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Sierra Leon Diamond Trade and Worldwide Diamond Trading Concerns

2000: Sierra Leon Diamond Trade Needs To Be Managed Properly

Feb. 2000

A Canadian non-governmental organization has prepared a report on "combat diamonds," which criticizes diamond companies who buy diamonds from Sierra Leone.

The report by Partnership Africa Canada (PAC) says the diamond industry has prolonged the long-running conflict, which has killed tens of thousands of civilians.

The report accuses De Beers of not doing enough to determine the source of gemstones. "There will never be a lasting peace in Sierra Leone until the diamond industry as a whole is properly managed," says one of the report’s co-authors. De Beers, however, notes it has no offices currently operating in Western Africa.

The report also accuses Belgian diamond officials of ignoring signs that diamonds smuggled from Liberia and other states had been smuggled out of Sierra Leone. It noted that the Belgian industry reported Liberian exports into Belgium of 31 million carats, while the country’s mining capacity is between 100,000 and 150,000 carats. The organization called for a high-level investigation of the Belgian diamond industry.

In response, the Diamond High Council, the industry umbrella group, said in a statement that "we have learned from our mistakes in the past … No other product is controlled more carefully than diamonds entering Antwerp. The illegitimate trade of diamonds must come to an end. But we need to strike at the roots of the evil and not at Antwerp."
Unlike other NGOs publicizing the diamond-war link, the Partnership Africa Canada has suggested a consumer boycott of diamonds might be necessary to stop the link between diamonds and war in Sierra Leone.

U.S. Congressman Tony Hall of Ohio, who has introduced a bill mandating that all diamonds be sold with a certificate of origin, has also introduced a bill that would ban the import of diamonds from Sierra Leone. There are currently no restrictions against companies buying diamonds from Sierra Leone, although some of the major diamond organizations have spoken out against all "combat diamonds."

Hall, meanwhile, says he is pressing ahead with his certificate of origin legislation, although he says it is "not cast in stone." Still, he called upon the diamond industry to come up with an enforceable way to regulate "conflict diamond" sales. He recently met with the CSO, which told him they take the question of "conflict diamonds" very seriously. British group Global Witness has praised De Beers and the industry for its "turnaround" on the "combat diamond" question, but says there is a lot more work to be done, and says it will continue to tell consumers there is a link between diamonds and African conflicts.

U.N. Official: Angolan Diamond Sanctions Work

There is some good news on the "Dirty Diamonds" front. Robert Fowler, the head of the U.N. Sanctions Committee on Angola, said he had found evidence that the U.N. embargo on diamond purchases had made some progress in halting the country’s diamond-for-arms trade. Currently, U.N. sanctions forbid the purchase of any diamond from Angola that is not accompanied by a government certificate. De Beers recently halted the purchase of all Angolan gems.

Global Witness says that UNITA’s diamond earnings have been cut to about $100 million a year. Fowler said if that were true, it would be a sign of the sanctions’ success.


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