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Diamonds Provide Ample Funding to Warlords in CAR

Kimberley Process Faces Crossroads on CAR's 'Blood Diamonds'

Jun 17, 2015 2:55 PM   By Jeff Miller
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RAPAPORT... Even though the Central African Republic (CAR) has been suspended from the Kimberley Process Certification Scheme since May 2013,  rough diamonds are the largest source of export revenue for the country, according to the Enough Project, which valued the diamond trade at $39 million in 2014 and already $12.9 million between January and April of this year.

In a report, "Warlord Business" by Kasper Agger, the Enough Project detailed how armed groups, the ex-Séléka and the Anti-Balaka, profit from a shadow economy where armed factions, warlords and illicit networks generate millions of dollars through robbery, extortion and the illegal trading of gold and diamonds.

The Enough Project estimated that the value of illicit diamond trading and taxation by armed groups in CAR so far this year has been between $3.87 million and $5.8 million, while diamond companies have stocked an additional $7.8 million worth of diamonds -- waiting for the Kimberley Process to lift the export ban.  Still, the Enough Project determined that the majority of the diamonds and  gold that fund rebel groups  are smuggled out of CAR to neighboring countries — mainly Cameroon, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Sudan — and then they are exported to the international trading centers.

"Leaders of armed groups that earn hundreds of thousands of dollars and control large areas across CAR have little incentive to lay down their weapons and halt violence," Agger said. "Such leaders must face increased pressure from U.N. peacekeepers on the ground in CAR and the enablers that work closely with armed groups must face target sanctions, travel bans and asset freezes."

Agger wrote that there should be conditions placed on CAR prior to the Kimberley Process lifting the diamond export ban. First, the Enough Project suggested removing all armed groups from   mining sites and handing control   of diamond trading markets over to U.N. peacekeepers or local gendarmes. Secondly, create a credible tracing and due diligence system for diamonds that are bought and sold by local diamond companies.

Sasha Lezhnev, the associate director of policy at the Enough Project, said, "The Kimberley Process stands at a crossroads on CAR's blood diamonds. Before the Kimberley ban is lifted, it must put a credible monitoring team in place on the ground that has multi-stakeholder involvement and strong support from the U.N. peacekeepers. Otherwise, conflict diamonds will begin flowing into our jewelry stores once again."

The Kimberley Process should ensure that conditions beyond the usual  mandate are met to safeguard against conflict diamonds entering the world marketplace, the group noted.  The U.S. and E.U. should help  CAR   establish  baseline production statistics for the conflict-free diamond mines and the Kimberley Process should establish a multi-stakeholder team,  based in CAR, to monitor whether conflict diamonds are entering the conflict-free supply. In addition, diamond companies buying from CAR, or neighboring countries, should commit to conducting strict due diligence on their rough purchases, while local authorities must secure CAR's border crossings to  counteract parallel taxation and extortion on those who trade diamonds, the group concluded.

The issues presented by the trade in CAR diamonds will be a subject of discussion at the Kimberley Process intercessional meeting to be held June 22 to 26 in Luanda, Angola.
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Tags: central Africa republic, Conflict Diamonds, diamonds, enough project, Jeff Miller, Kimberley Process, smuggling, war
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