Accessed 27 May 2000
The Heart of the Matter: Sierra Leone, Diamonds and Human Security
By Ian Smillie, Lansana Gberie and Ralph Hazleton ISBN 0-9686270-5-6 © Partnership Africa Canada, January 2000
Any recommendations for solutions to Sierra Leone's terrible and complex problems must be pragmatic enough for at least a reasonable chance of success. In other words, they should be realistic. Some of what follows is optimistic, but where Sierra Leone diamonds are concerned, business as usual is not realistic.
No single recommendation on its own will solve the problems of Sierra Leone's diamond industry, and most of the recommendations are part of a comprehensive set of changes that need to be addressed together. In fact taken together, the recommendations have major policy implications not only for governments and international organizations, but for civil society organizations in Sierra Leone and abroad, for private sector firms and for individual consumers.
In addition to national and international dimensions, there are important regional dimensions to the diamond trade and the conflict in Sierra Leone. There will be no lasting results to peacekeeping, peace-building and reconstruction unless all three dimensions are addressed.
The recommendations fall under seven broad headings. The first set has to do with the environment in Sierra Leone. The second and third sets deal with De Beers and with the diamond environment in Belgium. The fourth set has to do with neighboring states, particularly Liberia. One recommendation deals with the concept of a consumer campaign - possibly a necessary precursor to change elsewhere.
The general thrust of the recommendations aims at improved human and economic security, a sustainable peace, and at changing the economics of the diamond trade. If smuggling can be made more difficult, and if legal mining, investing and trading can be made more attractive, the potential for change can be turned into reality.
1 Framework for the Recommendations
1.1 A Permanent Independent International Diamond Standards Commission should be created under United Nations auspices in order to establish and monitor codes of conduct on governmental and corporate responsibility in the global diamond industry. It should draw members from intergovernmental institutions such as the Commonwealth and the OAU, from the diamond industry, from international law enforcement agencies and from international civil society organizations
1.2 In addition to the diamond-specific recommendations in this report, the development of sustainable peace in Sierra Leone will require major investment by the government of Sierra Leone and by donors in long-term basic human development and the creation of democratic institutions. Diamond-specific initiatives must be integrated into wider programmes aimed at building fundamental human security and democracy, involving parliamentarians, journalists, teachers and a broad cross-section of civil society.
2 Recommendations for Action in Sierra Leone
2.1 Establishment of the rule of law and human security throughout the country is of primary and urgent importance for a return to peace, and for appropriate exploitation of the country's mineral resources. In the short- and medium-term, donor agencies, friendly governments, the UN Peacekeeping Force and ECOMOG must facilitate the disarmament and demobilization of extra-governmental forces. Force must be used in a timely fashion to halt a resurgence of conflict.
2.2 Special long-term UN security forces must be deployed in all major diamond areas.
2.3 Attention should also be given by the UN Peacekeeping force to blocking or destabilizing major smuggling routes from Sierra Leone into neighbouring countries.
2.4 Donors should actively support current British government efforts to rebuild Sierra Leone's army and police force. A professional diamond unit should be created with the ability to anticipate and counteract criminal activities. This reform should place training in human rights law and international humanitarian law at the centre of its efforts to create a credible, non-partisan army.
2.5 The Government of Sierra Leone must ensure full transparency, high standards and rigorous probity in the implementation of its diamond purchasing, valuation and oversight activities. Corruption and conflicts of interest must be dealt with quickly and decisively. There is an important role to be played in this effort by Sierra Leonean civil society. Assistance in reviewing current systems and developing an enforceable code of conduct should be sought from appropriate donor agencies.
2.6 Systems must be developed in Sierra Leone for the payment of fair prices to legitimate small miners. The banking system must be able to provide adequate and timely funding to finance such purchases. Schemes which actively promote participation in small-scale artisanal mining by Sierra Leoneans, and which actively discourage the participation of non-citizens should be given top priority.
