Posted by: bklunk | October 22, 2006

Liberia: A Case Study for So Much Tragedy

Ben-Dunphy provides this interesting post.  The Liberian civil war was one of the signature tragedies of the late 20th-early 21st centuries. 

Diamond Sanctions Remain on LiberiaThe Associated Press reported today that the UN Security Council decided to keep in place a ban on Liberian diamond exports, saying the country could not ensure its gems are tracked properly.

My September 8 post highlighted the fact that Liberia is not a member of the Kimberley Process, even though the civil war officially ended in 2003. The current president, Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, is working hard to prevent Liberia from entering a failed-state status, currently negotiating a cancellation of the country’s $3.5 billion debt, as well as attracting foreign investment.

But Ms. Johnson-Sirleaf, in a May 24 letter to the council said that sanctions on diamonds, arms and timber are hurting the country’s economy. The council lifted timber sanctoins in June, but is holding firm on the diamond sanctions, urging Liberia for reforms so that it can join the Kimberley Process.

The move by the Security Council reinforces the seriousness surrounding the issue of stamping out conflict diamonds. The US responded and acted within days of hearing about deficiencies in its diamond inspection process, and over 145 countries have signed the Kimberley Process Certificatoin Scheme.

Once again, details surrounding these “conflicts” are few and far in between. Who the actors are, what their motives are, and how many people are dying are crucial details omitted in virtually every post on the subject related to conflict diamonds.

I will see what I can dig up for next time.

My first reaction is that this is not a vote-of-confidence in Sirleaf-Johnson’s young government. 

I’m guessing there is information out there about this situation and I can’t wait to see what Ben-Dunphy comes up with.

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  1. The fact that this information is not provided is not surprising. In a research project done earlier this year, I looked at the issues of child soldiers. The findings I found said that quite a bit of the violence was in relation to these diamonds, blood diamonds. If word were to get out that it is children committing some of the attrocities that went on, how would the world respond? The matter is serious and the UN is right to continue watching this situation closely and work to prevent the selling of these diamonds. If it means sanctions, it’s worth it to help prevent this vicious cycle from continuing. Though Liberia has recently come out of civil war, there is much to be done, including the reintegration of any child soldiers into normal life. It’s not an easy issue to address, but it will take many years and close monitering to avoid more bloodshed.

  2. I cant help but feel torn right now. I honestly did not even know this was going on as I suspect most average americans do not know. I just finished looking at some pictures of Darfur and though i have heard that atrocities were being committed, I think America has no idea what that means. I mentioned feeling torn because now that I know, it feels like the sun went behind a cloud. In America, we are so blessed and we dont even know it until we step outside of our own busy schedules and take a look around us. We never have to worry about soldiers looting and burning our homes. It is unconcievable to think about children as soldiers. And strange to think that there is conflict over these diamonds. It is good that our government continued with it’s sanction. It was the right thing to do regardless of Liberia’s economic slum. Though it’s good that our government is taking care of it, I think there needs to be more public awareness of these world issues. I feel so ignorant when I find out about these things cause I think, “How could I have not known? How could we not have heard?” Maybe we don’t ask, and we like pretending that everyone is as well off as we are.

  3. Kelly, your sentiments are felt by many people who come to an awakening from ignorance. The news media is a business and must survive by competing for customers. This competition leads them to report on topics that are of particular interest to US citizens, and present them in a very entertaining fashion. Just look at CNN, Fox News: listen to the soundtracks, look at all of the busy colors and decorations on the set. Then listen to what stories are reported. Darfur is not mentioned very much. But what can we do to stop that war? There is not much, sadly.
    The topic of conflict diamonds is one of success. The Kimberley Process now incorporates most of the countries who formerly used diamonds to fund civil wars, along with another 150 or so countries. This was all made possible by the consciousness of these wars that the media brought to the homes of citizens worldwide.
    We as citizens of the USA must hold accountable the policies our government carries out. But we as humans must also look inside ourselves and find compassion for others. In order to do so, we must educate ourselves about what is going on in the world. The news will not do it for us; if you look in the right places, it will help. But true education comes from digging deeper and asking questions.

