Diamond dealers under threat in Central African Republic

Screen capture from Al Jazeera YouTube video: Diamond mine poverty in CAR, 2009

Ethno-religious violence between Muslims and Christians in the Central African Republic (CAR) has killed thousands over the past year. Hundreds of thousands have become refugees and the UN recently began investigating reports of genocide.

But the conflict could also destroy one of the country’s biggest industries: diamond mining – which also happens to be one of the biggest sources of conflict.

AllAfrica reported this week that militia fighters in the mining town of Boda have rejected “a government-sponsored attempt to allow a Muslim community of about 12,000 people” to say in the area.

According to a report by Voice of America (VOA), Muslims in Boda want to leave, which could impact diamond trading.

An economist in Bangui, the capital city of CAR, told VOA that with the exodus of Muslims, “there will be less money to pre-finance the diggers, lower prices due to fewer buyers, and a loss of tax revenue.”

Most diamond traders in CAR are Muslim, “for various historical and cultural reasons,” according to a report by NPR.

Diamond dealer Mahmat Adoum told VOA that 95% of CAR diamond buyers are Muslim.

Some Christians in the area disagree. One source told VOA that this figure was more like 50% and another said they don’t need the Muslims to keep the diamond industry alive.

CAR has been suspended from the Kimberley Process, an international watchdog set up to stop the trade of so called ‘conflict diamonds,’ since 2013 after a rebel coalition seized power in the country.

Prior to the coup, CAR ranked 14th among the world’s leading producers of rough diamond by value, according to the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative. It’s estimated that the country’s mining sector accounts for about 7% of the GDP.

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