2.7 Effective and honest monitoring and inspection systems must be established throughout the mining and trading system. External assistance should be sought in developing these. Competent UN inspectors should be posted at different points in the system.
2.8 In creating incentives for foreign investment in larger-scale mining operations, the Government of Sierra Leone should raise its standards for investors, insisting on a minimum per annum exploration budget and/or minimum levels of market capitalization and/or assets. Full corporate transparency must also be provided. Assistance in developing such standards should be sought from international securities commissions.
2.9 While it is reasonable to expect mining firms to provide security within their immediate areas of operation, under no circumstances should they be provided with concessions in return for larger security or military operations, or in return for the supply of weapons.
3 De Beers
De Beers is part of the problem. In its efforts to control as much of the international diamond market as possible, it is no doubt purchasing diamonds from a wide variety of dubious sources, either wittingly or unwittingly. The breadth of its control, however, is also its major strength, and is part of the solution to the problem. If De Beers were to take a greater interest in countries like Sierra Leone, and if it were to stop purchasing large amounts of diamonds from countries with a negligible production base, much could be done to end the current high levels of theft and smuggling.
3.1 As a matter or urgency, more rigorous oversight on the issue of origin must be instituted by the CSO.
3.2 Strong efforts should be made by the Government of Sierra Leone, international bodies such as the United Nations and the World Bank, and concerned governments, to persuade De Beers to return to Sierra Leone. At a minimum, De Beers should be persuaded to open a purchasing office in Freetown and should be given every incentive to do so.
3.3 Strong efforts should be made by the same international community to persuade De Beers to halt the purchase of all diamonds originating in Liberia and Ivory Coast until clear international guidelines have been developed for proving that any diamonds sold in these countries are genuinely of local origin. De Beers and all other foreign firms should be encouraged to close their purchasing offices in these two countries.
The structure of the Belgian diamond industry may have served useful purposes when the industry was smaller. Today, however, it looks irresponsible, secretive and seriously under-regulated. It has a demonstrated attraction for new forms of organized crime, and is complicit in fueling African wars. The following recommendations are made to the Diamond High Council and the Government of Belgium, but they are also made to the European Union, and to other governments and institutions in Europe and Belgium with the potential to influence the outcome of events.
4.1 The Government of Belgium must take full and direct responsibility for oversight of the Belgian diamond industry. This includes taking direct responsibility for customs, valuation and statistical procedures.
4.2 The conflict of interest posed by the government's current customs-related arrangements with the HRD should be terminated.
4.3 A high-level commission of enquiry should be instituted into the Belgian diamond industry as a whole, with particular reference to its lack of transparency and questionable paper work, and its possible infiltration by organized criminal elements. Such an enquiry, while of primary interest to Belgian authorities, has implications that extend far beyond Belgium. The Belgian Government should invite representatives of international bodies and/or other governments to participate in the enquiry.
4.4 The HRD and/or the Government of Belgium should immediately prohibit the processing of all diamonds that are said to be of Liberian and Ivory Coast origin.
4.5 As a matter or urgency, more rigorous oversight on the issue of origin must be instituted by the HRD and the Government of Belgium.
4.6 The Government of Belgium and the HRD should, as a matter of urgency, investigate the diamond ‘fingerprinting' technology being developed by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police. The sooner this technology is in widespread use, the easier questions of identification will become.
There is concern in Belgium that tougher controls would drive the diamond industry away to countries such as Israel, where oversight may be equally lax. This is not a good enough reason to ignore the Belgian problem, but it is a reason for rigorous international investigation of other diamond trading centres (see Recommendation 8).
5 Liberia and Ivory Coast
Liberia has become a major criminal entrepot for diamonds, guns, money laundering, terror and other forms of organized crime. The astoundingly high levels of its diamond exports bear no relationship to its own limited resource base. By accepting Liberian exports as legitimate, the international diamond industry actively colludes in crimes committed or permitted by the Liberian government.
