Ever hear of a "Blood Diamond"? Ever here of children being forced into slave labor to pan and dig for that beautiful rock on your finger? Did you know that people have had arms or hands amputated due to being accused of stealing the very diamonds they have been forced to pan for in a river? Upon learning of this, I view my diamonds differently. I wince upon the mere thought of this occurring due to something I am wearing, therefore, I am currently not wearing any diamonds and I will not, until I find out where these diamonds came from.
What I am speaking of is the Diamond Industry within Africa. According to a report from "Partnership Africa Canada" there have been approximately 50,000 Africans killed,and half the population mis-placed within Sierra Leone. The underground trade of diamonds is booming. Conflict Diamonds are valued between four percent and fifteen percent of the world total and generates annual trade revenues of 7.5 billion dollars.
In 1991 Sierra Leone's conflict over diamonds began. Early in 1992 The Revolutionary United Front (RUF), an African rebel group seized Kono which is the Diamond Mining capital of Sierra Leone. In an effort to stabilize this region the "National Provisional Ruling Council" (NPRC) became engaged in an effort to drive out the RUF. In 1996 the president, Ahmed Tejan Kabbah signed a peace agreement in Abidjan which actually gave the RUF an opportunity to become a legitimate political party. Instead of taking Mr. Kabbah up on this offer, they chose to join forces with insurgents of the Sierra Leonean army and formed the "Armed Forces Ruling Council" (AFRC) which ended up ousting Mr. Kabbah from office.
In 1988 Nigerian forces from the "Military Observer Group of the Economic Community of West African States" (ECOMOG) removed the AFRC rebels from Freetown and reinstated Mr. Kabbah. Upon this occurring, the Nigerian forces could not contain the RUF Rebels. In 1999 these RUF Rebels murdered an estimated six thousand civilians as well as mutilating many more people.
In 1999 the government of Sierra Leone was forced to sign yet another peace treaty which allowed for this RUF Rebel group to become part of the government. Upon this occurring, the RUF Rebel group seized the control of the diamond mining camp in Kono and Tongo Field. The result was thousands of Sierra Leoneans being killed and mutilated for various reasons.
"The United Nations" (UN) did not intervene until 2001. Ten years after the war began, they imposed "lenient" sanctions, which consisted of a ban on Liberian diamond sales as well as a ban on travel by Liberian officials. It was impossible for the UN to enforce these sanctions due to the fact of no international oversight of movement of diamonds. After these sanctions were imposed, an RUF official flew to Abidjan and sold eight thousand carats of diamonds to an undisclosed dealer.
In 2003, the UN finally became involved in Sierra Leone's war sending a 17,000-man force to supervise disarmment and to uphold the provisions of the "Lome agreement". This war finally was noticed internationally after the UN inspectors were denied access to the diamond mines for inspection. In 2003, the UN special court in Sierra Leone indicted several people on war crimes, crimes against humanity and violations of international humanitarian law. Not all of these RUF officials were brought to justice, in fact, their fate is unknown.
Three separate incidents which occured in Rwanda, Sudan and Sierra Leone where the RUF Rebels conducted genocides resulted in thousands being murdered. Let's not forget the slave labor which was forced upon the children and men, the squalor conditions they were forced to live in while panning for diamonds in which we all wear.
In 2003 the "Kimberly Process" was introduced to stem the flow of "Conflict Diamonds", this imposes requirements on participants to certify that shipments of rough diamonds are "Conflict Free". Where measures have finally been made to stop this procedure, there is still an underground world of illegal diamond smuggling that end up dwindling into our U.S jewelry stores as well as around the world. It is up to consumers to ask our jeweler's where their products come from and to prove to us they are indeed "Conflict Free", if they can not do this, take your business elsewhere. To cast a blind eye to this issue is promoting the blood shed and tribulations of Africans whom more than likely were forced to dig for that stone around your "woman's" neck, it's not worth it. What if it were "our" children out in those mines? What if it were our women whom were raped and murdered? Does this not bring a different perspective?
Here are some recent statistics. Only 27% of shops were able to assure the "Business and Rights Organization" that they had a policy on "Conflict Diamonds". 30% of the shops said they had a policy but were unable to produce documentation proving this. 37% of the shops visited claimed they were aware of the "Conflict Diamond Issue". Out of this 37%, 54% of them reported an inaccurate definition of the crisis. When asked if American consumers inquired about Conflict Diamonds, 83% said rarely or never. 110 shops refused to even answer questions or take the survey.
I think it's obvious of the greed within this industry. Our jewelry shops do not care how they get our diamonds, as long as you purchase the diamonds and they can profit. Let's take a stand and ask our jeweler's if they follow the "Kimberly Process", if they state yes, make them prove it with documentation. Let's ask if their diamonds are "Conflict Free". Please take a stand on this. I will state that upon learning of this situation, first and foremost, I'm ashamed of myself for not even knowing about this horrible atrocity, secondly, diamonds are no longer my best friend.