An interim report on Zimbabwe's diamond trade by the Kimberly Process Certification Scheme (KPCS) - an international initiative to stem the flow of conflict diamonds - has recommended a six-month suspension of importing and exporting rough diamonds, the state media reported.
Elly Harrowell, of Global Witness (GW), a UK-based NGO that seeks to prevent the use of natural resources to fuel conflict, and a prime mover in setting up the KPCS, told IRIN that Zimbabwe's proposed "suspension is not surprising, but frankly it has been a long time coming".
Human Rights Watch (HRW) published a report in June 2009 detailing military activity in the diamond fields and in 2008 there were widespread media reports of an army operation to crackdown on the illegal diamond miners.
Harrowell said the interim report recommendation to suspend Zimbabwe was not final and there were a few more steps required, including meetings with the Zimbabwe government, before the suspension could be imposed by the KPCS. "This will take at least two months."
The KPCS interim report recommended the "initiation of procedure to implement suspension of Zimbabwe from importing or exporting of rough diamonds within the KPCS [membership] for a period of at least six months ... [or] until such time as a KP team determines that minimum standards have been met," the state-controlled daily newspaper, The Herald, noted on 30 July.
"Government has acknowledged non-compliance with the KP minimum standards in its July 14 response but was silent on voluntary suspension," The Herald commented.
In July an 11-person KPCS review team led by Kpandel Fiya, Liberia's deputy minister of mines, visited the Chiadzwa diamond area in Marange district, Manicaland Province, bordering Mozambique in eastern Zimbabwe, and documented a litany of human rights abuses.
|I have experienced too much senseless violence in my lifetime, especially connected with diamonds|
In the review team's report, addressed to Obert Mpofu, Zimbabwe's minister of mining, Fiya said: "Sir, I was in Liberia throughout the 15 years of civil war, and I have experienced too much senseless violence in my lifetime, especially connected with diamonds. In speaking with some of these people, minister, I had to leave the room. This has to be acknowledged, and it has to stop."
Fiya's report also said there was "direct involvement of the military in illegal mining and related activities that we observed ourselves."
Harrowell said the apparent release of the interim report to the media was "unchartered territory" and "unheard of", as usually only the full report was made public, but the KPCS has come under increasing criticism since it was launched in January 2003 and "its credibility and legitimacy" was on the line.
The KPCS draws on governments, the diamond industry and concerned NGOs to prevent the trade in conflict diamonds, also known as "blood diamonds", which are often mined with scant regard for the human rights of the miners, and have overwhelmingly been used to fund conflict.
An international meeting of the KPCS in the Namibian capital, Windhoek, in June 2009, coincided with a report by HRW that accused Zimbabwe's military of using force to profit from the diamond fields.
HRW also accused Zimbabwean security forces of killing more than 200 miners in 2008 - an allegation denied by President Robert Mugabe's government - and recommended that Zimbabwe be suspended from the KPCS. The organization has 49 members, representing 75 countries, and accounts for about 99.8 percent of the global production of rough diamonds.
Diamonds for reconstruction
One of the architects of the process, Ian Smillie, of Partnership Africa Canada (PAC), resigned as civil society representative to the KPCS in June 2009, saying: "When regulators fail to regulate, the systems they were designed to protect collapse ... I feel that I can no longer in good faith contribute to a pretence that failure is success, or to the kind of debates we have been reduced to."
The Herald said Finance Minister Tendai Biti, a member of the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), which is part of the unity government formed with ZANU-PF in February 2009, had recently made representations to the KPCS to allow Zimbabwe a window period to conform to the diamond certification standards.
Diamond revenues could provide Zimbabwe with as much as US$600 million a month, and could be used to fund the country's reconstruction after eight years of economic collapse. The MDC has said that Zimbabwe requires US$8.3 billion for reconstruction.
This article was produced by IRIN News while it was part of the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. Please send queries on copyright or liability to the UN. For more information: https://shop.un.org/rights-permissions
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