5.1 The United Nations Security Council should place a full embargo on the purchase of any diamonds originating in, or said to originate in Liberia until a full and objective international review can be carried out of the country's legitimate resource base, and until exports fall into line with that resource base.
5.2 The United Nations Security Council should place a full embargo on the purchase of any diamonds said to originate in Ivory Coast until a full review can be carried out of the country's legitimate resource base, and until exports fall into line with that resource base. Consideration should be given to imposing the same restrictions on Guinean diamonds.
As ‘home' to a high proportion of the world's junior mining companies, Canada has a particular responsibility to ensure good corporate citizenship abroad. New standards and codes of conduct have been implemented by some companies and provincial securities commissions in recent years, but these are directed largely at matters of financial transparency, professional competence and issues dealing with capitalization. Some deal with environmental issues. They do not, however, deal with issues of corporate behavior in war zones or with issues such as contravention of the International Convention Against the Recruitment, Use, Financing and Training of Mercenaries.
6.1 All Canadian securities commissions should initiate discussion among their members about issues relating to corporate conduct in war zones, with special reference to direct or arm's length trade in weapons and materiel, involvement with individuals and companies recruited abroad to engage in hostilities in a third country, or the arrangement of mining concessions in return for protection of any sort. Guidelines dealing with such issues should be created or added to existing codes.
6.2 The Royal Canadian Mounted Police should be encouraged and supported in its development of diamond ‘fingerprinting'. Efforts should be made to develop systems for adopting the technology as a matter of course in diamond producing countries and in major trading centres around the world, including the CSO and Antwerp.
7 A Consumer Campaign
Like diamonds, the Atlantic slave trade essentially served non-African markets. And like the diamond trade, the impact of slavery was devastating for many West African countries: it spawned predatory bandit groups acting like the RUF, UNITA and the NPFL, and mercenary regimes based entirely on violence and slave raiding. These regimes and bandit groups were sustained and motivated by the slave trade - by the arms and other resources they received for selling captive human beings to Europeans. With the end of the Atlantic slave trade, however, they collapsed or were swept aside in short order. The abolition of the slave trade was significantly influenced by a consumer campaign in Britain, aimed at the products of slave labour - mainly sugar from the Caribbean. The political and commercial damage to the slave trade of such campaigns was as much responsible for abolition as the humanitarian imperative.
At the bottom of the UNDP Human Development Index and wracked by almost a decade of war, Sierra Leone could not possibly be in worse condition today than if it never had any diamonds. Diamonds have, in fact, been a curse, not a blessing. This does not have to be the case, but concerted action on all the recommendations above will be necessary just to start making a difference. The recommendations will not be easy to implement, nor will they be cost-free. The easiest thing for the major actors - De Beers, the HRD, the Governments of Belgium and Sierra Leone, the UN Security Council - will be to do as little as possible.
One way of drawing greater attention to the urgency of the matter and of gaining broader support for change, would be a consumer campaign, One has already been started in Europe and it would not be difficult to expand it. Imagine:
- Diamonds are not a girl's best friend - witness the brutalized little girl with no hands that President Kabbah took with him to the Lomé talks in 1999; - For some people, diamonds are more ‘forever' than for others - witness 75,000 violent deaths in Sierra Leone; - Diamonds are a guerilla's best friend - witness Sierra Leone's coups, rampaging criminals, etc etc.
Sixty million individual pieces of diamond jewelry are sold every year, indicating a sizeable target audience.
An effective consumer campaign could inflict damage on an industry which is important to developing economies and to poor people working in the diamond industries of other countries such as Namibia, South Africa, India and Botswana. Those considering the possibility of initiating or joining a campaign, therefore, would have to consider how many lives in countries like Sierra Leone, Angola and the Congo these jobs are worth. Speaking in November 1999, De Beers Chairman Nicky Oppenheimer said,
Damage to the diamond market will not on its own deprive the warlords of their treasuries, but it will kill prosperity and encourage poverty in other well regulated African countries and in the cutting centres of India and around the world... Indeed, damage the market and you undermine orderly mining regimes and ensure instead that there will be more Angolas, more Congos, more Sierra Leones. It could ensure that there will be no more Botswanas, South Africas or Namibias.
