Diamonds fog Zimbabwe reforms: NGO

International human rights group Global Witness said there are gaps in outstanding sanctions on Zimbabwe that may allow diamond revenue to continue funding the military until —at least— the elections expected in July.

According to the advocacy organization, Monday’s European Union decision of letting the African country go ahead with some diamond and gold sales in Europe had a major breach. It failed to rule on Anjin, Zimbabwe's largest diamond company, which is part owned by the military, but not covered by the restrictive measures, Global Witness warns.

The advocacy group did welcome the fact that some restrictions against Zimbabwe Mining Development Corporation (ZMDC), a major state-run diamond and gold mining company, remained in place.

"However, the EU could have gone further to prevent diamond revenues funding ZANU-PF security forces," campaigner Emily Armistead said in a statement.

Zimbabwe's diamond industry has been fraught with controversy both domestically and internationally due to accusations of human rights abuses and corruption.

The country’s Finance Minister Tendai Biti has accused diamond firms of failure to pay tax revenues in full to the authorities, claiming only $40 million out of an expected $600 million reached government coffers last year.

And according to Global Witness there are ongoing ties between diamond miners and security forces loyal to President Robert Mugabe. Some of those groups, it says, were linked to political violence that erupted during 2008.

Zimbabwe’s diamond industry is critical for the cash-strapped nation — last year it was responsible for $684.5 million in revenue.

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