families and communities using basic equipment, such as sieves and pans) has prevailed in the DRC, encouraged by new laws in 1981 that forced the Société Miniére du Bakwanga (MIBA) to open up the majority of its diamond fields to artisanal diggers.

 

CIVIL WAR AND DIAMONDS


A former colony of Belgium with a population of 65.8 million, the DRC gained independence in 1960. Within weeks of independence, the country fell into civil war with Colonel Joseph Mobutu seizing power and proclaiming himself the president. He nationalised the economy and changed the country's name to Zaire.

President Mobutu was overthrown in a subsequent civil war in 1997, in which four million people died, and the country was reverted back to being called the Democratic Republic of Congo. The civil war ended when the warring factions involved signed the Lusaka Accord in 1999. A new constitution was then adopted by the National Assembly in 2005.

During the civil war in the DRC, rebel groups traded diamonds to fund armed conflict. In response, the UN applied sanctions to ban the rebels' trade in conflict diamonds.

 

PRESENT-DAY DRC


Elections to form a new government took place in July 2006. This election was the first fully democratic vote in the country in more than 40 years. The economy is expected to improve following the installation of the new government.

Today, international monitoring has demonstrated that diamonds are no longer being used to fund conflict in the DRC. The end of the war in 1999 led to a resurgence of the mining industry, which accounts for most of the Democratic Republic of Congo's exports. The DRC is a participant of the Kimberley Process and currently produces approximately 8% of the world's diamonds.

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Liberia

BACKGROUND


Liberia is situated in western Africa, bordering the North Atlantic Ocean, between the Ivory Coast and Sierra Leone. It has a population of three million. English is the official language of Liberia, but there are 20 other ethnic group languages. Average life expectancy is 39 years, with a 6% AIDS/HIV prevalence. Artisanal mining (small-scale digging by individuals, families and communities using basic equipment, such as sieves and pans) has been used to source diamonds in the Kpo Range of Liberia since the 1950s. In addition to diamonds, the country's resources include iron ore, timber, gold and hydropower.

 

CIVIL WAR AND DIAMONDS


The country was embroiled in civil war from 1989 to 2003, destroying much of its economy.

In 2000, the UN officially accused Charles Taylor, president of Liberia, of backing the insurgency in neighboring Sierra Leone by providing arms and training to the Revolutionary United Front (RUF) in exchange for diamonds. In 2001 UN sanctions were imposed on Liberia. Taylor stepped down as Liberian president in August 2003 as part of an internationally brokered peace deal to end the civil war. Taylor went into exile in Nigeria in 2003 and was ultimately transferred to the Netherlands to stand trial in The Hague international criminal court.

Charles Taylor pleaded not guilty to 11 charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity during his first appearance at The Hague on July 21, 2006.


PRESENT-DAY LIBERIA


Liberia is now at peace. A new president was elected in 2005 with support provided by the UN Mission in Liberia (Ellen Johnson Sirleaf made history as Africa's first elected female head of state). Some of the businessmen who fled the country during the conflict have now returned to set up new ventures, helping to stimulate the economy of this suffering country.

In April, 2007, Liberia was admitted into the Kimberley Process, a unique joint initiative by government, the diamond industry and non-governmental organizations to prevent conflict diamonds from entering the legitimate diamond supply chain.

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Republic of Congo (a. k. a. Congo Brazzaville)

BACKGROUND


The Republic of Congo is situated in western Africa on the South Atlantic Ocean, bordering Angola, Cameroon, Central African Republic, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Gabon. The official language in the Republic of Congo is French, but others include Lingala and Monokutuba. The current population is 3.8 million, with 70% living in and around the capital, Brazzaville. Average life expectancy in the Republic of Congo is 53 years old and there is a high prevalence of infectious diseases such as malaria, hepatitis A and typhoid.

The economy in the Republic of Congo is based mainly on oil, but export levels were damaged by the civil war. The country's other natural resources include diamonds, petroleum, uranium, copper, gold and natural gas.

 

CIVIL WAR AND DIAMONDS


A former colony of France, the Republic of Congo gained independence in 1960. A period of Marxism followed until a democratically elected multi-party government took control in 1992. The Marxists regained power after a civil war in 1997, leading to instability in the nation until rebel groups signed a peace agreement in 2003. The war displaced many people and created a humanitarian crisis, which is still a problem today.


PRESENT-DAY REPUBLIC OF CONGO


The Republic of Congo was recently investigated by the Kimberley Process - the process developed to prevent conflict diamonds from entering the legitimate diamond supply chain. The Kimberley Process found that the Republic of Congo had met standards necessary to be re-admitted to the Kimberley Process. It is hoped that through the legitimate trade in the country's diamond resources, benefication to local communities will soon follow.

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Sierra Leone

 

BACKGROUND


Sierra Leone is situated in western Africa, bordering the North Atlantic Ocean, between Guinea and Liberia. A former British colony with a current population of 6.1 million, Sierra Leone gained independence in 1961.

