Just finished a terrific (and horrifying) book on the diamond war in Sierra Leone–Blood Diamonds by Greg Campbell. Campbell traveled to Sierra Leone in 2001 to report on what was largely a neglected civil war in Sierra Leone. The book covers his exploration of several key diamond mining locations in the eastern part of the country and his stays in Freetown and Monrovia (Liberia), where diamonds are bought and sold. Deftly woven into the narrative is the history of the Sierra Leone Civil War (and Liberia’s role in it) and the back story of the diamond giant De Beers, which at one point owned 80 percent of the world’s diamonds.
This book provides rich context for understanding the complicated conflict in Sierra Leone, while exposing the complicity of both consumers and corporations in generating the war. The means by which De Beers generated the diamond myth (you need a diamond to be engaged) is sinister and remarkable. In the final chapters, Campbell traces how Sierra Leonian diamonds funded Al Quaida in the days leading to and following September 11. I highly recommend this work. It makes an excellent companion to Ishmael Beah’s A Long Way Gone.