Have you ever heard of a “Blood Diamond”? Ever hear of children being forced into slave labor to pan and dig beautiful rocks found on people’s fingers? Did you know that children along with adults have had hands amputated because they were accused of stealing the diamonds they were forced to pan for in a river? Upon learning of this horrible atrocity, I view my diamonds differently. I am currently not wearing any diamonds, and I will not, until I find out where the diamonds originated from.

What I am speaking of is the Diamond Industry within Africa. According to a report from “Partnership Africa Canada” there have been nearly 50,000 Africans killed, and half the population misplaced within Sierra Leone. The underground trade of diamonds is booming. A conflict diamond is valued between four percent and fifteen percent of the world total and generates annual business 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 the area the “National Provisional Ruling Council” (NPRC) became engaged in an effort to drive out the RUF. In 1996, President Ahmed Tejan Kabbah signed a peace agreement in Abidjan that 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 hold the RUF Rebels. In 1999, RUF Rebels murdered on estimation six thousand civilians as well as mutilating many more people.

In the same year, the government of Sierra Leone was forced to sign another peace treaty which allowed the RUF Rebel group to become part of the government. Upon this occurring, the RUF Rebel group seized 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 that consisted of a ban on Liberian diamond sales to include a ban on travel by Liberian officials. It was impossible for the UN to enforce these sanctions because due of no international oversight of diamond movements. 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 eventually became involved in Sierra Leone’s war sending a 17,000-man force to oversee disarmament, and to preserve 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 the RUF officials were brought to justice, in fact, their fate is currently unknown.

Three separate incidents which occurred in Rwanda, Sudan and Sierra Leone where the RUF Rebels conducted genocides resulted in thousands being murdered. Let’s not forget the slave labor that 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 process imposed requirements on participants to certify that shipments of rough diamonds are “Conflict Free”. Where measures have finally been made to stop the process of Conflict Diamonds, there is still an underground world of illegal diamond smuggling.

The result of the smuggling finds its way into our U.S jewelry stores and jewelry stores worldwide. It is up to consumers to ask jeweler’s where their products come from and to prove they are Conflict Free. If jewelers cannot perform this task, consumers should take their business elsewhere. To cast a blind eye to this issue is promoting the bloodshed and tribulations of Africans who were forced to dig for the stones around your girlfriend’s or wife’s neck, it’s not worth it. What if it were your children out in those mines? What if it were your mother, wife or daughter who were raped and murdered? With these questions in mind, we can agree it brings about 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 stated that they had a policy but were unable to provide 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 erroneous 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 believe the greed within the diamond industry is rampant. Our jewelry shops do not care how they obtain 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. Upon learning of this situation, I’m ashamed of myself for not knowing about these horrible atrocities, secondly, diamonds are no longer my best friend.