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Vol 41 No 16

Published 4th August 2000

Masters of war

The UN's latest probe into the arms-for-gems trade is exposing the political and business networks behind West Africa's wars

The sanctions gumshoes are on the trail again. This time, they have Liberian and Burkinabè Presidents Charles Taylor and Blaise Compaoré in their sights. A United Nations' panel of experts investigating links between diamond and arms trafficking in Sierra Leone is due to report back by the end of October. It will look at Liberia's and Burkina Faso's compliance with UN Security Council Resolution 1306, which bans trading in diamonds from Sierra Leone's rebel-held areas. Should it produce strong evidence of Taylor's and Compaoré's involvement, then their governments may face UN sanctions At a public hearing of the Security Council's Sanctions Committee on 31 July-1 August, speaker after speaker inveighed against Taylor's and Compaoré's fuelling of the war in Sierra Leone and their profiting from the diamonds smuggled out by the Revolutionary United Front. The plain language used by the finger-pointers and the public naming-and-shaming of Taylor's and Compaoré's South African, British, Lebanese and Ukrainian business associates broke decisively with UN traditions of diplo-speak. This surge of energetic diplomacy has shocked many Sierra Leoneans and others caught up in the country's decade-long war.

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