Diamond analyst Martin Rapaport, while critical of the UN, Global Witness and what he sees as hypocritical politicians and bureaucrats, also fears a consumer campaign, but understands that it could hurt. ‘The bottom line,' he says, ‘is that the diamond industry does not need or want conflict with government or NGOs. It is in our economic interest to cooperate and find reasonable and responsible ways to deal with war diamonds.' He says that ‘from a humanitarian and moral perspective, our industry must do everything it reasonably can to ensure that diamond money is not used to fuel conflict... As an industry we must take responsibility for our actions and develop trade-wide practices that we believe are correct and moral.' Nelson Mandela has said the same thing: ‘We would be concerned that an international campaign... does not damage this vital industry. Rather than boycotts being instituted, it is preferable that through our own initiatives the industry takes a progressive stance on human rights issues.'
The word ‘boycott' does not appear in this report. Certainly a boycott could damage the industry. But the idea of a campaign is different: it is about transparency, change and urgency. Where people's lives are concerned - as they are in Sierra Leone - time is of the essence. In the absence of clear and meaningful movement within the industry and among other international actors, the point of a campaign would be to help the industry ‘take responsibility for its actions' - not damaging it, but improving it.
8 Further Study
This report has not dealt with the problems of Angolan and Congolese diamonds and their relationship to other countries in the region. Angola's problems - which are similar to those of Sierra Leone - were under consideration by a United Nations panel of experts when this report was being finalized. Recommendations emerging from that panel will no doubt need to be considered in relation to what has been recommended here.
This report has also not addressed the diamond trade in other parts of the world, most notably in Russia, Ukraine, New York, Israel and India. Further solutions to some of the problems identified here might follow additional research into these and other trading, cutting and polishing centres.
The following text boxes appear at different places in the hard copy of this report.
Box 1. KEY EVENTS IN SIERRA LEONE'S HISTORY
1787: 377 black and white colonists from Britain land in Sierra Leone; most die within two years 1792: 1200 ‘free Negroes' sail from Nova Scotia to Sierra Leone where they establish the settlement of ‘Freetown'. 1799: A Royal Charter gives legal status to the colony. 1808: Establishment of a Crown Colony (Sierra Leone thus becomes the first modern state in sub-Saharan Africa). 1827: Establishment of Fourah Bay College, the first university in sub-Saharan Africa. 1896: Establishment of a Protectorate over territories of the interior. 1961: Independence 1964: First Prime Minister, Sir Milton Margai, dies; power goes to his brother, Albert Margai. 1967: General elections are marred by widespread violence, in part because of Margai's plan to establish a one-party state. Army takes power as ‘National Reformation Council'. 1968: Non-commissioned officers seize power and invite Siaka Stevens, apparent winner of the 1967 election, to take power. Elections reconfirm him in office. 1970s: Stevens consolidates power through violence, corruption and intimidation, creating an Internal Security Unit with Cuban assistance. 1977 elections are rigged and marred by violence, after which Stevens declares a one-party state. 1985: The economy in ruins, Stevens - now 80 - hands over to former army chief, Joseph Momoh. 1990: Momoh relaxes press restrictions; moves to reintroduce multi-party democracy; UNDP Human Development Report places Sierra Leone last out of 160 countries; Charles Taylor begins his war in Liberia; 80,000 Liberian refugees flee to Sierra Leone; ECOMOG is established with Freetown as the rear base. 1991: Former army corporal Foday Sankoh leads Revolutionary United Front (RUF) attacks on Sierra Leone border towns from Liberia; attacks continue, marked by brutality against civilians; children are kidnapped and inducted into RUF; Momoh doubles the army, recruiting ‘hooligans, drug addicts and thieves' and children. 