New KP chair urged to clarify Zim position

The new Chairperson of the international diamond trade watchdog, the Kimberley Process (KP), is being urged to clarify her position on Zimbabwe.

Gillian Milovanovic
Gillian Milovanovic

The New KP Chair Gillian Milovanovic, who is from the US, is the first American and first female representative to take over the rolling chairmanship of the monitoring body. She takes over from Mathieu Yamba from the DRC, who faced criticism last year for appearing to push for Zimbabwe’s clearance to resume sales despite minimum standards not being met.

This pressure, in the form of multiple unilateral decisions by Yamba and ongoing threats from Zimbabwe’s government to start selling its diamonds without clearance, eventually led to the KP giving Zim diamonds the green light for export.

This decision was widely criticised for ‘letting Zimbabwe’s government off the hook’, and led to a key civil society member of the KP from quitting the body. The group, Global Witness, said last year it was leaving the scheme because of the KP’s failure to fulfill its mandate in preventing the trade in conflict diamonds.

The Zim government has insisted the local diamond trade is meeting international standards and has repeatedly dismissed claim that Chiadzwa diamonds are not conflict free.

But the country has been at the centre of serious debate over the definition of conflict diamonds, after it was suspended from trade in 2009 over serious human rights concerns. These concerns stemmed from the deaths of a hundreds of illegal diamond panners at the controversial Chiadzwa alluvial fields, where in 2008 the then ZANU PF led government launched a military led clean up operation.

Since then, there have been ongoing reports of military led abuses, including forced labour and dog attacks on villagers. At the same time, there has been rampant smuggling from the area, leading to millions of dollars in diamonds going missing. Human Rights Watch and Global Witness both reported that top ZANU PF officials were the leading beneficiaries of this illicit trade.

Regardless of these ongoing reports, the KP still gave Zimbabwe the green light to resume exporting last year, after a two year deadlock on the country’s trade future. The only restrictions now on the diamond trade are in the form of targeted restrictive measures, after the US added two Chiadzwa based diamonds firms to its sanctions list against Zimbabwe last year.

The KP chair, who is also from the US, is now under pressure to clarify her position, particularly after stating last week that the “only” conflict diamonds the KP is aware of are from Cote d’Ivoire.

“At the present moment, I am told, the only country whose diamonds are fitting within the definition of conflict diamonds is Cote d'Ivoire. And that represents, overall, far less than one percent of all diamonds," Milovanovic told a teleconference with journalists last week.

Ambassador Milovanovic, who assumed the KP chair a fortnight ago, also hinted there could be need to redefine what constitutes conflict diamonds.

"I would say that overall, yes; the organisation is looking, for example, at its core objectives and core definitions. That would include the definition of conflict diamonds….. The goal, certainly, is to look at, is there a need to make some changes,” Milovanovic said.

Political analyst Clifford Mashiri, who has been a vocal support of civil society in the Zimbabwe diamonds debate, told SW Radio Africa on Tuesday that the new KP chair must prioritise a new definition of conflict diamonds.

“Zimbabwe diamonds are quite clearly conflictual and, many would say, bloodied. Clearly the KP and civil society need to reach an agreement then on the way forward,” he explained. – SW Radio Africa

Post published in: Africa News

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