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Diamonds from war-torn Africa no one's best friend



Published: Tue, June 26, 2001 @ 12:00 a.m.



Two members of Congress from Ohio are lending their voices to the growing chorus in Washington seeking an end to the trade of "conflict diamonds." These diamonds are mined and sold by terrorist groups that then finance civil wars in countries such as Sierra Leone, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Angola.

Republican Sen. Mike DeWine and Democratic Rep. Tony Hall are among the sponsors of a bill that would establish an origin-tracking system to ensure that the diamonds coming into the United States don't have blood on them.

Price increase? Granted, the trade restrictions could result in the price of the gems going up, but the U.S., which is the world's largest market for these precious stones, cannot turn a blind eye to what is happening in many parts of Africa.

Revolutionary armies fighting for control of the diamond mines have left a wide path of death and destruction. The numbers are shocking: 3.7 million people killed; 6.5 million driven from their homes; 12,000 children forced to become soldiers in conflicts they do not understand.

It is telling that the diamond industry supports the legislation, as do human rights organizations. The reason is simple: without the money earned from the sale of conflict diamonds, terrorist groups that have brought many African nations to their economic knees would not be able to sustain their wars.

Ohioans should be proud that Sen. DeWine, R-Cedarville, and Rep. Hall, D-Dayton, are playing such an active role in ensuring that Americans do not support, albeit unintentionally, the death and destruction that have become the norm in many parts of Africa.

As Hall, who has a long legislative history of fighting poverty around the world, said of the conflict-diamonds legislation, "It will take the profits away from civil war and the rebel armies causing destruction."

Clout: DeWine, whose record of fighting for the cause of children was clearly established during his tenure as Ohio's lieutenant governor, correctly pointed out that the United States has "tremendous clout, but we also have a tremendous incentive," to act.

Although a bill was introduced in the last Congress to establish an original tracking system to ensure that conflict diamonds weren't sold in this country, it never picked up enough steam for passage.

Now, however, with the World Diamond Council and other groups dropping their demand that legislation only apply to uncut diamonds and with greatly flexibility being granted to implementing the provisions of the bill, there is no reason for Congress to drag its feet.

If being humane isn't enough incentive for some federal lawmakers to act, we would simply point out that today's child soldier could well be tomorrow's young adult terrorist who has bought into the idea of the U.S. being the Great Satan.




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