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

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.

Then the three crouch and peer closely, cigarette smoke curling through stultifying jungle air, as Benam scrapes a trowel across a metal grate, looking for something the size of a pencil tip that could feed a family for a month or more: diamonds, some of the highest quality and most precious on earth.

So far, all he has to show for his labor are flecks, specks, grains and pebbles.

“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.”



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