Group quits KP over Marange gems

International trade watchdog, Global Witness, has pulled out of the Kimberley Process , the international regulator organised to stop the trade in illicit diamonds, as a result of the certification of the Marange diamonds, it was announced on Monday.

A recent Global Witness report on the situation in Zimbabwe.
A recent Global Witness report on the situation in Zimbabwe.

In a statement announcing the pullout, Global Witness founding director, Charmiah Gooch, said the KP had failed to address the links between corruption, violence and diamonds which he said has rendered the organisation useless and an accomplice to laundering of dirty diamonds.

“Nearly nine years after the Kimberley Process was launched, the sad truth is that most consumers still cannot be sure where their diamonds come form, nor whether they are financing armed conflict or abusive regimes,” said Gooch.

He added: “The scheme has failed three tests: it failed to deal with the trade in conflict diamonds from Ivory Coast, was unwilling to take serious action in the face of blatant breaches of the rules over a number of years by Venezuela and has proved unwilling to stop diamonds fuelling corruption and violence in Zimbabwe. It has become an accomplice to diamond laundering – whereby dirty diamonds are mixed in with clean gems.”

The move by Global Witness to quit the KP comes weeks after the organisation granted Zimbabwe the green light to sell diamonds from the controversial Marange deposits to the east of the country, bringing to an end two years of a deep rift which divided the regulator along political lines.

The Marange diamonds had polarised relations within the KP with African countries backing Harare to export gems from the diamond field also known as Chiadzwa, while Western countries like the United States, Canada and European Union refused to sanction the exports.

The Western countries and human rights groups that are members of the KP, opposed trade in the diamonds saying Zimbabwe soldiers guarding the mines committed abuses against villagers living there, in addition to also smuggling diamonds for sale on the black market.

They also accused President Robert Mugabe of using proceeds from the diamonds to bankroll his patronage network and to fund violence against political opponents.

The Zimbabwean leader denied the charges, accusing Western governments of manipulating the KP to frustrate efforts to sell diamonds from Marange to raise cash for the broke Harare government.

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