FORMER CHILD SOLDIER FROM SIERRA LEONE IN ST PETE CALLING FOR END TO VIOLENT DIAMOND TRADE-Andrew Stelzer03/15/06
A former child soldier from Sierra Leone is kicking off a nationwide speaking tour in St Petersburg this week. This morning, Chernoh Alpha M Bah held a press conference in South St Petersburg, to call attention to the deadly effect the diamond industry has had on his home country.
ACT-Bah â€œ..we have resources, and as a result we are looted by imperialists countries.â€?
Chernoh Alpha M Bah, who became a child soldier in Sierra Leone when he was 12 years old, says the civil war which began in his country in 1991, and killed hundreds of thousands of people over the next 11 years, was in a large part manufactured as part of competition for the extraction of natural resources from the country. Diamonds were also used as payment to bring weapons into the country.
ACT-Bah â€œthe whole reason for the war in Sierra Leone was diamonds..its has been established that corporations have benefited from diamonds. Executive outcomes are mercenaries hired by military regime, and what happened is that we have several western corporations. Sun line as involved in overthrow of government.â€?
Bah was born in 1979, and grew up seeing diamonds being extracted from his country and being taken to Britain, Belgium, and the US. He later was forced into exile in Guinea, and was imprisoned after forming a newspaper that exposed abuse of refugees.
Omavi Bailey, and about 15 other people were gathered in front of Bay point plaza, home to the diamonds direct store, to kick off Bahs speaking tour, which will also take him to Gainesville, Philadelphia, New York, Denver and elsewhere, and back to St Pete and Sarasota in April.
ACT-Omavi â€œthe diamonds direct store says they get their diamonds from Antwerp. No diamonds come from thereâ€¦â€?
Britain, the US and Belgium are the countries largely responsible for the extraction of diamonds; natives are paid a pittance for work in the mines.
ACT-Bah â€œthe people who ..they have no roads, etc. people are extracting for their selfish ends..â€?
Bah refused to say that people should not buy diamonds; instead he simply asked that people realize that people have to die for those diamonds to reach the store, and then make up their minds. Stephanie Middler with the African peoples solidarity committee says people need to step back and examine the ramifications of their actions..
ACT-Middler â€œas a white woman you expect to get a diamond, its part of our lifestyle, and this tour is exposing the contradiction of putting that on you finger as opposed to conditions in Sierra Leone who get a dollar day for intense labor, that results in a life style that is parasitic lifestyle that sucks the resources out of African.â€?
Chimerunga Waller is with the People international democratic UHURU movement.
ACT Waller â€œDeBeers takes a million carrots out every year, but the people have no electricity or running water. Many companies are paying so little in the diamond mines. The lifespan is 37 year sold.â€?
Middler and Waller pointed out that the profits coming from the diamond trade could potentially be used for something positive.
ACT-Middler â€œwere just talking about diamonds today, but you could talk about coltane, etc, Africa is the wealthiest continent in the world.â€?â€™
ACT-Waller â€œif the resources of Africa were used to develop Africa, we would be the richest place in the world..â€™
Bah, who is the founder of the Africanist movement in Sierra Leone, says there are currently 70 to 90 diamond companies currently mining in West Africa. 1 karat is worth between 15 and 60 thousand dollars.
ACT-Bah I saw a diamond for the 1st time 5 years ago. The people never see the diamonds, they have no access..â€?
ACT-Bah â€œmost of the diamonds that come here, are not sold, they are the blood of people..they are blood diamonds, have been stolen.
Earlier this month, rapper Kayne West was awarded a Grammy for his song â€œdiamonds from Sierra Leoneâ€? which attempt to send a message that diamonds extracted in that country are creating conflict, and asks people to buy diamonds that are conflict free. Waller and Bah are not impressed
ACT-Waller â€œhe said these are conflict diamonds, but all diamonds are conflict diamonds.â€?â€?
ACT-Bah â€œhe learned when he went to Sierra Leone, but we have been living with it..â€?
Bahs speaking tour will also take him to Gainesville, Philadelphia, New York, Denver and elsewhere, and back to St Pete and Sarasota in April.
ACT-bah â€œI want African in the US and around the world to unite with is. The future of Africa depends on it.â€?
Chernoh Alpha M. Bah will be speaking this Thursday at 7pm, at the UHURU house 1245 18th avenue South in St Pete ; hell also be speaking on Tuesday March 21st, at Studio 620 at 620 First Avenue South at 7pm. For more information, log onto Chernoh Alpha M. Bah will be speaking this Thursday at 7pm, at the UHURU house at 1245 18th avenue South in St Pete ; hell also be speaking on Tuesday March 21st, at Studio 620 at 620 First Avenue South at 7pm. For more information, log onto www.burningspearuhuru.com/chernoh_schedule.html