Academic journal article Journal of International Affairs

Profit vs. Peace: The Clandestine Diamond Economy of Angola

Academic journal article Journal of International Affairs

Profit vs. Peace: The Clandestine Diamond Economy of Angola

Article excerpt

"Diamonds are UNITA's life blood. Without them UNITA wouldn't be able to maintain its options. We need to have choices, anal as you see what the government is doing now, UNITA needs to maintain military reserves so that the government doesn't destroy us. This is the reality."--Former UNITA chief of staff General Arlindo Pean "Ben Ben"(1)

Throughout Africa, warring parties routinely use natural resources to fund destructive wars. As conflict alters and disrupts pre-existing economies, war economies are created, establishing new systems of supply, demand, profit and control. Rebel groups in Angola, Sierra Leone,(2) Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and elsewhere enrich themselves through the sale or exchange of diamonds, and use the funds from the diamond trade to purchase arms and other supplies necessary for waging war. As these resources become an integral part of the ability to wage war, they also become an objective of war. Each side fights to maintain or gain access to crucial diamond reserves. Individual short- or long- term economic interests not only shape the conflict, but, if the economic advantage of fighting outweighs that of peace, perpetuate it as well. Natural resources have been a curse for these states, bringing conflict and exacerbating poverty.

The post-Cold War transformation of the war in Angola demonstrates the growing impact of black markets, particularly in valuable natural resources, on conflict. In response to changing geopolitical events, the National Union for the Total Liberation of Angola (UNITA) has developed an international trade network that allows it to secure weapons, petroleum and other supplies on the black market in contravention of UN sanctions and international condemnation. UNITA thus illustrates the ability of non-state actors to manipulate the darker side of globalization: the black markets and informal economies that have proliferated in states destabilized by economic and political transition, conflict and social upheaval. Profiting from illicit trade, organizations such as UNITA navigate their way around sanctions, customs and other barriers in the incessant pursuit of weapons and material. The end result is the prolongation of violence.

This paper examines the impact of the clandestine diamond economy on the civil war in Angola, with a specific focus on UNITA's efforts to fund its operations through the diamond trade. The role of the Angolan Government as well as of major private actors such as the DeBeers diamond cartel and private military and/or security companies is also considered. Further, the paper examines the recent military success of the Angolan Armed Forces (FAA) against UNITA strongholds. Finally, it discusses the efforts by the international community to halt UNITA's diamond trading through the extension of the United Nations embargo on diamonds and the suspension of Angolan diamond sales by the DeBeers diamond cartel.

Thirty Years of Civil War

The thirty year civil war between the Movement for the Popular Liberation of Angola (MPLA), now the ruling party of Angola, and UNITA has been characterized by guerilla tactics, gross violations of human rights and economic destruction. Out of a population of 11 million people, one million Angolans have been killed,(3) 1.6 million are internally displaced,(4) and 300,000 are refugees in the neighboring DRC and Zambia. Two million Angolans live a "precarious existence, in need of or dependent on aid."(5) Angola has one of the highest rates of landmine casualties in the world.(6) Overall, thirty years of civil war have brought immense human suffering to Angola. Yet, one of the sources of this tragic situation is Angola's natural wealth: illicit sales of diamonds by UNITA have prolonged the war and enriched rebel leaders. The Angolan Government has responded by using revenues from official diamond and oil sales to fight UNITA, impoverishing the country even further.

Angola has experienced civil war intermittently since 1961. …

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