Blood diamonds or conflict diamonds gained their name from events such as the civil war that took place in Sierra Leone between 1991-2002. Sierra Leone has long been one of the world's poorest countries however one of its main sources of international income has been from its Alluvial diamonds, diamonds that are found in streams and shallow rivers and therefore easy and cheap to mine (above) as no infrastructure or expensive mining machinery is required. The Kono and Kenema districts of Sierra Leone are particularly rich in such diamonds. The term 'alluvial mining' is taken from the Latin word 'alluvium' (to wash against') with alluvium itself being loose soil or sediments that hasn't forged itself into solid rock. Alluvium is primarily made up of silt, clay, sand and gravel but can also contain valuable ores such as diamonds, gold and platinum as well as other gemstones. Alluvial mining itself tends to be undertaken by small scale miners who use their hands, sieves and shovels to sift through these deposits in search of the diamonds.
Although the diamonds found are themselves valuable, the miners normally remain poor being exploited by traders and exposed to a lack of safety measures. As in most countries, such mining is unregulated and outside formal control; as such, it attracts and exploits child labourers. The informal industry has long been associated with funding conflict to take control of the wealth it can generate and no more so than in Sierra Leone where they became known as Blood Diamonds. The money gained from this trade in diamonds stayed very much with the ruling political groups in Sierra Leone, with very little actually going to benefit the poorest in society. The increasing sense of unfairness in the country was tapped into by one Foday Sankoh who formed the RUF (Revolutionary United Front), and he started an armed insurrection to overthrow the existing political classes in 1991. And blood diamonds funded this armed conflict.
Armed and trained in exchange for these diamonds by the regime of Liberian president Charles G. Taylor, who was later found guilty of crimes against humanity, the RUF's tactics were brutal, they would sweep into areas killing all of whom who were not prepared to support them and cutting off the arms or legs of those who offered any form of resistance, whilst also decapitating the heads of community leaders. This included children who were merely crying as they saw their parent's slaughtered and by the time it ended in 2002, 50,000 were dead and nearly two million people had been displaced. Even today, many of the population of Sierra Leone are still coming to terms with being forced to murder their family and friends after being kidnapped and forcibly enlisted into the rebel cause while Sierra Leone itself is reconstructing with the aid of funding from the legitimate diamonds industry after the UN lifted sanctions. The video (below) explores blood diamonds and their role in the Sierra Leone Civil War in more details.
Blood Diamonds: Volunteer in Sierra Leone
Blood Diamonds: Sierra Leone Civil War
Blood Diamonds: Child Sponsor Sierra Leone
Blood Diamonds: Sierra Leone Country Profile
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