Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Christmas Vacation Means Two Things:

One, I get to actually read books I enjoy without feeling guilty that I should be reading a textbook. Two, I can watch movies!!! 

  Yesterday I finally watched the movie Blood Diamond which came out in 2006. I initially was not inclined to watch the film because I thought it was just another blockbuster action flick. The film is set during the Sierra Leone civil war in the late 90's and shows the country torn apart by competin
g government army and the rebel forces (R.U.F or the Revolutionary United Front). The plot centers around the Vandy family who have become senseless victims of the conflict. The father, Solomon searches fruitlessly for his wife, daughters and son after escaping a diamond mining camp run by the rebels. The film demonstrates that the conflict is fueled by the diamond industry, as diamonds are illegally exported to Liberia and sold on the world market, with the money being siphoned into the growing rebel forces (in terms of arms). It captures the reality of civil war and growing concern that children are being brainwashed and used as soldiers. Solomon's son becomes an RUF rebel soldier and the film when Solomon find him is especially disturbing. The boy no longer shares an emotional bond with his father and declares him an enemy, one to be captured. 

    I am currently reading a book called 'A Lo
ng Way Gone: Memoirs of a Boy Soldier' by Ishmael Beah; the book is written by a child soldier from Sierra Leone who was rescued by Unicef and rehabilitated. It is so sad to actually consider this type of thing is happening in the world today. Beah was orphaned by the civil war, on the run through desolate and plundered villages he is eventually captured. There he was, by the age of 12 carrying an AK-47. Pumped up on drugs (Cocaine and marijuana) he was forced to kill or be killed. The boys captured are indoctrinated to be killing machines, they glorify in battle and pass the time watching brutalized american war films such as Rambo. Beah wrote his book to put a human face on the suffering in Sierra Leone. He advocates for the rehabilitation of child soldiers in a desperate plea for the other 300,000 soldiers around the world engaged in conflict today. 
   I was interested in the topic and I googled blood diamond. In relation to diamond trading, blood diamond (or war diamond, conflict diamond, hot diamond) refers to a diamond mined in a war zone and sold to finance insurgency, rebel groups or a warlords activities, usually in Africa. There are numerous incidences of these types of diamonds entering the world market from all over Africa. There was controversy when the film was first produced between De Beers, the South African diamond mining and trading company who maintained that the trade in conflict diamonds had been reduced from 4% to 1% of total purchases. Furthermore, De Beers may or may not have pushed for a disclaimer to show the events of the film were fictional and outdated. What I was wondering is there a market for 'conflict-free' diamonds? The UN issued sanctions in attempt to control the export of these war diamonds in 2000. The General assembly recognized that diamonds are a crucial factor in prolonging brutal wars in Africa.
"It has been said that war is the price of peace...Angola and Sierra Leone have already paid too much. Let them live a better life." As put by Juan Larrain, Chairman of the monitoring mechanisms and sanction against the rebel group UNITA. 

I am interested to learn more about conflict in Africa. In the new year I am taking a politics of Africa as well as a history of Africa starting during colonization. It remains as one of the most war ravaged continents in he world. Everyday headlines surface about the dire state of Somalia, the Congo and Sudan. What is the best option for these countries? When will it end? Does foreign aid help or exasperate the problem?

I highly recommend both the film and the novel... Both will open your eyes to the reality of the situation in Africa, although the film may or may not be a bit sensationalized/ over sentimental as you sympathize with Leo...the facts are there. 

Signing out,


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