Death over diamonds

The tenth anniversary of 9/11 was different for the Americans. The decade-long wait is over and even the perpetrator of 9/11 is dead. This 9/11 was also the first anniversary when Americans felt contented by the very fact that their revenge is over. But then, this very celebration amidst sorrow is far from complete. Perhaps the chief operative of 9/11 is dead, but the modus operandi is still active and running.

Amidst the entire hullabaloo, what got swept under was the manner in which the entire operation was funded. It is a lesser-known fact that the funding for 9/11 had its roots in Africa, and it was all possible because millions of Westerners bought stones. Yes, I'm here talking about diamonds, or rather conflict diamonds. Several investigative reports post 9/11, including UN war crime reports, have revealed that the al-Qaeda joined Liberian President Charles Taylor in the African diamond trade, which was used for terrorist activities. The terrorists used illicit diamonds as currency for funding their operations, as the demand for illicit diamonds remains high, while tracking the movement of the same is extremely tedious.

Unfortunately, the entire blood diamond saga is not a fable of past, but is in the now and the present. These blood diamonds not only have their market in the West but also have their trade lineage in our very own town of Surat as well. Surat's local diamond merchants have been found dealing with such diamonds.

Today, more than 4 million people have been displaced from Sierra Leone; 1.5 million from Liberia and 1.7 million from Angola. The traumatic memories will live on for these people through generations. The brutal amputation of hands, feet, lips, ears and noses of civilians, that groups like the Revolutionary United Front practised, cannot be forgotten so easily. This inhumane and brutal callousness also makes the entire democratic process futile and eventually allows dictators to continue their regimes. Even children have not been left forced to join so-called revolutionary groups.

Diamond trading is not illegal in itself, but the way it is mined -- that is. No transparency and certification process can ever be enough to check the brutality going on in Africa. However, the global diamond forums should at the most urgent reduce the hype around diamonds, thus regulating the price and reducing the artificially created demand-supply gap. Reducing the international diamond trade would obviously reduce revenues and destroy a huge cartel; but then, long term objectives have many positives. Reducing the diamond trade would stop corruption, smuggling, arms trade, terror attacks, mass killings, drugs trade and destitution.

But what is of more significance perhaps in this story of pain and death amidst diamonds is Western greed and exploitation. To conquer the oil fields of Iraq to Libya, the West waged an all-out war at the macro level; and similarly, to get diamonds at a cheaper price for profits, the West has time and again allowed private companies to directly and indirectly finance mass murders. But of course, to stop such killings, neither America has any army to dispatch -- even if such a diamond trade indirectly caused 9/11. So what if the man at the helm of affairs in America itself has his roots in Africa. After all, greed and profiteering finally are more important than 'Dreams From My Father'.

-- Arindam Chaudhari is a management guru.

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