THE 69th plenary meeting of the United Nations (UN) has resolved to include a discussion on whether Zimbabwean diamonds should be classified as conflict gems during the inter-governmental organisation’s 74th general assembly meeting agenda, it emerged this week.
BY ANDREW KUNAMBURA
The meeting, which brings together heads of state from the UN’s 192 member countries, is scheduled to run from September 17-24 this year in New York, United States.
The development follows intense lobbying by a grouping of international civil society organisations affiliated to the Kimberly Process Certification Scheme (KPCS) urging the UN to review its definition of conflict diamonds in order to encompass Zimbabwe’s gemstones.
The move, if it succeeds, will bar Zimbabwe from trading on the formal international market.
The lobbying intensified following an incident in which gunmen in military gear overpowered security staff of the government-owned Zimbabwe Consolidated Diamond Company (ZCDC) in Chiadzwa, Manicaland, and held them hostage before escaping with valuable gemstones at midnight on January 15 this year.
This was at the height of the deadly uprisings which saw at least 17 people killed as the army and police savagely clamped down on protests over the rising cost of living.
Under KPCS rules governing the international trade in the precious mineral, diamond mines must have tight security.
The incidents added impetus to calls for the KPCS to widen the definition of conflict diamonds to also cover those being mined in Zimbabwe, which they said are being used to finance President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s violent suppression of dissent.
So far, the organisations feel the definition of conflict diamonds—that they are gemstones which originate from areas controlled by forces or factions opposed to legitimate and internationally recognised governments, and are used to fund military action in opposition to those governments, or in contravention of the decisions of the UN Security Council—is inadequate.
Zimbabwean Centre for Natural Resource Governance (ZCNRG) director Farai Maguwu, who presented the case for Zimbabwe at the plenary meeting in New York, urged the UN to classify Zimbabwean gemstones as conflict diamonds on the basis that they were being used to fund military operations in the country.
In a circular to member states last week, the plenary said it noted with concern the continuation of trade in conflict diamonds or blood diamonds on the international market, with serious impact on peace and the safety and security of people in affected countries as well as the systematic and gross human rights violations that have been perpetrated in such conflicts.
“The plenary acknowledges with great appreciation the important contribution that the European Union, as Chair of the Kimberley Process in 2018, has made towards curbing the trade in conflict diamonds, and welcomes the selection of India as the Chair of the Kimberley Process for 2019, the Russian Federation as the vice-chair for 2019 and the chair for 2020 and Botswana as the vice-chair for 2020 and the chair for 2021. The plenary requests the chair of the Kimberley Process to submit to the General Assembly at its seventy-fourth session a report on the implementation of the Kimberley Process. The session also decides to include in the provisional agenda of its seventy-fourth session the item entitled: The role of diamonds in fueling conflict,” the circular reads.
The KPCS was founded when southern African diamond-producing states met in Kimberley, South Africa, in May 2000, to discuss ways of stopping the trade in conflict diamonds and ensure that diamond purchases were not funding violence.
The result was an agreement by the UN, European Union, the governments of 74 countries, the World Diamond Council representing the industry and a number of interest groups such as Global Witness.
They established the KPCS, whereby members are required to certify that all rough diamond exports are produced through legitimate mining and sales activities and are conflict-free.
This is not the first time Zimbabwe finds itself at the centre of a diamond ban lobby.
Following the rise in the trade of blood diamonds between 2008 and 2009, Zimbabwe was facing a ban from the KPCS, but a meeting in Namibia in October 2009 recommended against the ban. However, international diamond buyers have had to purchase Zimbabwe’s gemstones in secrecy and avoid using the United States dollar in order to by-pass sanctions placed on Zimbabwe by the US.
Besides Zimbabwe, other countries which are likely to be affected by the development are Angola, Democratic Republic of Congo and Venezuela.