n African Security Review - The use of regional diamond trading platforms to access conflict zones : essay

Volume 13, Issue 1
  • ISSN : 1024-6029
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Rough diamonds are one of the easiest minerals to extract from a war zone. Their high value to weight ratio means that a significant investment can be suitably concealed to evade detection. This attribute generally makes researchers assume that diamond smuggling from war zones to international trading centers is impossible to control - that the illicit diamond trade is like a river, which when confronted with an obstacle, will always find an alternative channel. This is true for the multitudes of African middlemen who smuggle varying amounts of diamonds across porous borders. International dealers who purchase diamonds from war zones are, however, much more constrained in their business and must rely on a limited number of routes to access rebel territory. These dealers almost always use operating platforms in a reasonable geographical proximity to the war zone to facilitate access to rebel groups, transfer cash to diamond buying operations, physically remove diamonds from the buying zone and organise their onward transfer to the legal international market. The multitude of networks that could deal with one particular rebel group and their infinite number of international hideouts is constricted to a bottleneck in these regional diamond trading platforms, without which access to rebel groups is either impossible or becomes a highly costly affair. This paper will consider the principle regional mechanisms by which diamond dealers organise, finance, orchestrate and conceal their business dealings with African rebel groups. Conflict diamond dealers interviewed by the author expressed economic rather than political motivation for their business activities, and in this context this paper will analyse why they have chosen regional operating platforms that conform to regional political alliances.

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