The movie, the celebrities and the publicity have come and gone. Now the conditions for the people of Sierra Leone are worse than ever. The popular Africanist Movement is struggling to change that.
Last year Sierra Leone in West Africa enjoyed a moment in the spotlight as the film Blood Diamond was nominated for an academy award and celebrities swarmed to the impoverished country for photo-ops.
Now that the momentary attention has moved on to other things Sierra Leone in Africa’s west coast still has one of the highest infant and maternal mortality rates in the world. There are still no roads, clean drinking water, health care or electricity for the majority of African working people there.
Diamond diggers continue to make only about 30 cents a day, condemning full time workers to starvation. Today, as the price of world commodities are being driven sky high by Wall Street speculation, the cost of Sierra Leone’s rice has reportedly risen by 300 percent and gas is about $18 a liter at the pump.
The resources of Africa and Sierra Leone in particular are immense. According to an article, “The fear of Sierra Leoneans becoming second-class citizens in their country,” that appeared in the Standard Times Press on May 13, 2008, the country is a place where “diamond, gold, iron, bauxite, as well as forests, abundant fresh water, fruit and fish grace the land. In 2006, a total of over $216 million came from the exporting of diamonds, bauxite, coffee, cocoa and fish.”
Under the government of President Ernest Bai Koroma, one of the legions of African neocolonial puppets ready to sell their country’s natural wealth to the highest bidder, Sierra Leone, according to Chernoh Alpha M. Bah, is being run like a corporation available to the highest bidder.
About 100,000 Lebanese live in Sierra Leone, most of them prosperous diamond traders. The Chinese population is growing as well, with investors and managers making big profits in the development of the tourist industry. But outside development does nothing to uplift conditions for the average impoverished family in Sierra Leone. In reality it is a new form of colonialism.
The Standard Times Press article notes, “…Chinese investors are rapidly running closely behind the many Lebanese investors who reside in the country and own some of the most exclusive jewelry stores, supermarkets and other businesses. The Chinese are similar to the Lebanese, who make millions in profit…It has also been suggested that, with the reconstruction of Sierra Leone, the Chinese may in fact bring their own workers into the country rather than using domestic labor—as they have already done in Algeria and Sudan.”
Chernoh Alpha M. Bah, leader of the West African Africanist Movement headquartered in Sierra Leone is part of an emerging movement that believes that Africa’s diamonds, oil, gold and vast resources are the birthright of African people, not foreign investors, developers and colonizers.
The 100,000-member Africanist Movement is part of the African Socialist International (ASI) that is working to unite and liberate Africa for the benefit of African working people. The ASI is made up of African people from around the world, including those inside the U.S., who have come together on the premise that black people are one people no matter where they have been dispersed around the world.
Bah and his movement recognize that Africa today continues to live under the legacy of enslavement and colonialism. Bah points out that the same essential economic relationships are still in place under the guise of independence.
The Africanist Movement has joined together with the All-African People’s Development and Empowerment Project (AAPDEP), led by U.S.-based Dr. Aisha Fields. AAPDEP has initiated programs working in partnership with Sierra Leone villages to build clean water programs and people’s health clinics.
“Not only has the Africanist Movement initiated a number of programs designed to provide immediate relief to the people of Sierra Leone in the areas of health care, water harvesting, subsistence and commercial fishing and agricultural development,” Bah has stated, “but politically the Africanist Movement has elevated the struggles of the workers and impoverished in Sierra Leone as well.”
Blood diamonds are not just the stones that helped finance the violence of the Sierra Leone civil war of the 90s. The “legitimate” diamond industry owned by the De Beers cartel and other Westerners, is just as devastating to the standard of life for African people in Sierra Leone.
Diamonds are a $60 billion business, a huge percentage of which is concentrated inside the U.S. Most Africans in Sierra Leone, living on far less than a dollar a day, have never seen a polished diamond.
There’s a simple reality that America’s wealth is built on the trade in African people and Africa’s colonial history. Today young Africans are making the connection that profits from their resources go to feed America and Europe, as well as increasingly China and others. This equation is no longer sustainable as African people are faced with a life and death daily reality and demanding that their vast natural wealth feed their children and build their own society and infrastructure. It only makes sense.
What you can do: Donate your diamond to the AAPDEP programs led by African people themselves who are making real transformation on the African continent right now. All diamonds are blood diamonds and your symbol of “long-lasting love” is tainted with the suffering of African people. Return Africa’s resources to African people not for charity but for liberation, reparations and justice.