During the civil war in Sierra Leone (1991-2002), the Revolutionary United Front (RUF) reduced civilians to slavery in order to mine diamonds in Kono district mines. Those diamonds were then sent to the former Liberian President Charles Taylor, in Monrovia, and sold on the international market.
Michel Desaedeleer, a Belgian and American citizen, is alleged to have participated, with Charles Taylor and Foday Sankoh, the founder of the RUF, in enslavement as a crime against humanity and in the looting of “blood diamonds” as a war crime, in Kono district, in the East of Sierra Leone, between 1999 and 2001. Indeed, it is alleged that this businessman was working with the rebels, who needed him to export the diamonds outside the country.
According to the report of the panel of experts appointed pursuant to the United Nations Security Council resolution 1306 (2000), Desaedeleer would have contacted the RUF rebels during the summer of 1999 for the first time, while he was in Togo. A few months later, a deal would have been signed with Foday Sankoh, allowing the two men to freely exploit the gold and diamonds mines of Sierra Leone, for a period of 10 years. A letter would prove that Desaedeleer would have appointed a certain “Charles” to export diamonds by plane, directly from Kono, without having to travel through Freetown, the capital. In October 1999, a deal would have been concluded between Desaedeleer’s compagny (BECA) and Sankoh who, at that time, was the President of the Commission for the Management of Strategic Mineral Resources.
This report also reveals that the RUF would have earned between $ 25’000’000 and $ 125’000’000 per month thanks to the illegal trade of diamonds. This amount would have permitted the group to buy weapons and combat equipment.