• Conflict diamonds: Roles, responsibilities and responses

      Bourne, Mike (2001)
      In recent years consumers, NGOs, and governments alike have become increasingly concerned about the problem of `conflict¿ or `blood¿ diamonds in relation to on-going armed conflicts in Angola, Sierra Leone, and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). Allegations by NGOs, governments and the UN that many conflicts are fuelled by illicit exports of diamonds have begun to be acknowledged by the diamond industry. Diamonds, and the money they generate, have been used to purchase arms, ammunition, uniforms and other equipment, as well as to pay soldiers and to cultivate strategic alliances for those armed groups in control of territory rich in this lucrative resource. This has facilitated the intensification and protraction of violent conflicts in Africa. Additionally, the wealth to be gained from the illicit extraction and sale of diamonds has contributed to the prominence of economic agendas in many civil wars that motivate faction leaders to continue the conflict in order to protect their businesses.1 For example, the Angolan rebel group UNITA (União Nacional para a Inedepência Total de Angola) is believed to have received US$3.7 billion in a six year period during the 1990s - a far greater amount than the foreign aid received from patrons like the United States and South Africa during the Cold War. This money has both funded large scale arms purchases and swelled the personal coffers of UNITA leaders, thereby contributing to the intransigence of those leaders in agreeing and implementing peace and facilitating continued violence.2 In Sierra Leone the Revolutionary United Front (RUF) has funded its arms acquisitions with illicit diamond revenues and the extraction of diamonds is seen as one of the main factors behind the lack of implementation of the Lomé peace accord and the subsequent resurgence of violence. In the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) both the government and rebel forces have financed their war efforts through the diamond trade, as have some of the intervening regional powers. As a result the fighting around diamond rich areas and trading centres has been particularly intense. For example, in spite of a unilateral ceasefire declared by Rwanda on the 29th of May 1999, it is believed to have sent 7,000 fresh troops to the DRC in June as the battle for the diamond rich area of Mbuji-Mayi escalated. However the prominence of `conflict diamonds¿ in the policy discourse related to these conflicts and their resolution has served to obscure a range of other issues which are equally, if not more, central to finding lasting solutions to these wars. In spite of the fact that the arms flows which sustain these conflicts are only partly financed by `conflict diamonds¿ they are often only mentioned as one aspect of the illegal diamond trade rather than as a core issue. Even more concerning, perhaps, is that the discourse of `greed¿ rather than `grievance¿ as the foundation and driving force of conflicts obscures the complexity of political, social, and other economic dimensions of these wars. Thus, while efforts to reduce the conflict diamond trade may be an essential element of the resolution of these conflicts, other factors of potentially greater import are pushed down the agendas of many of the governments and NGOs whose input into those processes may be the key to success. In short, therefore, the issue 2 of conflict diamonds is one aspect of the complex dynamics and processes of ongoing African conflicts, not vice-versa.