The economic and social infrastructure of Sierra Leone is not well developed. Nearly half of the population survive by subsistence agriculture, although alluvial diamond mining (mining that extracts diamonds from deposits of sand, gravel and clay, which have been naturally transported by water erosion and deposited along either the banks of a river, the shoreline or on the bed of the ocean) accounts for nearly half of the country's exports and is the most significant source of hard currency earnings.

English is the official language of Sierra Leone but only 35% of its citizens are literate. The average life expectancy is 40 years and AIDS/HIV affects 7% of the population.

Diamonds were first discovered in Sierra Leone in 1930. In addition to diamonds, the country also has several other natural resources - titanium ore, bauxite, iron ore, gold and chromite.

 

CIVIL WAR AND DIAMONDS


Between 1991 and 2002, the country suffered a brutal, ten-year civil war during which the Revolutionary United Front (RUF) committed horrendous atrocities, terrorizing the population and gaining control of the country's diamond mines.

Eight years of protracted war left tens of thousands of people displaced and unknown numbers dead or mutilated. Half a million of Sierra Leone's people were forced to flee the country. The UN Security Council established the Mission in Sierra Leone (UNAMSIL) in October 1999 to help restore peace. At its height, UNAMSIL had 17,000 troops and was the biggest UN peacekeeping operation in the world. The Abuja Agreement in 2001 finally led to a reduction of hostilities and by early 2002, tens of thousands of ex-combatants had been disarmed and demobilized. By January of 2002, the civil war was over and Sierra Leone became a democratic country.

In 2000, the UN officially accused Charles Taylor, then president of neighboring Liberia, of backing the insurgency by providing arms and training to the RUF in exchange for diamonds. Taylor stepped down as Liberian President in August 2003 as part of an internationally brokered peace deal to end the civil war in Liberia. Taylor went into exile in Nigeria in 2003 and was ultimately transferred to the Netherlands to stand trial in The Hague international criminal court.

 

In 2000, the United Nations Security Council banned both direct and indirect imports of rough diamonds from Sierra Leone to member states in an effort to help stabilize the country and reduce the rebel's access to foreign currency and arms.

Since the end of the civil war in 2002, the diamond industry has provided technical assistance and training to Sierra Leone's Ministry of Mines in setting up the Government Diamond Office - an important step to being part of the Kimberley Process. In 2003 Sierra Leone joined the Kimberley Process, the international agreement developed to prevent conflict diamonds from entering the legitimate diamond supply chain and provides an assurance that diamonds are from conflict free sources.

 

PRESENT-DAY SIERRA LEONE


Sierra Leone is now at peace. Ernest Bai Koroma became president following elections in September, 2007. Today, diamonds represent a resource of crucial importance to the future development of the country. Sierra Leone continues to be a participant of the Kimberley Process and exported approximately $125 million worth of diamonds (approximately 3% of the world's diamonds) in 2006. Revenues from diamond exports are making a positive contribution to the rebuilding of its infrastructure, health services and education systems.

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Ivory Coast (also known as Cote d'Ivoire)

BACKGROUND


Ivory Coast is located in western Africa, bordering the North Atlantic Ocean, between Ghana and Liberia. Ivory Coast was a French colony until it obtained independence in 1960.

The official language of Ivory Coast is French and it has a population of over 17.6 million. Average life expectancy is 48 years. Ivory Coast is among the world's largest producers and exporters of coffee, cocoa beans, and palm oil. Roughly 68% of the population is dependent on agriculture.

 

CIVIL WAR AND DIAMONDS


In December 1999, a military coup overthrew the government and since then civil war has plagued the country. The central government still has no control over northern regions and tensions remain high.

During the 1990s following a drop in the price of cocoa the government decided to focus on the mining sector. The new interest in diamond mining coincided with the wars in Liberia and Sierra Leone and affected Ivory Coast's diamond exports, which rose exponentially. Foreign investment companies withdrew due to the political situation.

 

PRESENT-DAY IVORY COAST


There is currently a small scale conflict tacking place in the informal diamond digging areas in the north east of the Ivory Coast. There is no official/formal diamond exploration or mining being carried out in Ivory Coast.

Ivory Coast remains under a UN Security Council Resolution (renewed on October 31, 2007) prohibiting the import and export of diamonds. The country is a member of the Kimberley Process but the Government, in alignment with the UNSC Resolution, has itself suspended all official exports of rough diamonds to help support its efforts to restore social stability and ensure systems are in place to met the KP requirements. The Kimberley Process is the process developed to prevent conflict diamonds from entering the legitimate diamond supply chain and provides an assurance that diamonds are from conflict free sources. The Government of Ivory Coast is working closely with the Kimberley Process Secretariat and the UN to successfully overcome various challenges and establish a positive solution.