The diamond that for many still is the symbol for ever lasting love, has in many cases a very rough past before ending up on someone’s ring finger. The majority of rough diamonds are found in Southern and Western Africa. Instead of having led to wealthy and flourishing societies digging for these stones has in numerous cases contributed to civil and very violent conflicts. African countries where this has not been the case have been Botswana, Namibia and South Africa. The state in these examples regulates and manages the exploitation of this most rare and precious resource. The population in countries where a functioning state has been lacking for years like in the DRC, Angola, Sierra Leone and Liberia have severely suffered under their countries’ natural richness. As a result of large-scale civil society campaigns, the consumer on whose fingers the stone ended have been held accountable. This has led to an industry wide initiative, the Kimberly process, to make the production and distribution chain of diamonds (mining, sorting, cutting, manufacturing and retail) more transparent.
This case study will focus on the civil war in Liberia and Sierra Leone, continuously fuelled by international diamond trade. What has been the role of the state, (legal and illegal) business actors and civil society ? The study focuses on the person of Charles Taylor, both crook and statesman, and the international business networks that gave him his position. Civil society mobilisation has been able to challenge these strong networks with relative effectiveness.