Mining banned in Sierra Leone diamond region

rebels, the government and the United Nations agreed to the move to help disarmament, Reuters reported.

Skirmishes over diamond mining pits and continued tension in the Kono district have held up disarmament by the rebels and a government militia under a plan to end more than a decade of war in the West African country.

The use of diamonds to pay for Sierra Leone’s brutal war has been one of the biggest factors in a world campaign against so-called “blood diamonds” used to fund conflicts.

Revolutionary United Front (RUF) rebels agreed to the ban at a meeting on Tuesday with government representatives and the United Nations Mission in Sierra Leone, Reuters reported.

“All diamond mining in the district has been banned with effect from July 18,” said a communique read on state radio, Reuters reported.

It was not entirely clear how the ban would be enforced across Kono district, where illegal diamond diggers have defeated efforts to catch them since before British colonial rule ended in 1961.

To reinforce the role of the peacekeepers in providing security in Kono, rebels and government forces agreed at Tuesday’s meeting to dismantle their checkpoints, Reuters reported.

They also agreed that fighters would be banned from carrying weapons in Kono district unless it was to disarmament points, Reuters reported.

More than 6,500 fighters have disarmed in other parts of Sierra Leone since the process began, following the deployment of U.N. peacekeepers which was made possible by a November cease-fire that has largely held.

The United Nations has sent its biggest current peacekeeping force to Sierra Leone to try to end a war that horrified the world for the scale of atrocities.