In This Review

Sierra Leone: Diamonds and the Struggle for Democracy
Sierra Leone: Diamonds and the Struggle for Democracy
By John L. Hirsch
Lynne Rienner, 2001, 175 pp

This brief but useful account of Sierra Leone's decline, from a promising colony to a brutalized failed state, explains the sequence of events, errors, and reversals by which the country reached its present nadir. Hirsch, who was the U.S. ambassador in Freetown in the mid-1990s, says little about American involvement, which has been minimal beyond helping to finance the United Nations' current peacekeeping mission. Peace efforts by the U.N., the British, and the Economic Community of West African States' Cease-Fire Monitoring Group receive more attention, as does the nasty partnership between Sierra Leone's rebel Revolutionary United Front (ruf) and President Charles Taylor of neighboring Liberia. The book's title notwithstanding, the reader learns disappointingly little about either the role of diamonds in fueling the country's civil war or about those Sierra Leoneans who have persevered in working for democracy during the years of conflict. Appendices provide a detailed chronology and the text of the still unfulfilled Lome Peace Agreement between the Sierra Leone government and the ruf in 1999.