Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Diamonds are not a girl's best friend

Boys and young men laboring in an illegal diamond mine
in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo.
Image copyright: Foreign Policy Magazine / Kadir van Lohuizen

Conflict diamonds. You who have read reports about the curse of an abundance of natural resources that fuel bloody conflicts and civil wars, finance the illegal arms trade, and undermines human rights around the globe know what this term means.

Foreign Policy, the award-winning magazine about global politics, economics, and ideas funded by the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, has introduced a new photojournalism feature called “Wide Angle”. The premiere photo essay in the 35th Anniversary issue September/October 2005 is a series titled “A Trail of Diamonds” by photographer Kadir van Lohuizen who followed the trail of the diamond trade around the world. This trail is dirty, oft-times violent and bloody, and littered with the destroyed lives of marginalized and victimized children, young people, and adults from Africa to India who work as underpaid laborers and unpaid slaves in the mining, cutting, and polishing of billions of dollars ($$$) worth of diamonds every year.

In the spirit of the Foreign Policy managing editor William Dobson who stated in an August 30th interview with PDN online reporter Daryl Lang, “I fundamentally believe that there are some stories that are best told through images…” I shall allow the photos do most of the talking today. I will address some of the issues raised in Lohuizen’s excellent series in follow-up posts to this blog in October and November 2005.

Also I am presently in talks with a German audio/video production team to record a series of audio interviews with young African men who have worked in the diamond fields of Sierra Leone before the decade-long civil war. Should be very interesting stuff for my readers and listeners, indeed.

There are measures that you the consumer can take to help stop the illegal trade in conflict diamonds and gold from Africa and elsewhere. Take a look at the Global Witness press releases here and here to better understand what you should demand of your retailers and the industry before making a purchase. Before you buy that next piece of gold and diamond jewelry for your loved one(s) or for yourself, remember these images of the laborers and slaves who suffered to extract, cut, and polish that beautiful jewel from the jungle. Help save lives by supporting the rule of law and justice, transparency in the diamond and gold mining industries and trade, fair wages, and humane working conditions for the people shown in these photo essays.

Foreign Policy magazine online:
A Trail of Diamonds
Kadir van Lohuiyen (photographer): Diamond Matters (2-part essay)
Marcus Bleasdale (photojournalist): Rape of a Nation
Global Witness: Resources Conflict Courruption - Diamonds Campaign


Aaron X said...

Nice post, I think actually sent this story to Shay over at Booker rising some time ago.

Black people across Africa have been dying and spending themselves too cheaply to pull stones out of the ground for close to a century now.

Now if we could just convince the girls to give up their rocks.


Black River Eagle said...

Thanks Aaron (aka Mr. Dead). Good to see you back again and I paid a brief visit to your new blog projects today. Keep at it and good luck with your efforts.

The entire diamond and gold supply chain needs a serious overhaul (regime change) worldwide and especially in Africa and Asia. A smart and foward-thinking businessperson might see great opportunities in these photos and quickly figure out how this situation can be turned around to the benefit of the laborers and the citizens of the DRC and other countries where illegal resource extraction is rampant. The key is to disrupt the illegal supply chain and expose the criminals worldwide. Of course nothing will happen to the Big Boyz and Girlz once they are exposed, but at least people will know Who's Who.

Consumers worldwide remain indifferent when it comes to the sources of and issues surrounding diamonds and gold and other natural resources that fuel bloody conflicts.

People choose instead to be blinded by the beauty or brilliance of the end products. These days the deal (cheap prices) plays a large part in consumer decisions too. Who cares if some poor slob in Africa, Asia, or South America was worked to death to get that price down for the big buyers who control these markets and for the consumers.

The same can be said about the much larger worldwide consumer base who purchase electronics, electrical, and other products that contain minerals and metals extracted in the same manner as we can see in Kadir van Lohuizen's and Marcus Bleasdale's photos.

Don't worry about the women having to give up their diamonds for a holiday season or two, try to get consumers young and old around the world to give up buying new gadgets and gizmos that may contain illegally mined and distributed metals. That would be a Non-Starter from Jump Street.

lulu on the bridge said...

Great photo essay, I'll send the link around here in the DRC as I'm sure most of my friends will be interested in it.

