Sierra Leone's War Research Papers
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“The civil war in Sierra Leone has been one of the most brutal conflicts on the African continent at the end of the 20th century, involving the loss of tens of thousands of lives and the displacement of over 2.4 million of the country’s 4.5 million people”. At the root of the conflict is the diamond mines of Sierra Lone and the battle over control of them. The politics of diamond management in the origin of Sierra Leone’s conflict and continuing impact on the course of the conflict has broad implications for the processes of governance and civil society in Africa. The war in Sierra Leone highlights some of the major issues that will dominate Africa’s security debate, natural resources, and nature of regional peacekeeping mechanisms well into the future. In an attempt to better understand the causes of the war, The Heart of the Matter-Sierra Leone, Diamonds and Human Security by Partnership Africa Canada, conducted an investigation to determine the role of diamonds in the widespread death, destruction and misery of the people of Sierra Leone. In brief, the report stressed the following:
- The war in Sierra Leone is not fought for victories
- Sierra Leone's War is to engage in profitable crime under the pretext of warfare.
- Diamonds, first discovered in Sierra Leone in the 1930s, have been a major cause of political conflict fuelling the decade-old war.
The issue of diamond exploitation has been the most profound factor in Sierra Leone’s war, making it the prize attraction for all of the belligerents. Because of the vast riches that can be garnered, many countries have joined with the RUF, some openly others in secrecy, in the hopes of acquiring the wealth of this tiny tropical land. The RUF has been linked with such associations as Liberia, Ivory Coast and international non-governmental organizations (NGO) in deals to barter diamonds for arms, medicine and publicity.
From the outset of the war, Liberia acted as the banker, trainer and mentor to the RUF. The Liberian connection was not new; with a negligible diamond potential of its own, Liberia’s dealings in stolen Sierra Leonean diamonds have been a major source of concern to successive Sierra Leone governments since the great diamond rush of the 1950s. What has been different and more sinister after 1991 is the active involvement of official Liberian interests in Sierra Leone’s brutal war–for the purpose of pillage rather than politics. Further it has been alleged that the Lebanese have become involved in the war. It seems that Lebanese business interests bribed soldiers for access to mining sites were given access to diamond sites under rebel control in exchange for money.