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Global Witness leaves ‘diamond laundering’ Kimberley Process, calls Zimbabwe decision an outrage

Global Witness on Monday announced that it has left the Kimberley Process (KP), the international certification scheme established to stop the trade in conflict diamonds.

The human rights organization – co-nominated for the 2003 Nobel Peace Prize for its work on conflict diamonds – called the recent decision to allow diamonds from Zimbabwe’s rich Marange fields a “shocking move,” saying the money that flows from there ends up in the pockets of the Robert Mugabe-aligned military’s top brass who could use it to organize support to intimidate the opposition in the run-up to elections. Hundreds were killed and thousands of local miners were driven off claims when the Zimbabwe army seized control of the area in 2008.

Zimbabwe is set to earn over $2 billion per year from exports with current diamond output estimated to be in excess of 25% of world production. Rough diamond prices have dropped by more than 10% since September and is set to fall further as the first Marange diamonds come onto the market.

“Nearly nine years after the Kimberley Process was launched, the sad truth is that most consumers still cannot be sure where their diamonds come from, nor whether they are financing armed violence or abusive regimes” said Charmian Gooch, a Founding Director of Global Witness.

“It has become an accomplice to diamond laundering – whereby dirty diamonds are mixed in with clean gems. In a shocking move, the Kimberley Process recently authorised exports from two companies operating in the controversial Marange diamond fields in Zimbabwe. The Zimbabwean army seized control of the area in 2008, killing around 200 miners.

“Mining concessions were then granted in legally questionable circumstances to several companies, some of them associated with senior figures in Robert Mugabe’s Zanu PF party. Newspapers have reported that the Zimbabwean Central Intelligence Organisation, the state security service aligned with Mugabe whose members are accused of committing acts of violence against opposition supporters, directly benefits from off-budget diamond revenues.

“Over the last decade, elections in Zimbabwe have been associated with the brutal intimidation of voters. Orchestrating this kind of violence costs a lot of money. As the country approaches another election there is a very high risk of Zanu PF hardliners employing these tactics once more and using Marange diamonds to foot the bill. The Kimberley Process’s refusal to confront this reality is an outrage,” said Gooch.

MINING.com reported mid-November Zimbabwe’s mines minister admitted barely a week after the ban was lifted that smuggling was still rife and was shocked to hear Zambia and Mozambique allegedly sought to join the Kimberley Process despite not having any diamond operations of their own: “We have information that a lot of our diamonds went through these countries. There are massive leakages at the border posts, but policing of the border is not the responsibility of the Mines Ministry.”

MINING.com reported at the end of October on allegations that diamonds are funding a ‘parallel government’ in Zimbabwe and that billions may be disappearing from the fiscus. A presentation made to the Zimbabwean parliament details the secrecy, corruption and human rights abuses that accompany mining activities in the Marange alluvial diamond fields. Read more…

MINING.com reported in July that finance minister Tendai Biti, a member of the MDC-party in a unity government with Zanu-PF, said the reality of Zimbabwe’s situation is that there is no connection between Zimbabwe’s income from diamonds, its output and international prices adding the country’s resources are in danger of turning into curse rather than a blessing.

MINING.com also reported in July that as Zimbabwe’s shaky unity government inches ahead with extensive electoral reforms ahead of fresh elections now expected next year, the prospect of the country’s army seizing power looms large. Read more…

Image of children playing on a tank in a minefield in Kuito Angola by Nathan Holland / Shutterstock.com. The 1998 Global Witness documentary about the use of conflict diamonds in Angola called ‘A Rough Trade’ first brought to the world’s attention the issue of so-called ‘blood diamonds’.

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