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Kimberley Process Lets Zimbabwe Off The Hook, Again

Where Will Christmas Diamonds Come From?

Nov 2, 2011 10:46 AM   By Jeff Miller
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RAPAPORT... The civil society stakeholders of the Kimberley Process, who all staged a boycott of this week's plenary meeting in Kinshasa, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, issued a statement saying that the certification scheme had "effectively given up on Zimbabwe."  Yesterday, the Kimberley Process agreed to allow rough diamonds from Mbada Diamonds and Marange Resources to begin exporting immediately and additional areas of the Marange could be approved upon visit by monitors this month.

But civil society, which includes Global Witness and Partnership Africa Canada among others, concluded that this annual plenary meeting dispensed with any meaningful link between Zimbabwe's compliance with the joint work plan and the Kimberley Process’s authorization of diamond exports.  This comes in spite of the Zimbabwean military remaining deeply involved in diamond mining in Marange, persistent and widespread smuggling and no progress in enabling small scale miners to work legally, the groups contended.  Regular reports of human rights abuses against miners by security forces continue.

Alfred Brownell, the president of Green Advocates, Liberia, a coalition member, said, ''Kimberley Process member governments and the diamond industry seem ready to turn their back on the interests of Zimbabwe's citizens, the public good and the principles on which the Kimberley Process was founded."

A previous agreement between the Kimberley Process and Zimbabwe gave local civil society representatives the official status of ''Local Focal Point,'' allowing them to access Marange and formally report back to the Kimberley Process.  This status promised protection for activists who have previously been arrested and harassed over their work on Zimbabwe's opaque diamond industry. The new agreement, while maintaining that civil society organizations retain access to the Marange fields, strips the Local Focal Point of its official status, according to civil society members.

''This deal only reinforces the perception that there is no limit to how far the Kimberley Process is prepared to go in lowering the ethical bar on Marange,'' said Shamiso Mtisi, the coordinator of the Local Focal Point and an environmental lawyer at the Zimbabwe Environmental Law Association. ''Given the chance to keep Zimbabwe to its previous commitments, the Kimberley Process has shown itself incapable of doing the right thing.''

The Marange diamond fields and rough stockpiles were seized by Zimbabwe's military  in 2008 and at least 200 small scale miners were killed in the process.  At the end of 2009,  Zimbabwe had at least agreed to undertake a series of reforms as a basis for Kimberley Process authorization of further exports through a ''Joint Work Plan'' requiring demilitarization, action on smuggling, and the legalization of small scale mining. What happened with the stockpiles? There is no clear answer.

''The integrity of the entire clean diamond supply chain is on the line,'' said Alan Martin, the research director of Partnership Africa Canada. ''How can consumers buy a diamond this Christmas with any confidence that they are not buying a Marange diamond mined in unquestionable violence? How can industry give any assurances that they will be able to separate these diamonds from the legitimate diamond supply chain?''

In the approach to presidential elections next year in Zimbabwe, the new Kimberley Process agreement completely fails to address the risk of the diamond industry financing political violence in Zimbabwe, according to civil society members.  Each election in Zimbabwe this past decade has been accompanied by widespread violence and voter intimidation. Coordinating the violence requires significant sums of money to pay security agents and youth militias. 

Civil society member Farai Maguwu said, ''It’s a pure business deal that leaves out key concerns of Zimbabwe’s civil society: That is protection of the locals from human rights abuses in and around Marange and ensuring that Marange diamonds are properly accounted for, for the benefit of the suffering Zimbabwean people.''

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