1992: April: A mutiny by unpaid soldiers becomes a coup; Momoh flees; National Provisional Ruling Council (NPRC) assumes power under Capt. Valentine Strasser (age 27); brutal war continues; RUF attacks target civilians. Their hallmark is crude amputations - feet, hands, lips, ears, noses - with special attention to women and children. 120,000 refugees flee to Guinea; widespread internal dislocation. 1993 Kamajor (traditional hunters) militia begins fighting against RUF along with Republic of Sierra Leone Military Forces (RSLMF) and ECOMOG; rebel atrocities continue. 1994: RUF overruns diamond areas, bauxite and titanium mines; economy essentially bankrupt; Freetown threatened. By now an estimated 50,000 have been killed and about half the country's 4.5 million people have been displaced. 1995: February: NPRC employs Gurkha Security Guards for combat duty, but following setbacks they withdraw; May: Executive Outcomes contracted by NPRC; by June, the RUF is beaten back from Freetown and diamond areas liberated; rebel activity subsides. 1996: January: Palace coup in which Julius Maada Bio replaces Strasser; peace talks with RUF begin in Abidjan; March: elections marred by RUF violence are reported to be otherwise free and fair by international observers; Ahmed Tejan Kabbah becomes President; November: Foday Sankoh and Kabbah sign a peace accord. 1997 May: Soldiers release 600 prison inmates and seize power, forming the Armed Forces Ruling Council (AFRC). Kabbah flees. Major Johnny Paul Koroma, a former coup plotter, becomes chairman and invites RUF to join the government. AFRC/RUF rule characterized by systematic murder, torture, looting, rape and shutdown of all formal banking and commerce throughout the country. 1998 February: ECOMOG launches offensive on Freetown, driving the AFRC/RUF out. President Kabbah returns. Sierra Leone armed forces disbanded. Towns and villages throughout the country experience continued attacks and extreme brutality from AFRC/RUF forces. July: Security Council creates UN peace-keeping operation, UNOMSIL, and sends 40 military observers and later human rights observers. October: An estimated 10,000 - 12,000 ECOMOG troops continue to battle AFRC/RUF. An estimated 800-1200 Nigerian soldiers have been killed, and the cost is estimated at $1 million per day. October: Trials of soldiers and civilians result in death sentences for many, including Foday Sankoh. Attacks continue; RSLMF regroups. 1999 January: AFRC/RUF elements attack and enter Freetown resulting in two weeks of arson, terror, murder and dismemberment. Cabinet ministers, journalists and civil servants are tortured and killed. Parts of the city are razed, over 6000 civilians are killed before ECOMOG pushes them back. 2000 children are reported missing. February: Nigerian presidential candidates agree that Nigeria should get out of Sierra Leone soon after Nigeria's return to civilian rule on May 29. The UN Security Council discusses Sierra Leone. July: GOSL concludes a negotiated peace agreement with the RUF, giving Foday Sankoh and several other RUF and AFRC leaders cabinet positions. All RUF and AFRC leaders are given amnesty. August: Phased Nigerian Troop withdrawal begins. October: UN Security Council approves a 6000-member Peacekeeping Force for Sierra Leone with authority to used ‘deadly force' if required. December: Kenyan and Indian contingents of the new UNAMSIL peacekeeping force begin to arrive in Sierra Leone.
Box 2. ABOUT DIAMONDS
Diamonds are derived from two main sources. Primary deposits are those which occur in basic volcanic rock, known as kimberlite. Secondary deposits are those which occur in alluvial deposits of weathered kimberlite. Although kimberlite is found worldwide, little is diamondiferous.
