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In 1999 West Africa, a bloody civil war rages in tiny Sierra Leone between the government and the Revolutionary United Front (RUF) for control of the country's diamond-rich land. Coetzee was a South African military officer formerly with the apartheid-era South African Defence Force and currently the commander of a private mercenary group that smuggles weapons and diamonds around Africa. A Rhodesian veteran of the 32 Battalion during the South African Border War named Danny Archer works for Coetzee smuggling diamonds. Archer is attempting to smuggle diamonds out of Sierra Leone and into neighboring Liberia, but he is captured by Sierra Leone authorities and his diamonds and weapon are confiscated.
Coetzee is upset with Archer for losing his diamonds and demands compensation. Archer learns of an enormous pink diamond that was discovered and hidden by a fisherman named Solomon Vandy who was forced to mine diamonds for the RUF. Archer finds Solomon and tells him that he will help him retrieve the stone if he gets a portion of its sale. Archer intends to use the money to leave the continent forever, but Coetzee tells him that Africa will always be home, and wants the diamond for compensation of Archer's prior failure.
Archer and Vandy set off to retrieve the diamond in Kono, where it was buried, but Freetown falls to the RUF and the two narrowly escape. In Lungi, Vandy finds his wife and daughters in a refugee camp, but his son is nowhere to be found. Vandy realizes his son, Dia, has been captured by the RUF's commander, Captain Poison, who is grooming him as a child soldier apprentice. After a harrowing journey, Vandy and Archer arrive in Kono, but Vandy is captured while trying to save Dia. Archer calls Coetze and requests assistance, as him and Vandy are outnumbered. Coetzee and his men soon arrive and wipe out the RUF in the area, and Vandy kills Poison in the chaos.
With the RUF out of the way, Coetzee demands the diamond. Solomon does not trust Coetzee and refuses to talk. Coetzee takes Dia hostage and forces Vandy to dig for it. After Vandy cannot find the diamond, Coetzee puts his gun to Dia's head and remarks that there is no reason for any of them to live. Knowing that Coetzee would kill them all anyway, Archer gives a subtle signal to Vandy to attack the colonel. Vandy tricks Coetzee into leaning down to look at the diamond, and then hits him with a shovel. Archer uses this opportunity to shoot Coetzee's men with his USP Compact. Coetzee hits Vandy and shoots at the brush in an attempt to kill Archer, but Archer leaps out from his hiding place and shoots Coetzee twice in the chest. Coetzee remarks about Africa to Archer like old times, but before he can raise his gun, Archer shoots him dead.
Archer realizes soon after that he has been shot in the lung by Coetzee's fire and that he will not survive. Archer gives Vandy the diamond and his pistol and tells him to leave him behind. Remembering Coetzee's words, Archer feels the African soil in his hands one last time and dies, looking out at the African landscape. Vandy escapes Sierra Leone with his family and sells the diamond to Rudolph van de Kaap, a corrupt South African mining executive. Shortly after purchasing the diamond, van de Kaap is exposed for his role in the trade of blood diamonds.
Coetzee is a genuinely affable man to an extent. He was a good friend to Danny Archer since he was 19 years old and took him under his wing like a father. However, Coetzee was also ruthless and uncompromising if he did not get his way. Coetzee's main defining characteristic is his greed, as there was no lengths he would not go to in order to make more money for himself. He was perfectly willing to kill a lifelong friend and two other people over a diamond. Coetzee also had little in the way of morals as he sold weapons to the RUF and then was hired by the Sierra Leone government to massacre the RUF once they used the weapons he sold them. Coetzee and his men would then receive mining concessions from the government as a way to show their gratitude.