As I often heard from Congolese people, havind diamonds is a curse for them.

lulu on the bridge said...

by the way, please update the address of my blog whenever you have time. I'm now at


Black River Eagle said...

Thanks Lulu on the Bridge, but the photographer and the Congolese people working in those mines deserve the credit, and of course Foreign Policy magazine's editors for supporting the project.

There's more to come at this blog on the DRC & Co. in October and November 2005, just been holding back until I felt the time was right to speak up and strike out at the darkness. Your buddies Sahara Sarah and 007 in Africa have been a big help to me over the past few months to see what remains of the beauty of the Congo and her peoples vs. what we are almost always fed from the newsrooms of the mainstream media.

I thank all of you serious new bloggers down there in the DRC and neighboring countries who are writing and posting photos to the Web. You may not all be Angels, but you are certainly the Bringers of Light.

P.S. Your new URL update is done.

007 in Africa said...

Oh man! I had posted a comment and...whoosh! It dissapeared. Anyhow, great post, I'm glad you are bringing up the subject of diamonds. It's very important that people know what they are getting into when they are are buying them.
As a matter of fact, I have decided that (if and when) I get married, I will be getting a nice and intricate silver ring--the Senegalese are especially talented and produce delicate, African-style jewelery. Absolutely gorgeous and different from the run of the mill rings everybody gets on their wedding day.

007 in Africa said...

By the way, we don't seem to be showing up on your ClusterMap. So sad...

Black River Eagle said...

Thanks for stopping by today 007. I was just preparing the 2nd installment on my series of postings about the DRC, been getting psyched up for it for months. I spoke with my friend Dèdè from Kinshasa today about my starting these writings; she has been an unusally open and honest source of information about the history of the country, the many peoples there, and how Zaire came to be in the miserable state that we find it in today. She has been a great teacher about the DRC for over a year and hopefully will be carefully following what I write about her country on this blog to make sure that I get it right.

I'll have to contact those folks at the ClusterMaps project over in the U.K. about the problem with IP addresses from the DRC not showing up on the map. Could be that your internet connection is not associated with the DRC country domain but with some other country or your ISP uses a special purpose IP address not stored in the ClusterMaps database.

As far as when you decide to get married, Go for the Gold Honey! There is plenty of clean, high quality gold for sale in Africa, just have to do your homework before you buy. Make sure that your "Beau" digs deep into his pockets to pay for that conflict-free African white rock (min. 1 carat diamond) that goes with it too. After all, you are worth it! Right? Definately.

lulu on the bridge said...

IP addresses in the DRC don't show up because ALL the internet connections in this country are via satellite, and thus come from another country. It's usually US (like 007, as I can see) or Argentina (my case).

This is due to the lack of communications in this country. Not only there are almost no roads connecting the different parts of the country, but also no land phone lines and mobile phones don't have coverage everywhere. If that wasn't enough, as 007 pointed out yesterday, there is no Mail service either (there is a sort of Post Office in Kinshasa, but all they do is to receive incoming mail, open it, keep what looks interesting and throw the rest away).

Sad huh...

lulu on the bridge said...

one more thing: why don't you get a counter for your site (like said...

if you know of any way to obtain humanely mined, duly compensated, free adult labor-worked and transported jewels and metals, we would love to know.
please contact us at

we'd like to help promote compassionate products, co-ops, and eco groups.

thank you for your interest and your blog.
staff at

Black River Eagle said...

Although I am not in the mining industry or the jewelry business, I do know of some projects that might fit your bill. Take a look at the recent deal between Finesse Diamonds Inc. (NYC) and Celedove Global Industries in Freetown, Sierra Leone. There are more projects like the Finesse-Celedove deal to be found in West and Southern African diamond-exporting countries, and more are needed.

Hope this helps you out over at and thanks for stopping by Jewels in the Jungle.

Benin "Mwangi" said...

Extremely insightful. Your indepth analysis into the plight of Afirca's underground diamond industry is an eye opener. I have not seen the movie blood diamond yet, but your post has opened my eyes more to the issue and I do plan to not only see the move, but also learn more about this topic.

Thank you very much!!!

gemfind said...

Diamonds are not a girl's best friend, if they have to work for that in a illegal diamond mine.