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Wednesday, 12 January, 2000, 16:00 GMT
Call for West Africa diamond boycott




By West Africa correspondent Mark Doyle

A report on illegal diamond trading in Sierra Leone has recommended an immediate ban on the purchase of diamonds from the nearby countries of Liberia and Ivory Coast, because they are illegally smuggled by rebels.

The report also condemns European buyers of illicit diamonds.

Sierra Leone
The study, by the organisation Partnership Canada-Africa, says Sierra Leone's neighbour, Liberia, exports more than 20 times more diamonds than it could possibly produce - a trade worth hundreds of millions of dollars every year.

The report concludes that Liberia's diamond income is due to its support for the brutal Sierra Leonean rebel group, the Revolutionary United Front (RUF), which controls most of Sierra Leone's diamond-producing areas.

The Canadian investigation adds that the nearby West African state of Ivory Coast also exports a huge quantity of diamonds which it could not possibly produce, concluding that this is also due to the illegal smuggling of Sierra Leonean diamonds.

European 'complicity'

The carefully researched study condemns diamond traders in London and Antwerp for turning a blind eye to the origin of the diamonds that they buy, and says that they are therefore complicit in brutal rebel atrocities.

The report says the United Nations should immediately implement a ban on the purchase of diamonds from Liberia and Ivory Coast.

It recommends that if this illicit trade continues, there should be a consumer boycott of diamond jewellery.

Wealth squandered

The study estimates that if Sierra Leone had a well-organised diamond trade, the country could have earned over $15bn in the last 60 years.

Sierra Leone still mines tens of millions of dollars' worth of diamonds every year.

However, corruption and mismanagement have made the country the poorest in the world.

More recently, a rebel war, fuelled by illicit diamond mining, has led to widespread atrocities against civilians. At least two million people - half the country's population - have been made homeless and destitute.

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See also:
07 Dec 99 |  From Our Own Correspondent
Cleaning up the diamond badlands
24 May 99 |  Africa
Analysis: Battle to rebuild shattered Sierra Leone
02 Dec 99 |  Africa
Gurkhas to tackle Sierra Leone troublespot
30 Nov 99 |  Africa
UN troops arrive in Sierra Leone

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