MAC: Mines and Communities

Zimbabwe "blood diamonds" slip through Watchdog's net

Published by MAC on 2011-07-11
Source: Inter Press Service, The Herald

Last month, the Kimberley Process (KP) convened in Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of Congo, to decide whether diamonds extracted from Zimbabwe's Marange "killing" fields can now be marketed as "conflict free".

Although the KP members failed to reach the required consensus, exports of KP-certified diamonds from Marange have been resumed.

On 23 June 2011 (just as AIMES was holding its 13th Annual Conference in Harare),  Zimbabwe's Mines and Mining Development minister trashed the appointment of a Zimbabwean citizen, Shamiso Mtisi, as the Kimberley Process "Focal Point" person.

Backed by civil society advocates within the country Mr Mtisi had maintained that human rights abuses by the military at Marange are still continuing.

Previous MAC article: Conflict diamonds set to enrich Zimbabwe's old guard

"Blood Diamonds" Slip Through Watchdog's Cracks

By Lily Hough

Inter Press Service (IPS)

30 June 2011

WASHINGTON - Following a recent procedural breakdown of one of the world's leading "blood diamond" watchdogs, experts warn that controversial stones from the Marange fields of Zimbabwe may soon find their way into the hands of unknowing consumers.

The Kimberley Process Certification Scheme (KP), a voluntary self- regulation body, monitors the diamond industry by labeling shipments of conflict-free diamonds with a government-validated certificate, which guarantees consumers that their purchases do not finance human rights abuses.

The KP's procedural guidelines require its 49 members, which represent 75 countries, to reach an absolute consensus over the status of a diamond shipment before the product is certified.

Last week, the KP convened in Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of Congo, to deliberate on whether or not Marange diamonds met KP's standards of production.

Notwithstanding the members' failure to reach the required consensus, exports of KP-certified diamonds from the Marange fields resumed - a move that has severely jeopardised the watchdog's credibility in the international community.

"The United States is deeply disappointed with the Kinshasa [proceedings] as [they] related to Zimbabwe," Victoria Nuland, a spokesperson for the U.S. State Department, said in a statement last week.

"The United States believes that progress with respect to exports from the Marange area of Zimbabwe can occur solely through a mechanism agreed to by consensus among KP participants. Contrary to some [reports], the Kinshasa Intercessional did not reach a consensus text.

"We believe that work toward a solution must continue, and that until consensus is reached, exports from Marange should not proceed," she asserted.

Since Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe quickly seized control of the Marange diamond fields following their discovery in 2006, exports from the area have generously funded his repressive party and come under a harsh spotlight in the international community.

According to a 2009 report by Human Rights Watch, Mugabe's soldiers have massacred at least 200 individual miners and enlisted conscripted labourers - including children - who work in appalling conditions in locations where reports of torture and murder have gone unpunished.

A statement by HRW last week reported that the Kinshasa Intersessional came three months after its new chairperson Mathieu Yamba made a unilateral announcement authorising Zimbabwe to export Marange stones without any monitoring of human rights abuses or proof of compliance with KP requirements.

"Miners, retailers, and consumers have relied on the Kimberley Process to stop blood diamonds from being sold, but with Yamba's decision, the KP has betrayed their trust," said Arvind Ganesan, business and human rights director at Human Rights Watch.

"What the KP has done here is essentially legitimised a dictator," Tom Zoellner, author of "The Heartless Stone: A Journey through the World of Diamonds, Deceit and Desire", told IPS. "The industry was acting in enlightened self interest when they [created] the KP, but it was never the ironclad mechanism that they sold it, it has discredited itself thoroughly as a regulatory body."

The KP is no stranger to such criticism. Since its inception in 2000, a response to a decade of pressure from the United Nations, KP's protocol has often come under fire for conceptual weaknesses that limit its regulatory viability; particularly, its consistent failure to articulate a comprehensive definition of the term "conflict" even while purporting to be a global watchdog of "conflict diamonds".

"It had no provisions for when a government brutalises its own people," Zoellner told IPS. "When the Marange fields were discussed, the [KP] was one of the greatest gifts that came to Mugabe."

HRW added that, "[According to the KP's] rules, a conflict diamond is narrowly defined as one sold by a rebel group to wage war against a government."

