HomePoliticsZim Escapes Kimberley Process Suspension

Zim Escapes Kimberley Process Suspension

KIMBERLEY Process members yesterday in Namibia decided against suspending Zimbabwe for its alleged production of conflict diamonds, which some see as a blow to the credibility of the international diamond regulatory body.

The Kimberley Process members decided instead to send a monitor to Zimbabwe to supervise the country’s diamond production, according to members who attended the meeting, as well as impose a 12-month timeline for reforms.

The agreement bans Zimbabwe from exporting stones from Marange, the area where alleged abuses have taken place, until the Kimberley monitor arrives to inspect them, which could take weeks or months.

Meanwhile, diamonds from other regions will continue to be exported with Kimberley certificates.

The southern African diamond producer has been accused by investigators for the Kimberley Process of producing what are known as blood or conflict diamonds –– gems mined by force or to fund conflict, or both, in its Marange fields.

The investigators visited the Marange fields in July and, in a report, said they had found evidence that miners working there had been beaten, raped and killed by the police and the military.

The miners have also been organised into syndicates, forced to dig for the benefit of top military brass and senior government officials, according to human rights groups. The Zimbabwean government has denied these claims.

Yesterday’s decision was unanimous, as is required by Kimberley rules. But members were divided going into the meeting. Some argued Zimbabwe should retain its membership as it tried to comply with Kimberley rules.

Others felt that allowing Zimbabwe to remain a member even though it was not following the rules would damage the Kimberley Process’ reputation and send the wrong message to other countries who are working hard to become fully compliant.

“There’s a serious lack of political will to take decisive action in the face of non-compliance, and it means the (Kimberley) scheme is consistently unable to go the distance,” said Annie Dunnebacke, a campaigner for advocacy group Global Witness, who attended the Kimberley Process meeting.

Government has been anxious to retain its Kimberley membership, which allows the country to certify that its diamonds are conflict free, and to sell them on the global market.

This year, government said it earned about US$20 million from diamond sales.

Government sent a large delegation of about a dozen people to the meeting in Namibia to press its case. –– Wall Street Journal.

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