Rebel’s Best Friend

Choosing the Perfect Diamond: A Rebel’s Guide for Beginners

If you have ever thought about starting a career as an armed rebel, then as made clear by the famous movie “Blood Diamond” directed by Edward Zwick, you must have thought about getting money from selling diamonds. There is no need to worry about the Kimberley Process Certification Scheme as you have probably heard that it is rather ineffective in preventing blood diamonds from entering global markets. However, there are some facts that you might want to know about diamond mining before starting a career as a diamond-peddling rebel.

Undoubtedly, diamonds paid for civil war in Angola, the DRC, Sierra Leone and Liberia. However, the three major rebel movements – UNITA (the National Movement for the Total Independence of Angola), RUF (Revolutionary United Front) and AFDL (Alliance of Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Congo) – benefited more from the foreign governments and companies that wanted access to diamonds through them. Benefiting from diamond resources is complicated, and some diamonds are much easier for rebels to use than others.


Don’t Get Close to Industrial Mining

When it comes to diamond mining, it is important to differentiate between two types of mining: artisanal and industrial. Artisanal mining is associated with alluvial diamond deposits that are spread over large territories and does not require any special equipment. Alluvial diamonds are diamonds that were removed from kimberlite – naturally occurring diamond deposits – by some natural force and are deposited in a new environment such as riverbanks or shorelines. Alluvial diamond deposits are usually spread over vast geographic areas. They do not require any expensive complicated equipment to be used, and thus their mining is usually hard to control.

Industrial mining, meanwhile, is utilized for diamonds found in kimberlite deposits, often no bigger than several square kilometers. In order to reach kimberlite diamonds, rocks must first be blasted and then heavy machinery used to extract diamonds from the ground below. Statistically, industrial mining is correlated with economic growth and absence of social disorder. A country well known for having benefitted from this kind of industrial mining is Botswana. Now, these are not just boring details but a useful guide for planning your career.


Quiz 1: Where would you prefer to get your diamonds?

  1. Botswana
  2. Sierra Leone
  3. From the shop in the city mall


The right answer is Sierra Leone, here is why.


Botswana and Sierra Leone are the two best examples that, in comparison, illustrate the importance of mining type on a country’s economy. Diamonds in Sierra Leone are mostly located in alluvial diamond deposits and are mined by artisans. In contrast, Botswana is rich primarily with kimberlite deposits and has a diamond trade that is heavily controlled and industrialized. As a result, while Sierra Leone produces around $150 worth of diamonds per capita, Botswana numbers are much more impressive – $1,500 per capita. One might think that the Botswana’s market is just bigger in general, however its diamond sector creates only 8,000 jobs compared to 150,000 people employed in Sierra Leone.

Botswana is sometimes referred as “an African model for Progress and Prosperity”. Journalists Nake Kamrany and Jennifer Grey went so far as to claim that, “the nation’s valuable diamond and mineral reserves and the influential fiscal and legislative parenting proffered by the UK post-independence and sound democratic leadership have quickly elevated Botswana to one of the world’s fastest growing economies.”


Choose a Country with a Colonial Past

The fact that diamonds were discovered after independence in Botswana heavily contributed to its ability to organize its mining industry and negotiate with Western companies. Sierra Leone was less lucky as diamonds were discovered during an exploitative colonial period; since then the whole system has been plagued with postcolonialist problems of political manipulation and coercive policing. Botswana’s story was not immediately a success story. Botswana experienced some negative effects because of its resource richness, especially because of its high diamond dependence, but it did not lead to instability because of strong state management.


Take advantage of Civil Wars

Do not neglect the advantages of modern science and modern academic work in international relations when deciding where to go. Some empirical studies prove that countries with alluvial diamonds are more susceptible to civil wars because such diamonds attract rebels to the region. In the case of civil wars in Sierra Leone and Angola this was true, diamonds served as the financial resource for warlords. But be aware that except these two scenarios, diamonds are not always a rebel’s best friend.


Quiz 2: What criteria should my diamonds have?

  1. easy to hide
  2. easy to get
  3. easy to transport
  4. easy to store
  5. easy to sell
  6. do not require any additional work
  7. beautiful
  8. all above


The right answer is h and here is why.


Be Aware of Details

Professor at the UNiversity of British Columbia Phillippe Le Billion has described the ideal diamonds as “an easily mined and highly valuable commodity that is spread over vast areas when found in alluvial deposits, that is easy to conceal, transport, store and trade, and does not need any transformation before reaching international … market.” All these conditions must be met for diamonds to be used by rebels. There are some examples when diamonds have been too hard for rebels to exploit.

In Namibia, for instance, most of their alluvial diamonds are buried under the sands of the southern coastline. Therefore, the South-West Africa People’s Organization (SWAPO), that was fighting for independence from South Africa, was never able to use this resource. The open landscape of the region did not allow them to hide or make camps because they would be easily found by government forces.

However, even if access to mining diamonds is blocked, diamonds might still be an attractive financial opportunity for a diamond rebel. Diamonds are relatively small, east to sell and hard to trace. Such characteristics make them ideal for illegal, transnational financial schemes. Diamonds can be used to pay mercenaries or be traded on the black market for weapons.

Here’s your guide. Now, you know what mistakes to avoid. Best of luck and good fortune in your rebel career!

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About Ksenia Andryuschenko 7 Articles
Ksenia Andryushchenko is a masters student at Yonsei University — Graduate School of International Studies, majoring in foreign policy and international security. Before attending Yonsei, Ksenia graduated from the Faculty of World Economy and International Affairs — National Research University Higher School of Economics in Moscow, receiving a Bachelors degree in Asian and African Studies. Her academic interests include feminism, cybersecurity, propaganda history and civil wars.

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