The mining of kimberlite pipes is an expensive and capital-intensive operation, involving tunneling underground for hundreds of feet in order to extract diamonds. Where there are large and productive kimberlite pipes, one will usually find large companies with extensive investment funding. Although there are many kimberlite pipes in the world, a large proportion of diamonds are still recovered from alluvial deposits. Alluvial diamond fields are created by the disintegration of volcanic rock (kimberlite) over a long period of time. The product of the disintegration, including diamonds, can be carried away by river systems and deposited over widely scattered areas, including the sea-bed. Alluvial mining involves the separating of rough diamonds from earth and gravel. This can be done by a single person working with a sieve and shovel, or by large dredges which can remove tons of earth and gravel quickly.
Gemstones, including diamonds, are weighed in carats. One carat is 0.20 grams. Individual stones vary in average size from 0.01 ct. (about 1 mm in size) to more than 0.7 ct. Prices vary according to quality - weight, shape, clarity, colour. A 1 ct. gem-quality rough stone could be worth as little as US $12, or as much as US $2000. A cut diamond of this size would be worth many times more than this once it reaches the retail market.
Box 3. THE IDENTIFICATION OF DIAMONDS
The identification of rough diamonds is an issue of great interest to law enforcement agencies. Long thought to be impossible, new diamond ‘fingerprinting' technology is being developed in consultation with the Royal Canadian Mounted Police. The RCMP stresses that it has yet to clearly identify the limitations and capabilities of the system through actual use. The potential difficulties in applying the technology are reduced, however, by the fact that the bulk of the rough diamond trade is centralized in only two organizations and two locations, the HRD in Antwerp and De Beers' Central Selling Organization in London.
Box 4. ABOUT THE AUTHORS
Ian Smillie, an Ottawa-based consultant, has 30 years of international development experience, as manager, programmer, evaluator and writer. He was a founder of the Canadian NGO Inter Pares, and was Executive Director of CUSO from 1979 to 1983. His most recent publications include The Alms Bazaar: Altruism Under Fire; Non Profit Organizations and International Development (IT Publications, London, 1995) and Stakeholders: Government-NGO Partnerships for International Development (ed. With Henny Helmich, Earthscan, London, 1999).
Since 1997 he has worked as an associate with the Thomas J. Watson Jr. Institute at Brown University on issues relating to humanitarianism and war. Ian Smillie started his international work in 1967 as a teacher in Koidu, the centre of Sierra Leone's diamond mining area.
Ralph Hazleton holds a PhD in economics. He has 25 years of experience divided equally between Canadian academia, where he has worked as a political economist, and Africa, where he has worked as a senior manager of development and emergency efforts in Zaire, Zambia, Tanzania, Rwanda, and more recently, in Liberia and Sierra Leone. He was awarded the meritorious Service Medal by the Government of Canada for his work with Rwandan refugees in Zaire in 1994-5.
Lansana Gberie is a doctoral student at the University of Toronto and a research associate at the Laurier Centre for Military, Strategic and Disarmament Studies. He worked as an investigative journalist in Sierra Leone between 1990 and 1996, and has studied journalism in the United States, including a period of time with the Kansas City Star. He has written extensively on Sierra Leonean history and politics. His 1997 Master's Thesis (Wilfrid Laurier University) was entitled ‘War and Collapse: The Case of Sierra Leone'.
This report is available at www.web.net/pac, in both English and French, or in printed form from PAC. Further information on diamonds and the conflict in Sierra Leone can be found in the full 90-page report (English only) which is available from Partnership Africa Canada at a price of Can $25.00 or US$20.00, including postage and handling. A general overview of the diamond industry can be found in The Diamond World (David Koskoff, Harper Collins, New York, 1981). Specific books on Sierra Leonean diamonds include: The Sierra Leone Diamonds (H.R. Van Der Laan, Oxford University Press, 1965); The Knave of Diamonds (Michael Harbottle, Seeley, London, 1976); Corruption and State Politics in Sierra Leone (William Reno, Cambridge University Press, 1995). Africa Development (Vol. XXII, Nos. 3/4, 1997) contains many excellent articles by Sierra Leoneans on the war. A daily source of reliable information on Sierra Leone can be found on the Sierra Leone Web: www.Sierra-Leone.org/