The Diamond Crisis

June 7, 2008
By Mark Proctor, Caledon, ZZ

Recently, I sat down for an interview for a prestigious American magazine. The journalist asked me what I had learned from my experiences during the modern day civil war. I told her that although diamonds may last forever, so does love. And in this case, love prevails. It must, because spending an entire lifetime in the wake of the diamond can take a toll on a human being.

I was taught from a young age that life wasn’t fair. Growing up in Sierra Leone during the “diamond crisis” is what made me rough along the edges. The landscape and scenery were breathtaking, the water a deep endless blue; but looks can be deceiving. In Sierra Leone, everyone wanted money, and no one had it. So they chose to wage war on one another instead of focusing on making our nation a greater place to live. The war turned Sierra Leone into a purgatory, a giant jail cell, one that is nearly impossible to brak free from. I’d seen so many innocent people die in front of me during my childhood that it almost numbed the senses. The entire premises reeked of dead bodies. I was on the proverbial path to my inevitable destruction, like a cow headed to the slaughterhouse.

At the age of eleven, I was taken in by a group of ruthless men who conscripted me into the “army”. My parents had been killed long before because they refused to obey the rules set out for them. At first I was extremely hesitant, but in time the army commanders became a second family to me. They were straight forward, blunt, and inherently evil. The mind games they played on the naïve, unassuming child I was were very damaging to my mental state. Eventually, I learned to kill without conscience, an alarmingly negative trait for anyone. There were no penalties in Sierra Leone, no repercussions, not even a reward – and I didn’t know there was any other way. Not until I met someone who had been around the world and knew how life should be.

His name was Tai. He had been brought in as a peacekeeper. His job was to help solve the conflicts between the citizens of Sierra Leone. Previous peacekeeper’s attempts had failed and they were often shot in mid-conversation. The peacekeepers were seen as intruders, blocking the gate to potential wealth.

Tai must have seen something good in me. One day while I was deep in sleep at our camp, I heard some ruffling. Usually I would just discredit the noise as a soldier waking up, but the footsteps were different – much quicker, like the person needed to reach their destination immediately. I jumped up, pulling out my gun in fear and searched the grounds, all the while shaking profusely. A clean shaven, average sized man approached me with a smile.

“Don’t move or I will shoot you!” I gasped, not wanting to wake up the rest of the crew.

“My name is Tai. I have come here to save your life.”

I did not know if this man was trustworthy, but I felt that I had nothing to lose. Memories of the past flashed through my mind like a slideshow. Tai reached forward to shake my hand and assured me everything was going to be alright. I left with this complete stranger and we managed to reach a safe, isolated area by morning. The sun seemed to promise me that brighter times were ahead. Tai arranged a route for the helicopters to reassure us and I knew that soon I would be free. Free from the forced slaying of innocent civilians. I had no idea where I was going, but it had to be infinitely better than where I’d spent my short life. I put my trust in Tai and he kept his word – he saved my life, I was forever grateful.

In time, I returned to the area where I was raised, where all those bad memories took place. I had tried to shut out my past since I came to America, but I realize that like a scar, it will always be with me – so I don’t hide from it. By May 2000, the Sierra Leone civil war had officially ended. The amount of needless deaths were astronomical, bordering on the hundreds of thousands. Sierra Leone may never be fully recovered, but hope should never be lost. I work as a peacekeeper overseas and still keep in touch with Tai. I live happily with my wife and two children in a nice middle class neighbourhood in Arkansas. My children room around the streets with no inhibitions and it’s just great to see they are able to maintain their innocence over here. I find it especially ironic that they play many war video games, knowing that at their age I was in the midst of a real war myself. When I proposed to my wife several years ago, I bought her a diamond ring. It just goes to show how far I’ve come since those dark days.

Similar Articles


This article has 0 comments.


MacMillan Books

Aspiring Writer? Take Our Online Course!