The United Nations Chairman of the Security Council Sanctions committee on Sierra Leone announced on August 1st the composition of a panel that will examine the trade of diamonds for arms and other military material. Although the U.N. Security Council enacted a diamonds embargo, the illegal trade persists in diamond-rich Sierra Leone, where brutal rebel forces trade their diamonds for weapons, fuel, and other materials necessary to maintain their nine-year long battle. The United States also recently urged the Liberian government to cease support for the Revolutionary United Front (RUF) rebels, repeating its threat to impose sanctions. Liberian Foreign Minister Monie Captan met with Undersecretary of State Thomas R. Pickering on August 3rd for the second time in two weeks. Pickering stated, “I told him we were disappointed that we hadn’t seen any significant change” in Liberian policy. It is estimated that Liberia purchases 60 percent of rebel-mined diamonds from RUF in return for arms and other materials.
In a report released to the Security Council on August 1st, United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan characterized the situation in Sierra Leone as “dangerous and volatile.” The report states that there is “no credible sign” that the Revolutionary United Front rebels will resume the peace process and end its attacks on U.N. peacekeepers, describing RUF’s violence as a matter of “grave concern.” RUF rebels are known for gruesome practices such as chopping off the breasts of women, systematically raping women and children, and capturing children to use them as soldiers.