5 March 2012

Angola: Diamond Extraction and Crimes Against Humanity in Northeastern Angola


Paper presented at the Conference on International Law: War Crimes, Human Rights, and Immigration, Elon University School of Law, North Carolina, February 26, 2012

Angola celebrates this year a historical landmark - 10 years of peace. It took 14 years of armed struggle to gain our independence, and 27 more years of bloodshed, for Angolans to achieve peace.

Yet, in the diamond-rich region of the Lundas, the peace dividend has been spoiled by a steady rise of extra-judicial killings, and the daily torture of villagers and artisanal miners, who often pan for diamonds along the river bed. The abuses also include the destruction of subsistence farming, the main source of survival for Lundas' citizens, and other measures.

The diamond industry accounts for an average of over a billion dollars a year in revenues, which places the country as the fifth largest diamond producer in the world by value. But Angola is far richer in other natural resources, especially oil. This commodity has endowed the country with remarkable economic progress due to an increase in production and the record-high prices in the international oil markets. In 2002, at the outset of peace, the country had a real GDP of US $11.2 billion and 10 years later this figure multiplied tenfold. In contrast, the majority of Angolans (54.3%) live below the poverty line, on less than US$1.25 per day.

How can profitable diamond mining, in a peaceful country with such a fast-growing economy, become the source of so much violence?

This presentation attempts to answer the question by addressing the historical and legal frameworks under which decision-makers and their executioners seem to find justification. By the same measure, it presents a case study of a legal initiative to reverse the trend, and foster a culture of respect for human rights and justice. It does so by analyzing the political and socio-economic narratives that have sustained the diamond trade in Angola.

Read more here.

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