Zimbabwe’s elites use violence to exploit diamonds

Zimbabwe’s political and military elites are using violence and their links to companies to exploit the country’s diamond wealth, a new report from campaign group Global Witness said Monday.

The campaigners also criticised the Kimberley Process (KP) certification scheme, created to prevent the sale of blood diamonds, for what they said was its weak response to Zimbabwe’s diamond industry problems.

The report, released in London, came ahead of a Kimberley meeting next week in Israel where Zimbabwe is set to dominate talks.

“Over the past three years, the national army has visited appalling abuses on civilians in Marange’s diamond fields,” said Elly Harrowell, a Global Witness campaigner.

“Nobody has been held to account for these crimes, and now it turns out that the joint venture companies nominally brought in to improve conditions are directly linked to [President Robert Mugabe’s] Zanu-PF and military elite.”

Zanu-PF rules Zimbabwe in a unity government with the Movement for Democratic Change.

The new investment deals were “dangerously lacking in transparency”, said Harrowell.

“This leaves the door wide open for state looting and corruption, and raises the very real possibility of internationally certified diamonds financing renewed political violence in Zimbabwe.”

Global Witness also blasted the Kimberley Process for settling “on a weak compromise agreement”, instead of suspending Zimbabwe for what it described as flagrant breaches of the KP code.

A report from the KP certification scheme obtained by Agenge France-Presse last week said Zimbabwe had met minimum human rights standards in its diamond fields, taking the country a step closer to resuming international trade in the gems.

The Kimberley Process will consider the report at the meeting in Tel Aviv on June 21, which could clear the way for Zimbabwe to resume diamond exports.

“Global Witness is calling on international governments to suspend Zimbabwe from the Kimberley Process scheme until it can prove its diamonds aren’t bankrolling violence and abuse,” said the group.

Mugabe has threatened to pull out of the KP if the country is not allowed to sell its gems. – AFP

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