The movie, Blood Diamond, has certainly generated a lot of attention in the media. Human rights groups are using the buzz surrounding the movie to draw public attention to the illicit diamond business and its impact on human rights, child soldiers, money laundering, terrorism and brutal warfare. On the other side of the debate is the diamond industry that is concerned the public might over-react and not realize the progress that has been made to eliminate illegal diamonds and the critical role legitimate diamonds play in the economies of African countries.
Countries such as Angola , Sierra Leone and the Democratic Republic of Congo were previously sites of bloody conflict but have now regained peace. Today these countries use diamonds to develop healthcare, educations and improve quality of life rather than financing atrocities and warfare.
Both sides have valid points but as often occurs when complex issues get debated in the media, it can be hard to listen to the truth because of all the shouting.
There as much corruption in the past and the stories of amputations, child soldiers and millions of refugees are evidence of the sheer brutality and indiscriminate violence that has ravaged these countries for years. Now, only a few countries are considered sources of conflict diamonds today. Ivory Coast and Liberia are still banned from exporting diamonds by United Nations resolutions, but Liberia hopes to see that ban lifted in early 2007. Ivory Coast is still struggling with a group of rebels in the northern part of the country still benefiting from the sale of illegal diamonds. Some suspect these illegal diamonds are smuggled across the border into Ghana.
The Kimberley Process, established in 2002 to reduce and eliminate the flow of illegal diamonds, has greatly reduced the number of conflict diamonds sold. Even critics of the Kimberley Process acknowledge the current problems are minor in comparison to a few years ago and that the program is well on its way to bringing order to a previously unregulated industry.
The diamond industry is now taking steps to put more of the wealth from diamonds back into the worker and their countries where the diamonds are extracted. African countries that never were associated with conflict diamonds are trying to get the word out that diamonds are often their greatest natural resource and the potential source of their economic success. They are concerned that the current media attention on blood diamonds will distort reality and result on a backlash on the African diamond industry.
Angola, Sierra Leone and the Democratic Republic of Congo are especially concerned about the possible current media attention because these war torn countries rely on their legal diamonds to fuel their economic recovery.