"Bling, Bling" - The Murder of Our People, pt 2 Morpheus, September 22, 2002 http://www.guerrillafunk.com/thoughts/doc736.html “Bling!Bling!” Baby says, his "medallion iced up" and his "Rolex bezelled up!" Jay-Z says she's his baby, drives him crazy and is a girl's best friend. We talkin' diamonds ya'll. Helen, a 20-year-old mother raped and held captive by armed men knows about diamonds. Adamsay, 15, who uses her severed limbs to manipulate a cup knows about them too. They live in Sierra Leone, where real thugs keep the block locked down -- all in the name of ICE. Sierra Leone went from slave port to a haven for Britain's newly emancipated. A colony until 1961, it looked forward to prosperity in those early years of independence. But as with too much of post-colonial Africa, those dreams were short lived. Government mismanagement led to rebellion in 1991 by a group calling themselves the Revolutionary United Front (RUF), led by a former official named Foday Sankoh. Attempts to quell the rebellion caused numerous coups and shifts in government. With the war still raging in 1996, the people finally called for democratic elections. Lawyer Ahmad Tejan Kabbah was declared victor and a peace accord with the rebels was signed. But the peace deal unraveled. And when disgruntled government soldiers staged a coup, the RUF eagerly supported them to topple Kabbah and form a rogue government the international community refused to recognize. Visiting Nigeria, RUF leader Foday Sankoh was placed under arrest. And Nigeria, backed by the UN and ECOMOG, fought a punishing war to return Kabbah to power in 1998. Sankoh was given the death penalty, but the RUF carried on nevertheless. If the RUF were fighting on behalf of the people of Sierra Leone, they certainly neglected to demonstrate it. As if mimicking Cambodia's murderous Khmer Rouge or the brutally oppressive Belgian Congo, the RUF waged a bloody campaign of terror. They raped, maimed and killed civilians, including children and the elderly, in the tens of thousands. When the RUF attacked the capitol of Freetown in January of 1999, they initiated "Operation No Living Thing" - raping young girls and women, burning homes and villages, and viciously hacking off the hands of children. At least 10,000 people died in this rebel terror campaign. As one UN official put it, “The RUF have turned Sierra Leone into the worst country in the world to live in”. So who are these RUF? An extremist faction like the Peruvian Shining Path, with some profound political agenda? Something akin to the fratricidal, Hutu Interahamwe of Rwanda bent on revenge upon ethnic rivals? Or like the Hezballah, do they wage a struggle based on fanatic religious ideologies? No. The 45,000 member RUF are simply disillusioned young men, some no older than 10, spurred on by older leaders and drug-induced acts of bravado. They come from diverse ethnic groups, practice no particular religion, and espouse no set political agenda or platform. All that can be said is that their goals are rooted in greed. For it is diamonds that have caused and fed this war of atrocity. The eastern part of Sierra Leone, a RUF stronghold, produces some of the finest gems in the world. Reports say the RUF sells the diamonds through Liberia, who's president Charles Taylor supports them for his own corrupt ends, and receives arms in return. The evidence of this illegal trade is in the numbers: Liberia's own average annual mining capacity is 150,000 carats. But between 1994 and 1998, Liberia exported more than 31 million carats, an average of six million per year. The RUF was eventually routed by Nigerian troops into the countryside. But pressure from the US and other governments forced President Kabbah to sign a treaty with the RUF. Jesse Jackson himself helped broker the much applauded peace deal which not only gave the RUF blanket amnesty, but ensured their leaders high-ranking government posts. Foday Sankoh went from death row, to the Vice-Presidency. However, it soon became apparent that this deal was a sham. Only about 4,000 of the RUF disarmed while at least 13,000 government troops did so. UN observers noted that the RUF continued murder, rape and mutilation in Sierra Leone as if the peace deal never happened. In fact only days following Nigeria's withdrawal, the RUF ambushed and took 500 UN peacekeepers hostage. Terrified of the rebels, who's infamous reputation preceded them, the UN force surrendered their weapons, armored personnel carriers and even their uniforms without so much as a fight. Sierra Leone citizens in Freetown, finally taking matters into their own hands, marched on the home of Sankoh to demand he end hostilities. They were greeted with bodyguards who fired machine guns and rocket-propelled grenades into the crowd, killing scores. Weeks of humiliation later, the UN hostages were finally released. So what went wrong? Jesse, the US and foreign nations underestimated the RUF and miserably failed to understand the conflict in Sierra Leone. The RUF may be experts in tactics of guerrilla warfare and terrorism, but they amount in the end to little more than mafia-like thugs. Giving Sankoh and his rebels places in the new government would be akin to the NAACP giving gang members a place on their board. The people of Sierra Leone were betrayed by an international community looking to make deals with the devil. As one Sierra Leonean dryly observed, “they didn't make deals with Milosovic in Bosnia---why here?” But perhaps there is hope in Sierra Leone's future. The UN, following Nigeria's lead, has taken a tough stance on the RUF. And the peacekeeping mission sent there has restored some semblance of order to the nation. Foday Sankoh was captured and marched through the streets of Freetown to the jubilant cheers of its citizens. A tribunal has been set up to prosecute both Sankoh and the RUF for their reign of terror. And a government diamond certificate is now being put into to place to keep rebel gems from financing this brutal war. And word is the RUF rebels have begun to disarm en masse. As Nigerian author Chinua Achebe might say, in Sierra Leone things "fell" apart. It will take untold generations to heal the wounds the civil war has caused. The very existence of the RUF illustrates some of Africa's most pressing post-colonial problems: corrupt leaders, the powerful exploiting the powerless, the break-down of traditional African societal values and mores, and a lack of basic order on many fronts. What should be a diamond-rich and prosperous country, is today on the verge of chaos. Modern Sierra Leone is part of the African legacy of colonialism and the seeming inability of western styles of government and post-independence leaders to speak to the needs of their respective countries. The implosion of Sierra Leone is what happens when all of these factors go untreated for too long. It will take a world community and, most of all, the commitment of the people of Sierra Leone to fix it once again. As I listened to yet another ghetto lyrical fantasy of ICE play out on my radio, I could not help wonder if some artists are dumber than a box of rocks? When a recent high profile rapper was asked about what he thought of Sierra Leone as he bragged about his shiny wrist pieces, he answered dumbfounded -- "Sierra who?" It seems while the rest of the REAL world was concerned with world affairs, these thugz, ballaz and ThOw'd YuNg PlAyAz could have cared less. Yet now I watch em' tripping over each other to get some American patriotic media glory after September 11th. These simps (yeah, I called em' simps) should all be loaded up in a plane and dropped ground zero into Sierra Leone, with all their flashy ICE wrapped around them. Let's see how long they make it.