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Library / The Heart of the Matter: Sierra Leone, Diamonds an...
Source: Partnership Africa Canada, 2000
Author(s): Ian Smillie, Lansana Gberie, and Ralph Hazleton
Countries: Sierra Leone
Topics: Extractive Resources, Peace and Security Operations
This study is about how diamonds - small pieces of carbon with no great intrinsic value - have been the cause of widespread death, destruction and misery for almost a decade in the small West African country of Sierra Leone. Through the 1990s, Sierra Leone’s rebel war became a tragedy of major humanitarian, political and historic proportions, but the story goes back further - almost 60 years, to the discovery of the diamonds. The diamonds are, to use the title of Graham Greene’s classic 1948 novel about the Sierra Leone, The Heart of the Matter.
A weak post-independence democracy was subverted in the 1960s and 1970s by corruption and despotism. Economic decline and military rule followed. The rebellion that began in 1991 was characterized by banditry and horrific brutality, wreaked primarily on civilians. Between 1991 and 1999, the war claimed over 75,000 lives, caused half a million Sierra Leoneans to become refugees, and displaced half of the country’s 4.5 million people.