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[Opinion] Bloody Diamonds

Posted June. 10, 2003 21:55,   


Congo, Angola, Nigeria, Sierra Leone and Liberia. These countries have a common denominator apart from that they are all poor African states. They have long suffered from civil wars and are rich in natural resources. Why these countries, where oil, natural gas and diamonds are abundant under ground, remain trapped in poverty? Whey these people wage wars against their own people? Experts give an answer to these puzzling questions – Nature`s curse.

Dr. Paul Colie, professor of economics at Oxford University who conducted a survey on civil wars worldwide since the 1960s on behalf of the World Bank, noted that underdeveloped countries dependent on nature resources tend to be poorer and have more corrupt dictators. Political leaders could have easily transformed the rich resources into food and infrastructure for their people. But those `idle leaders,` who do not have to worry about the future of their countries, instead choose corruption to become rich themselves. They can easily make money with diamonds. Oil requires advanced technology and capital for drilling and refinery, but diamond mines require no high-tech gear. They can dig them up and sell them in the black market. Seeing dictators fatten themselves with diamonds, opposition forces then rise up in arms. Rebels buy weapons by selling diamonds or skimming off diamond traffickers. Intelligence agencies in Europe suggested that Al-Qaida raise funds for terrorist attacks by using diamonds. And people call illegally-traded diamonds `Bloody Diamonds.`

Liberian President Charles Taylor, presently pressed by both rebel forces and the international community to resign, is also closely linked to the bloody diamonds. As an elite educated in the U.S. and former rebel leader, he was not satisfied with diamonds in his country and decided to help rebel forces in Sierra Leaone in return for diamonds. When the rebel forces win the war, he believed that he could get many diamond mines in the neighboring country. When sworn in as president in 1999, he wore all white from head to toes, delivering an image of an angel. But he soon became a corrupt angel, yielding to the temptation of diamonds.

In western countries, diamonds were a symbol of ever-lasting truth. In France, in particular, they see diamonds as a symbol of sacred marriage. In Africa, however, they have become Nature`a curse leading to wars and corruption instead of richness and joy. This is why leadership, education, the law and institutions matter. We must thank for not having enough natural resources, then.

Kim Sun-deok, Editorial Writer, yuri@donga.com