Academic journal article African Studies Review

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

Academic journal article African Studies Review

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

Article excerpt

Greg Campbell. Blood Diamonds: Tracing the Deadly Path of the World's Most Precious Stones. New York: Westview Press, 2002. 288 pp. $26.00. Cloth. $15.95. Paper.

Blood Diamonds: Tracing the Deadly Path of the World's Most Precious Stones is journalist Greg Campbell's first-hand account of diamond mining, selling, and retailing from the mines of Sierra Leone to the cutting and polishing shops of Belgium to the retail markets of New York and London. Based on several trips Campbell made to Sierra Leone during 2001, the book chronicles many human rights atrocities associated with diamond mining and trading, much of which is illegally controlled by the Revolutionary United Front (RUF). Campbell notes that in the early 1990s the RUF began as a peasant's rebellion led by Foday Sankoh, a Libyan-trained and Liberian-backed corporal in the Sierra Leone Army. However, shortly after the RUF invaded Sierra Leone from neighboring Liberia, it embarked on campaigns of brutality, killing and maiming soldiers and civilians alike in order to gain control of the diamond mines, which produce some of the best quality gemstones in the world.

Campbell begins the book with an account of his interview with Dalramy, a villager from Koidu. Dalramy describes how, during the RUF's 1996 "Operation Clean Sweep," hundreds of villagers had their limbs amputated by machete-wielding RUF soldiers, many of whom were younger than 18. These operations were meant to pacify civilians, thereby achieving a double goal: securing a compliant and free workforce and driving others away from homes that happened to be located too close to diamond-rich areas.

Campbell describes the conditions under which miners work. Toiling in an environment that is both hot and humid, they shovel piles of dirt into heavy wooden troughs, shaking them to separate the diamonds from the silt, all the while standing in knee-deep watery mine slime. He notes that although many mines have recently come back under the government's control, the only difference for the miners is that in the government-run mines, soldiers do not stand guard over them; the working conditions, however, remain the same.

After diamonds are mined they are sold to licensed merchants, the majority of whom are Lebanese, or to smugglers. Campbell interviewed both a licensed merchant named Fawaz and an Australian smuggler named Jacob Singer. Singer boasts that it is nearly impossible to be caught smuggling diamonds between Sierra Leone and Guinea's capital, Conakry, where most of his business is done. …

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