Blood Di­a­monds: Tracing the Deadly Path of the World’s Most Pre­cious Stones

Africa Renewal - - Africa Books - by Greg Camp­bell Ba­sic Books, New York, NY, USA, 2002; 280 pp; pb $ 16.99 — Pavithra Rao

Di­a­monds are re­garded as one of the most im­por­tant sym­bols of love in many cul­tures around the world. The glit­ter­ing stone ex­udes sta­tus, luxury and class. What is less known to many con­sumers of the pre­cious gem, how­ever, is its role in the bru­tal war that raged (and still con­tin­ues in some parts of Africa, like the Demo­cratic Repub­lic of the Congo) in di­a­mond-rich Sierra Leone from 1991 un­til 2002, when the war of­fi­cially ended.

In his book, award-win­ning jour­nal­ist Greg Camp­bell ex­plores the role of di­a­monds dur­ing Sierra Leone’s civil war and how the big names in the in­dus­try, such as the South African cor­po­ra­tion De Beers, al­legedly looked the other way when grue­some acts of war were be­ing com­mit­ted by rebels us­ing di­a­mond prof­its to pur­chase weapons. In fact, Camp­bell ac­cuses De Beers of ma­nip­u­lat­ing the sup­ply of and de­mand for di­a­monds dur­ing that pe­riod to boost prof­its.

Di­a­monds were first dis­cov­ered in Sierra Leone’s forests al­most a cen­tury ago. When civil war broke out in 1991, Camp­bell writes, rebels smug­gled and sold di­a­monds at pre­mium prices to deal­ers in the West.

Per­haps one of the im­por­tant con­tri­bu­tions of the book is that the au­thor gives a hu­man face to those who suf­fered in the di­a­mond trade – Sierra Leoneans who were de­nied di­a­mond pro­ceeds and ar­ti­sanal di­a­mond min­ers who were of­ten con­scripted and some­times later raped or killed by the rebel army, the Rev­o­lu­tion­ary United Front (RUF).

Read­ers of this book might come away with the im­pres­sion that the is­sue is over­anal­ysed; how­ever, it is time to get past the sparkle and glit­ter and re­con­sider the real value and mean­ing be­hind di­a­monds given the hu­man suf­fer­ing they have caused in con­flict coun­tries. Camp­bell’s com­pelling 252-page book of­fers in­valu­able in­sights into global cor­po­ra­tions’ greed and ma­nip­u­la­tion of the di­a­mond mar­ket, as well as the in­cred­i­bly high hu­man cost of the di­a­mond trade.

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