  4. This is a very difficult situation for the people of Liberia, and the title of the blog itself couldn’t make that any clearer. It is really sad to think that so many of us are not aware of what is going on in the world, especially concerning situations like this. Even if we are trying to dig deeper and ask questions in order to educate ourselves, something has to be said for the lack of news coverage concerning the very grave human rights abuses. It is good that the issue of “blood diamonds” was finally brought into the media, and because of this measures have been taken such as the Kimberley Process. In the situation with Liberia, what is to be done with their conundrum? Is there something the UN can do? How can we prevent future failed states? It seems as though there are so many problems and so many atrocities committed daily, especially in the Africa region. It deeply saddens me, and yet I feel like there is so much more going on, actually, I know there is so much more going on than what I am aware of at this point. The UN can place sanctions and monitor situations, but isn’t there something more that can be done? I guess that’s where the issue of state sovereignty comes into play.

  5. I feel that the sancitons definitely should stay in place, although it may only may only slighty prevent this from continuing it will add pressure. I do agree that most “average Americans” probably do not know about this particular situation, however, there are many, many situations that it is impossible to know of each case. The media is unable to cover every single problematic case. I deffinitely would not call this and “awakening from ignorance”. It is wrong to say this is a result of ignorance, I would call it uniformed. Each person cannot be informed about every issue. There are too many! Every country experiences different issues, and just because Americans are not going through the same thing, they are udergoing other stresses. In addition, America does have immigrants that do know what this means and some even fled from similar devastation. I think that it is odd to think of these young children as soldiers, but this is all they are exposed to and all they know. Although America doesn’t have child “soldiers” we do have youth in gangs that also hustle and commit various murders and crimes in a similar way. Again, I agree with the sanctions regardless of whether or not they will hurt the economy, it is the minimum of what can be done.

  6. I find this subject of the situation in Liberia very interesting not only from a political standpoint but from a personal stand point. One of my friends, and a dear family friend for that matter came from this war torn region in the early 90’s . He like many in the country was displaced from much his home, and forced to try to get out of the country by any means necessary. For the sake of getting out of the country he eventually would have to leave his parents behind, and come with his other family members to MN. This leaving of his parents (who thankfully have remained safe), for the hope of a better life in America is a situation that is beyond comparison to anything i’ve dealt with in my own life, and comened him on his ability to cope without parents. I also comened him for being able to come out of what must have been a very traumatic experience, and be able to move onto college, and other important stages in life. One fond memory I have with him is the experience of meeting George Weah, soccer player, and compeititor in the recent election to Sirleaf-Johnson at a soccer tournament in brooklyn park, mn. Although I don’t really know much about Sirleaf-Johnson the new president, I do know that Weah was, and still is a man that really has tried to bring the country together. He in a lot of ways has brought light to the situation in Liberia not only through his celebrity status, but through his work at uniting rival factions, and donating his own personal time, and funds to help rebuild this war ravaged country. Although his helping build the country didn’t lead into a seat as the country’s new president, he should still be recognized in the world community as a main reason as to why Liberia even has a government at this point. So, in light of these recent sanctions against Liberia its important to point out that through individuals like Weah, as well as Johnson-Sirleaf Liberia has come along way, and this very recent development of the country should not go unnoticed in the face of these recent allegations.

  7. I agree with Kelly. It is so disturbing to know that how ignorant most americans are to this situation. what are the media’s priorities. political grabble is taking over our news. no wonder blogging is on the rise. but the fact is that most people still look to the television and newspaper for thier sources. the issue of the blood diamonds” is a serious one. and like any news story there is always more (sometimes alot more) to the picture. what we can do as american is bring awareness to these issues and hopefully good things will come out of it. like the Kimberely Process.

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