Blood Diamonds by Greg Campbell
Paperback: 280 pages
Publisher: Westview Press; Reprint edition (February 3, 2004)
“Ismael Dalramy lost his hands in 1996 with two quick blows of an ax. He didn’t—or couldn’t—recall the pain of the blows. But he remembered being ordered at gunpoint to place his wrists on a wooden stump dripping with the blood of his neighbors who were writhing on the found around him trying to stem the flow of blood from their arms or staggering away.”
With this gory introduction to his book, Greg Campbell pulls you in and refuses to let you go before he gets his message across to you. Sierra Leone was consumed by a war over diamonds for over a decade, with the RUF, Kamajors, and the government all fighting each other for power over tiny little stones. It is horrifying, engrossing, disgusting, and very well-researched. It is definitely an excellent read.
Diamonds were found all over Africa, and, during the Imperialistic Era, there was a mad rush to get at them. One of these mad rushers was Cecil Rhodes, who became so successful that he founded de Beers, which has become famous world-wide for its diamonds. They have also become famous for their connections to conflict diamonds, or diamonds who have brought about conflicts in the regions they were mined.
Sierra Leone was a large producer of conflict diamonds in the 1990’s as the Revolutionary United Front, or the RUF, attempted to gain control of all of the diamond mines. In order to do this, they needed guns, which they purchased with diamonds. These diamonds then leaked into the diamond market, where millions of them were bought by joyful brides-to-be and their fiancés. They were unknowingly supporting the violence in Sierra Leone by purchasing diamonds that purchased weapons that lead to many killings and operations, including Operation No Living Thing.
The only forces standing up against the RUF were the government and the Kamajors, local militia groups who were protecting their villages. All three of these armies wanted to gain control of the diamond mines spread throughout Sierra Leone, which lead to horrors that seemed to have no end. During this time, the world was focusing elsewhere, oblivious to the massacres occurring every day.
In order to gain and maintain complete control, the RUF ordered its soldiers to kill and maim innocent villagers, force them to work in their diamond mines, and enlisted child soldiers. Refugees of their attacks headed to the borders and Freetown, and thriving villages were soon left behind to rot away.
During the later years, the U.N. attempted to intervene, unsuccessfully. It wasn’t until 2002 that their forces in Sierra Leone were able to disarm the RUF, and even then the Kamajors refused to relinquish their weapons.
Meanwhile, it leaked that Osama bin Ladin had liquidated his funds by buying conflict diamonds, supporting the conflict in Sierra Leone and stashing away his money before his final attack on 9/11.