The background story of this movie is true: the RUF child soldiers who were abducted from villages, the slaves who worked in the diamond mines, the amputation of limbs with machetes, the attack on Freetown.
The brutality of the RUF drug addicted rebels, the presence of South African mercenaries, the Kimberely Process which banned the sale of “blood diamonds” … all this was also true.
Blood Diamond, however, is nothing more than a pure Hollywood fantasy. Leonardo DiCaprio is Danny Archer, a Rhodesian mercenary, who plays the Bigot With a Heart of Gold (BWHG). Djimon Hounsou is Solomon Vande, a Mende fisherman desperate to find his family, who reprises his role as the Noble Savage (NS) that he played in Gladiator and Amistad.
Jennifer Connolly is Maddy Brown, an American journalist in Sierra Leone investigating “conflict diamonds,” who plays the Bleeding Heart White Liberal (BHWL). Arnold Vosloo is Colonel Coetzee, the South African mercenary who was Archer’s former commander in the South African Border War, who plays the Evil White Imperialist (EWI).
Marius Weyers is Rudolph Van de Kaap, the Tiara Diamond Company executive who employs Colonel Coetzee, who plays The Man (TM) who is profiting from the war behind the scenes. Michael Sheen is Rupert Simmons, Van de Kaap’s underling, who buys the “Blood Diamond” in London from Vande at the end of the movie.
Blood Diamond ends with Solomon Vande testifying as “the voice of the Third World” before the meeting of diamond producers in Kimberely, South Africa that banned the sale of “blood diamonds.” The unmistakable message of “Blood Diamond” is that Westerners who buy diamond rings for their fiancés are behind the whole conflict.
In Black History Month 2012: “Greater Liberia” Goes Full Gangsta, I promised to finish telling the true story of the Sierra Leone Civil War, as what happened there was merely the Liberian Civil War spilling over the border and the warlord economy engulfing the wider region.
Sierra Leone was one of the ECOWAS states that intervened to end the Liberian Civil War after President Samuel Doe was tortured and murdered on television. Liberia was carved up between rival warlords that continued fighting with ECOWAS over the spoils of victory. Everything in sight (televisions, consumer goods, scrap metal, street lights, industrial equipment) was looted by the warlords to finance the conflict.
In this context, the rich alluvial diamond fields in Kono in Sierra Leone, which are less than 100 miles from the Liberian border became an obvious target. Charles Taylor resented Sierra Leone’s intervention and armed and financed a group of 100 rebels called the “Revolutionary United Front” (RUF) to overthrow the government of Sierra Leone in the same way that he had overthrown the government of Liberia.
The RUF overran the diamond fields in eastern Sierra Leone and the bauxite and titanium mines which provided the government of Sierra Leone with virtually all of its export earnings. The “blood diamonds” in Kono flowed into Liberia and were sold and exported abroad. It was just the most famous example of Charles Taylor’s warlord economy.
In 1995, the government of Sierra Leone was collapsing, its army had been routed, the RUF had taken over the diamond fields, and the coup de grâce was about to be delivered in Freetown. Desperate to avoid defeat, a South African private security firm called Executive Outcomes was hired to regain control of the country in exchange for concessions to mine diamonds in areas where Executive Outcomes regained control.
Within one week, Executive Outcomes drove the RUF out of Freetown. They also cleared the RUF out of the diamond fields in Kono and restored them to government control. Then the IMF intervened and pressured the Sierra Leone government to terminate the services of Executive Outcomes. The government was forced to share power with the RUF which gained control of the diamond fields.
The bloodshed didn’t end until six years later when Freetown was about to be sacked for the fourth time. Britain launched a humanitarian intervention in May 2000, seized control of the country, put an end to the war, and took over key posts in the government, central bank, and the economy.
The British intervention in Sierra Leone in 2000 was the model for the American intervention in Liberia in 2003 and two interventions by France in Côte d’Ivoire in 2004 and 2011 to stop the Ivorian Civil War. In all three cases, the Western powers intervened to end the civil wars in their former colonies for humanitarian reasons.
The story told in “Blood Diamond” couldn’t be further from the truth: the West had nothing to do with starting the civil wars in Liberia and Sierra Leone, the South Africans were called in by the legitimate government as a last ditch effort to stop the RUF, the fighting over the diamond fields was merely one phase in a wider warlord economy, and it was Britain that finally put an end to the fighting.
In the beginning of the movie, the remark is casually made that “this country was founded as a utopia.” This is one of the few true statements you will find in Blood Diamond. Sierra Leone was the British version of Liberia. The colony was founded as a utopian homeland for the Black Undertow of London and the African-American loyalists who fought for Britain in the American Revolution.
Freetown was built by African-Americans. The cotton tree that towers over the city was planted by former American slaves in 1792. The Krio people in Sierra Leone, who make up 5.4 percent of the population, are the descendants of African-Americans and Jamaicans.
OD celebrates Black History Month 2012 by remembering that African-Americans have not one, but two homelands in West Africa, Sierra Leone and Liberia, and by noting that freedom failed in both of them which forced British and American humanitarian interventions.
Note: Watch the second video. This is the future of London.
The Black Undertow of the UK ought to be colonized in Sierra Leone. There is already a historical precedent for doing this. In the late eighteenth century, the blacks of London and the White prostitutes who kept company with them were sent to Sierra Leone to found Freetown where the fighting takes place in Blood Diamond.