In Central African Republic, Diamonds Fuel A Cycle of Violence and Poverty

For decades, the riches of the earth have been the boon and the bane of CAR. Now they may also be leading to its disintegration.


By Bagassi Koura and Mike Eckel

BOMANDORO, Central African Republic — For the past two years, Guillaume Benam has spent most of his days doing back-breaking labor, hunting for the riches that so many of his countrymen have fought over for so long. With three partners, he shovels heavy, wet clay soil into wooden sieves and baskets, then hunches in shin-deep water, sloshing the dirt and turning the stream the color of chocolate milk.

“It’s a gamble. Sometimes you get one, sometimes you get nothing,” Benam said. “We have been searching. I have been around for more than two years.” CAR21-MenPanning-5_1100px

Deep in the forests of one of the poorest countries on the planet, Benam’s quest for diamonds is a search for livelihood. It is also a symptom of the country’s woes, where the government’s absence has left a vacuum in the countryside, where sectarian and criminal bloodletting continues.

Central African Republic has become a nation whose borders exist only on maps, where governmental authority is limited mostly to the 25 square miles occupied by the capital, Bangui, if that.



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