Thursday, March 19, 2009

Sierra Leone: a poor, rich nation (guest essay)

By Holly McCarthy

I don’t normally watch too many movies, but I was stuck in LA with nothing to do and time to kill before I caught my flight back home. And so I decided to watch Blood Diamond. The movie touched me in more ways than one; it made me cry over the plight of the children of Sierra Leone; it made me realize how lucky we all are to live in a country that’s free of war and strife; and it made me think twice before going gaga over a diamond.

I’m not too big a fan of movies that are hard-hitting and tending towards the realistic, but Blood Diamond struck a chord in me because of the relationship between the characters of Leonardo DiCaprio and Djimon Hansou, one of them a crooked diamond trader who finds a little bit of humanity inside him, and the other a tormented soul in search of his son who has been abducted by the rebels and forced to kill under the influence of drugs.

The movie brought home the fact that the war in Sierra Leone is very real, that people are mutilating children, robbing them of their childhood and forcing them to become soldiers in a war they don’t understand, and that the root cause for all this mayhem and carnage is the stone we call a diamond, the miraculous transformation of common coal into a precious stone through nature’s magic and munificence. It’s an irony that a land so rich is full of people who are dirt poor, that the very reason for the civil wars in the land is the precious diamonds that lie under the soil.

Charles Taylor, erstwhile president of Liberia and the man mostly responsible for the large scale destruction in Sierra Leone, is now awaiting trial in the Hague, and three of the generals who were tried for ordering their troops to cut off the limbs or otherwise mutilate children and those who opposed them have been found guilty of 18 counts of war crimes and crimes against humanity over the past ten years. But it’s not a happy ending for Sierra Leone – there’s news that Taylor may be a free man soon because the Hague is finding it difficult to find donors in this period of economic recession.

But even if Taylor is put behind bars for life, some other dictator will step in to rape the land and keep the spoils, not caring about who or what they destroy in the process. The Dark Continent and its nations can only see the light when they’re well and truly rid of the natural resources that they hold, the bounty that unscrupulous people are willing to sell their souls for!

Editor's note: This post was contributed by Holly McCarthy, who writes on the subject of the online school. She invites your feedback at hollymccarthy12 at gmail dot com



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