Stop diamond trade – HRW

diamond_roughJOHANNESBURG An international human rights watchdog this week added to mounting criticism over the Kimberly Process and Certification Schemes (KPCS) recent decision to lift the ban on Maranges conflict diamonds.

The KPCS, which had banned exports from the Marange fields east of Zimbabwe, announced about two weeks ago that it was lifting the ban, drawing the ire of both the World Diamond Council and the United States government.

This week, Human Rights Watch (HRW), an international human rights overseer that also campaigned for the ban, accused KPCS chairman – Mathieu Yamba, of not having sought consensus in okaying exports from Marange.

There are procedural issues around the decision of KPCS chair to allow immediate exports of Marange diamonds and the KPCS operates by consensus, but the KPCS chair did not seek consensus before he made the decision to allow exports of Marange diamonds by Mbada and Canadile, which is why there seem to be divisions amongst members of the KPCS, Tiseke Kasambala, HRWs Chief Researcher for Africa, told The Zimbabwean early this week.

We support the decision that the KPCS has taken in saying that there needs to be further discussions amongst KPCS before exports of Marange diamonds can proceed. It is not clear whether the issue will be reversed, but there certainly seem to reservations about how the decision came about by some members of the organisation.

Kasambala said that the HRW did not support Yambas decision because Zimbabwe had repeatedly failed to honour the terms of previous agreements brokered by the KPCS and there was a lack of confidence in Zimbabwes intentions.

For example, Zimbabwe committed to a gradual deduction of military presence in the Marange fields but this has not taken place as the army continues to be rotated in the fields and is involved in widespread smuggling of diamonds from the diamond areas, she added.

Secondly, companies that have been given concessions to mine the fields, such as Anjin have not adequately assisted the people they relocated. About 150 families have been relocated by the company but they have no access to schools or hospitals. In addition, they were not able to plant and have not harvested any food and therefore, face food shortages.

Independent groups have yet to access the area to freely monitor what is happening, meaning that there is not independent assessment of what is going on in the Marange diamond fields, while there is a risk that proceeds from diamond sales are not reaching the fiscus, as Finance Minister, Tendai Biti has already indicated.

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