These ain't conflict diamonds, is they Jacob? don't lie to me mayne
See, a part of me sayin' keep shinin',
How? when I know of the blood diamonds
Though it's thousands of miles away
Sierra Leone connect to what we go through today
Over here, it's a drug trade, we die from drugs
Over there, they die from what we buy from drugs
The diamonds, the chains, the bracelets, the charmses
I thought my Jesus Piece was so harmless
'til I seen a picture of a shorty armless
- Kanye West, "Diamonds from Sierra Leone (Remix)"
Conflict diamonds "are a crucial factor in prolonging brutal wars in parts of Africa.... In Angola and Sierra Leone, conflict diamonds continue to fund the rebel groups, the National Union for the Total Independence of Angola (UNITA) and the Revolutionary United Front (RUF), both of which are acting in contravention of the international community's objectives of restoring peace in the two countries." That's polite, United Nations talk
about maiming and murder by rebels.
Not that the state's government is, or was, any great shakes. As noted by the BBC (via Bill Doskoch),
"Diamonds have always been at the heart of Sierra Leone's problems. Ever since the first commercial mines were opened by the British colonial authorities in 1931, they have been both the prize and the fuel in conflicts. Sierra Leonean researcher and journalist Lansana Gberie
... [looks at] the criminalisation of the state, funded largely by diamonds." Corruption destroyed the government, allowing (encouraging?) a civil war to easily break out: "The insurgency was characterised by terror attacks on civilians, including the widespread hacking off of people's limbs."
Canada has a humiliating historical connection to Sierra Leone: racism led blacks to leave Nova Scotia by the hundreds to settle in Sierra Leone, where they sought some measure of happiness.
"Slavery was never instituted by statute
in Nova Scotia, yet slavery was practiced in Halifax a year after the city was founded and, over the next five decades, it was not uncommon in other parts of the province," note Donald Clairmont and Dennis Magill in their book, "Africville: The Life and Death of a Canadian Black Community."
There were about 500 slaves in Nova Scotia at the beginning of the American Revolution
; Loyalists brought another 1,000 or so. "The groundwork for the subordination of the blacks as a people in Nova Scotia was laid by the early existence of a slave society," say the researchers.
But eventually free blacks began to arrive from the United States, "for the most part having been freed by the British as an inducement to encourage them to leave their revolutionary masters. Free blacks were promised equal treatment with their white peers, but promises were not fulfilled." Few were actually given land; the "lucky" ones found that their lots were small, often barren, and located away from settled areas. "In order to survive, a number of blacks were forced to sell themselves or their children into slavery or long-term indenture."
When the Sierra Leone Company
came by, there was practically a stampede. As Daniel G. Hill notes in his book, "The Freedom Seekers: Blacks in Early Canada":
"The difficulty of supporting themselves in the face of discrimination and of adverse conditions of climate and the economy convinced many of Nova Scotia's Blacks that they would be better off to leave the province. Some went to New Brunswick, some to 'the Canadas', but most took advantage of the British government's offer of transport to Sierra Leone, where a settlement for Free Blacks was to be established. Thomas Peters,
a former sergeant in the Black Pioneers, encouraged his people to accept the British offer. In 1791 almost 1,000 of Nova Scotia's Blacks took ship from Halifax for Africa."
Five years later, another group of 600 blacks arrived in Nova Scotia. "They were the Maroons, immigrants from Jamaica who were part of the community of escaped slaves who, from 1655, had guarded their freedom in the mountains of that island and for over a century had fought off all attempts to re-enslave them. Some of them, finally overcome by the superior resources and false assurances of British and Jamaican forces, surrendered in 1796 and were exiled to Nova Scotia about three small transport ships, the Dover, the Mary and the Ann. To help them settle in their new home, the Jamaican government supplied a fund of 25,000 pounds.
"Sir John Wentworth, Governor of Nova Scotia, and Prince Edward, Duke of Kent, Commander-in-Chief of the province's forces, gave a hearty welcome to the Maroons. They were impressed by their record of brave resistance and by their impressive physical appearance. When the Duke of Kent offered them work building new fortifications on Halifax's Citadel Hill,
the Maroons accepted his offer and volunteered to work without pay. The Duke, however, ordered that they should be paid at the regular rate of nine pence a day '...besides provisions, lodging and clothing.'
"The Maroons quickly finished their assignment of building the 'Maroon Bastion' to reinforce the new province's defences. They also formed a militia unit in which two of their leaders, Montagne and John, were made colonels, and two others, Bailey and Jarret, were made majors. At first the people of Halifax were delighted with the added protection and prosperity which the Maroons provided, with their combat experience and their soldiers' pay to spend in the community; but before long there was trouble.
"The independent spirit and the determination to keep to their own ways that had been the life of the Maroons through a century and a half of guerrilla warfare seemed [like] arrogance to the Nova Scotians, and there were several attempts to have the newcomers expelled. The Maroons found the climate of their new land harsh, the food unpalatable, and the dislike of their neighbours difficult to bear. In 1797 they asked to be sent to a warmer climate, but it was not until January, 1800 that the government decided to send them to Sierra Leone.
In August of that year 550 Maroons boarded the ship Asia for their new homeland, which they finally reached in October."