The United Nations is seeking to establish a system of certificates of origin for all diamonds produced in Southern Africa in a new bid to curtail the main source of revenue of the UNITA rebel movement in Angola.
Unveiling a new sanctions initiative against the rebel movement, Robert Fowler, chairman of the UN sanctions committee for Angola, said in a report to the Security Council this week that UNITA’s diamond trading had to be closely monitored.
In what analysts said was one of the first estimates of its kind by the UN, Fowler reported that illicit diamond trading by UNITA had netted the movement an estimated US $200 million in 1998 alone out of a total income since 1992 estimated at US $3-4 billion.
“Unconfirmed reports indicate that such revenues stand to increase following the discovery and exploitation by UNITA of new kimberlite deposits in the territory they continue to control,” he said.
His report was based on a visit last month to seven nations aimed at tightening sanctions against UNITA which the UN has largely blamed for the breakdown last December of the UN-brokered 1994 Lusaka protocol peace accords. He visited Angola, Botswana, the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Namibia, South Africa, Zimbabwe and Zambia.
The certificates of origin
Fowler, who also held talks with industry leaders including the South African diamond giant De Beers, recommended a system under which diamond producing countries introduce “standardised and credible” certificates of origin.
Licensed foreign diamond buyers in Angola such as De Beers, Dian Limited, Lasare Kaplan International, the Antwerp-based Diamond High Council, the Israeli Diamond Exchange, and other buyers in India and the United States, he said, should nominate representatives to liaise with the sanctions committee, and once such a system is in place, refuse the purchase of uncertified diamonds.
He also suggested a “small number of monitors” at major diamond exchanges, but made it clear that care should be taken to “avoid inflicting collateral” damage on the legitimate diamond trade, which he said accounted for more than two-thirds of the gross domestic product of Angola’s southern neighbours, Namibia and Botswana.
Fowler also suggested that nations in the region provide the committee with intelligence on UNITA purchases and trade so as to curb the flow of arms, oil and money to the rebels. He also recommended an air embargo and travel curbs on senior UNITA officials.
He also said that UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan should consider the feasibility within three months of deploying strategically placed UN sanctions monitors in the region and further afield.
By way of example, he said, “such inspectors might usefully be deployed in an around the following areas” with a mandate to report on alleged sanctions violations: Ouagadougou in Burkina Faso; Abidjan in Cote d’Ivoire; Tahikapa, Dilolo, Kolwezi and Lubumbashi in DRC; Nampula in Mozambique; Rundu in Namibia; Durban and airfields in northern South Africa; Dar-es-Salaam in Tanzania; Lome, Togo; Entebbe and Kampala in Uganda; Mansa, Mongu, Ndola and Livingstone in Zamibia; the Angolan capital Luanda and other Angolan ports, and Kiev, Ukraine (one of UNITA’s key weapons suppliers).
Legislation also needed
He said nations in the region also had to enact legislation outlawing trade with UNITA. In Pretoria, a South African government official acknowledged to IRIN recently that such legislation still had to be drafted, and that until then, it was not possible to ban flights to UNITA areas by the movement’s allies in South Africa. IRIN was told also that a similar situation prevailed in Zambia.
Two expert panels working under his committee would look into further measures and monitor progress. Fowler said he planned to follow up his African tour with a visit to European nations.
“The Council’s sanctions against UNITA are not punitive in intention or design,” he said, “but rather intended to help establish the conditions for a resumption of political dialogue to achieve a durable resolution of the conflict in Angola.” The sanctions committee, he added, would continue “to review UNITA’s willingness to engage in political dialogue and calibrate Council-imposed sanctions accordingly”.
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