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From the Pit to the Market

From the Pit to the Market: Politics and the Diamond Economy in Sierra Leone

Series: African Issues
Copyright Date: 2012
Published by: Boydell and Brewer,
Pages: 248
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  • Book Info
    From the Pit to the Market
    Book Description:

    Diamonds have played an important role in the political economy of Sierra Leone, as was highlighted by the use of 'conflict' or 'blood' diamonds in the decade-long civil war. Conflict diamonds were used not only by rebels, military groups and others inside Sierra Leone and Liberia, but also by groups extending beyond the borders of West Africa: global criminal networks, international terror groups, and 'legitimate' transnational companies. The diamond trade in Sierra Leone has also been subject to exploitation by global business interests, a form of corporate neo-colonialist predation that continues today and which has curbed the country's growth, while recent newspaper headlines also demonstrate the currency of rough diamonds. Sierra Leone's diamonds have been used to finance factions in Lebanon's civil war, criminal networks in the US and Russia, and al-Qaeda. The marginalization and exclusion of Sierra Leone, this book argues, mean that it, and other such resource-rich nations, remain reliant on aid. Diane Frost is Lecturer in the Department of Sociology, Social Policy and Criminology, University of Liverpool.

    eISBN: 978-1-78204-055-2
    Subjects: Sociology

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. Acronyms and Abbreviations
    (pp. xi-xii)
    (pp. xiii-xiv)
    (pp. xv-xvi)
    Diane Frost
    (pp. xvii-xxii)
  8. Introduction
    (pp. 1-24)

    This work examines the social, economic and political role that diamonds have played in Sierra Leone’s development since they were first discovered during British colonial rule in the 1930s. While Sierra Leone gained political independence in the early 1960s its economic independence remained problematic. Moreover, issues of governance that have plagued many African nations and the continued problems of poverty and inequality have remained a prominent part of that history. These factors have ultimately fed into the decade long civil conflict that dominated much of the 1990s. This book argues that although this conflict became synonymous with blood diamonds, it...


    • 1 Colonialism, Post-colonialism & Resource Predation
      (pp. 27-58)

      Sierra Leone’s colonisation by the British in the late eighteenth century and the discovery of diamonds in the 1930s had a multitude of consequences. This included urban growth, migration and the uneven development of infrastructures. Yet in terms of developing Sierra Leone’s economy and society more generally, revenues from diamonds fell far short of this, only benefitting the colonial government and private companies like the Sierra Leone Selection Trust. Sierra Leone remained an area of peripheral capitalist development despite its diamond wealth. The chapter will argue that patterns of economic development laid down during the colonial era, persisted well into...

    • 2 The Political Economy of Diamonds, Governance & Civil War
      (pp. 59-78)

      Research suggests that where development has been hindered, countries have a higher risk of conflict. Civil war and the increased risk of this are closely aligned to development. Moreover, poor governance is also closely associated with conflict and political instability. This chapter will briefly consider a number of issues that arise from debates on civil war more generally and their impact on development. Such discussions will help to contextualise developments in Sierra Leone and, in particular, the relationship that was forged between various Sierra Leonean governments and the diamond industry from 1951 onwards. It was the protectorate-based Sierra Leone Peoples...

    • 3 Digging for Diamonds Work, Workers & Hidden Voices c.1930s–1990s
      (pp. 79-106)

      Diamond mining along with other mineral mining has accounted for a significant slice of exports and government revenue in Sierra Leone, though it has never been the largest employer of workers. Agriculture has traditionally been the largest and continues to be so. However, mineral production has always been perceived as an avenue for economic development, not least amongst those communities who have remained marginal in discussions on development. Yet as we have seen in the previous chapter, diamonds and other minerals have not led to the development that many had hoped for. Poor management, increasing economic dependency on the export...

    • 4 The Grass Roots & Social Organisation
      (pp. 107-122)

      Community-based resource conflicts often arise over issues involving the exploitation of these resources by transnational corporations. This can cause subsequent problems of environmental damage; the undermining of rights (including human rights, the right to consultation and information, the right to compensation and the right to share in the benefits) and the inability of national governments to regulate transnational corporations and protect their citizens and the environment. Governments and companies invariably formulate mineral policies in the developing world with little consultation with those communities affected.

      Such communities are regarded as objects of development and not participants in this process. When such...


    • 5 Diamond Wheeling & Dealing From the Pit to the Global Market
      (pp. 125-148)

      The business of dealing and exporting rough diamonds out of Sierra Leone is far from straightforward and presents a myriad of opportunities for illegal practices. Diamonds are bought and exported (legally or illegally) out of Sierra Leone through two main avenues. First, they are taken out through the country’s main airport at Lunghi (via Freetown) where they are transported to the main diamond cutting centres in Europe and elsewhere. The majority have historically gone to Antwerp. Second, Sierra Leone’s diamonds are smuggled across the border to Liberia or Guinea. Those involved in the export of diamonds have included mining companies...

    • 6 Parallel Economies, Global Criminal Networks & Sierra Leone Diamonds
      (pp. 149-175)

      Sierra Leonean diamonds form part of a much larger global trade in diamonds which in turn is an integral part of the wider global economy. In recent years economic growth across the globe has led to numerous parallel developments seen in the expansion in global trade and services that have become increasingly infused with corporatist ideology. Such moves reflect what some would call the hegemony of free-market economics. Indeed, as free-market economics has become the trade mark of global trade and services this has both encouraged and cultivated ever more patterns of privatisation, particularly of public services like defence and...

    • 7 Conclusion: The New ‘Scramble for Africa’ Diamonds: ‘A Blessing or a Curse’?
      (pp. 176-195)

      This work began by examining the social, economic and political role that diamonds have played in Sierra Leone’s development since the 1930s. A main conceptual question implicit in attempting to understand this history is the extent to which diamonds here represent what Ross (1999) has termed a resource curse – used more generally to explain the position of countries rich in mineral resources yet afflicted by extreme poverty and underdevelopment. Despite over 80 years of diamond exploitation (alongside other resources and minerals), Sierra Leone continues to exist on the margins of global development. For much of this history, diamond production...

  11. Appendix A: The Diamond Chain and Pipeline
    (pp. 196-196)
  12. Appendix B: A note on methodology
    (pp. 197-198)
  13. Appendix C: Hidden Voices – Selection of Interviewees
    (pp. 199-200)
  14. Appendix D: Movement of Concerned Kono Youth (MOCKY)
    (pp. 201-202)
    (pp. 203-220)
  16. INDEX
    (pp. 221-226)
  17. Back Matter
    (pp. 227-227)