Change The World | Music

The Fight Against Blood Diamonds Gets Some Help From The Rascalz


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The Rascalz in Sierra Leone with amputees

There is a place where the demand for diamonds has caused over 50,000 deaths, left thousands as amputees or refugees, and sparked a ten-year civil war that ravaged the entire country. Diamonds are money jewels, and the more you display, the more successful you’re perceived to be. Fortunately, there are groups like the Rascalz who aren’t obsessed with wearing these flashy trinkets. The Juno and MuchMusic award-winning group from Vancouver have a different perspective since they’ve been to Sierra Leone and witnessed the carnage over these “blood” or “conflict” diamonds—terms used to differentiate diamonds mined in conflicted countries like Sierra Leone from “clean” diamonds mined in countries like Canada, Australia and Russia—and they are now committed to helping with the healing process.

Sierra Leone, a small country on the west coast of Africa with a population of approximately 5,233,000, is one of the poorest nations in the world but is rich in natural resources like diamonds. There were many deep-seated reasons for their civil war, like a history of class resentment between the poor farmers and the wealthy city dwellers, and the belief that the government was corrupt. But one of the major reasons stemmed from accusations that those in power were poorly handling the profits from the diamond trade. The struggle between the government and the rebel forces, called the Revolutionary United Front (RUF), led to the outbreak of war in 1991. For ten years, the war raged as the civilians caught in the middle suffered in terror.

Sadly, as with all wars, many of the victims were children. The United Nations estimated that one-quarter of the soldiers fighting in Sierra Leone were under the age of 18. Not only were children forced to join armies, but an astonishing number of children were also subjected to mutilation, amputation, abduction and sometimes rape.

Hundreds of organizations including Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch raised their voices about the human rights violations being committed in Sierra Leone and other conflict regions like Angola and The Democratic Republic of Congo. Eventually, in July 1999, Sierra Leone’s president, Ahmad Tejan Kabbah, and the leader of the Revolutionary United Front, Corporal Foday Sankoh, signed a peace treaty, unfortunately the fighting continued. It wasn’t until May 2001, when an agreement to disarm both forces and destroy the weapons was finally reached, that the peace process got underway.

RascalzMC Red1 and Misfit had the incredible opportunity to travel to Sierra Leone with Warchild Canada to film a documentary called “Musicians in the War Zone.” They interviewed former child soldiers and amputees that were caught in the middle of the conflict. Haunted by what they heard and saw, they started The Rascalz Primary Education Project, which provides clothing, books and writing utensils to the children of amputee and war-wounded families so they can begin a new life by having the essential materials for learning. Although MC Red1 believes “the world is a cold place, and it just keeps getting colder,” he also believes that good things are not done in vain. “Tomorrow’s not guaranteed, you know what I’m saying. [Even if] you give someone a month of happiness, it’s worth it.” As far as returning to Sierra Leone and future projects with Warchild Canada, Red1 is eager to do it. “Personally, I loved the whole experience. I would definitely go out of my way to do something like that again. I have the craziest fear of needles, and I had to get 10 shots just to go, but I’d get a million shots to go again.”The Rascalz had the incredible opportunity to travel with Warchild Canada (an independent, non-profit organization that strives to help children afflicted by war around the world) to Sierra Leone to interview and speak with former child soldiers and amputees that were caught in the middle of the conflict. Haunted by what they heard and saw, they started The Rascalz Primary Education Project, which provides clothing, books and writing utensils to the children of amputee and war-wounded families so they can begin a new life by having the essential materials for learning.

RascalzAlthough Red1, the groups founder, believes “the world is a cold place, and it just keeps getting colder,” he also believes that good things are not done in vain. “Tomorrow’s not guaranteed, you know what I’m saying. [Even if] you give someone a month of happiness, it’s worth it.” As far as returning to Sierra Leone and future projects with Warchild Canada, Red1 is eager to do it. “Personally, I loved the whole experience. I would definitely go out of my way to do something like that again. I have the craziest fear of needles, and I had to get 10 shots just to go, but I’d get a million shots to go again.”

For more information on The Rascalz Primary Education Project and Warchild Canada, visit www.warchild.ca.

For more on conflict diamonds check out:

Amnesty International
web.amnesty.org/diamonds/action.html

Global Witness
www.globalwitness.org/campaigns/diamonds/index.html

Conflict Diamonds
www.conflictdiamonds.com/

The Kimberley Process
www.kimberleyprocess.com
Due to the nature of the industry, consumers cannot find out where their diamonds originate. Organizations around the world are now working towards a certification system called the “Kimberly Process” that will track diamonds and certify that they are not from conflict regions. It is hoped that this process will stop the flow of blood diamonds to the markets, while at the same time protecting the legitimate diamond industry.

What can we do to help?
• go into a jeweller’s shop and ask if they know where their diamonds come from
• say you would like to see controls in place to prove the origin of diamonds
• mention that you are concerned about diamonds contributing to human rights abuses
• say that you would be reassured to see proper certification of origin
• tell your government representative that you are concerned about the link between diamonds and human rights abuses and ask him/her to support the ‘Kimberley Process.’

 



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