"That definition has left a major loophole since it does not prevent a government like [Mugabe's] from committing abuses when it mines or sells diamonds," HRW said.

The KP's recently demonstrated indifference to its own established procedures should "serve as a signal for people to have even less confidence in the KP than [before]" and sharply question the group's ability to govern the international industry, Zoellner added.

While Australia, Canada and the EU have joined the U.S. in refusing to recognise Zimbabwean diamonds as "conflict free", others have been less inclined to take a moral stand.

The South Africa Diamond and Precious Metals Regulator (SADPMR) announced in a notice to its members, "we will [continue to] accept imports of rough diamonds from Zimbabwe."

Absent a universally accepted ban, China - Zimbabwe's close ally - is likely to follow suit.

Zoellner warned that the proliferation of conflict diamonds in these countries would generate unintentional involvement in the blood diamond industry, even among consumers whose countries have denounced the trade.

"Diamonds on the international market all go into a single pool. The reality is that the consumer has no control over where the diamond originated," Zoellner told IPS.

As the week advances without any apparent solutions to divisions among KP members, more shipments of conflict diamonds are sailing around the world, leaving open the possibility that consumers will unintentionally buy diamonds from the bloodstained Marange fields.

"I think this does represent a disgraceful chapter in the history of the diamond business and a lesson for the consumer," Zoellner told IPS. "We would do well to think about the social misery that this natural resource has brought along with its benefits."

Mpofu dismisses KP focal point person's appointment

The Herald (Zimbabwe)

24 June 2011

THE appointment of Shamiso Mtisi as the Kimberly Process Focal Point person is null and void because it does not have the consensus of all participants as required by the KPCS standing statutes, Mines and Mining Development Minister Obert Mpofu told the KPCS Kinshasa Intercessional meeting.

"The elimination of conflict diamonds from the diamond pipeline has left some of our colleagues with no work to do and perhaps the human rights debate is hoped to create new work and a new focus.

"These local focal point persons are simply failed individuals in their respective fields and are picked from the dustbin, dusted and presented to the plenary as saints. No concrete evidence is presented to substantiate their claims.

"With regards to the proposal for the Local Focal Point person which is premised in the St Petersburg document, this was not endorsed by plenary and as such it is invalid.

"We do not recognise the Focal Point, Shamiso Mtisi and his gang of six and we will not allow the KP to be fed on rumours and speculation," declared Minister Mpofu.

"The statutes and rules of the KPCS direct that all participants must reach a consensus in all decisions and the appointment of Mtisi did not have the consent of Zimbabwe Government.

"The appointment of the local focal point person is a product of the St Petersburg agreement, concocted by the US, Canada and Australia, which again did not have consensus of all members but forced on Zimbabwe."

Shamiso Mtisi who was flanked by his Western handlers - Global Witness and Partnership Africa Canada - reported to the Kimberley Processing that the military presence in Marange is still there and they are numerous incidents of severe beatings of villagers and an army helicopter flew into Marange area shot and killed several people two weeks before the President Mugabe's visit last week.

"Though they could be a reduction of army details in the area, cases of violence are still rife which are matters of human rights concern.

"We also noted that fences of the protected diamond blocks were scaled or cut, leading to leakages into Mozambique. Over rally, the Marange issue is still not good and requires further monitoring" said Mtisi, a well-known MDC-T activist.

The Affirmative Action Group, which also attended the meeting, criticised the behaviour of the civil coalition led by Global Witness and Partnership Africa Canada.

"The questions that need answers are; why would there be only reports of abuse of human rights in Marange and not in any other mining areas in Zimbabwe?

"Would the US maintain the same position on De Beers if it were granted mining rights? Who employs Farai Maguwu and Shamiso Mtisi? Will it be a tenable position if Iran funds US based NGOs, which stand opposed to the US government? Where were Maguwu and Mtisi when more than 40,000 illegal panners invaded Marange? When are Maguwu and Mtisi going to make human rights assessment at the Canadian-owned New Dawn Mining and Zimplats, Rio Tinto?

"These questions are critical in ascertaining the true character of the third force behind these machinations.

"Global Witness and Partnership Africa Canada have used their willing surrogates like Farai Maguwu and Shamiso Mtisi to lie about Marange because there is black participation," Tafadzwa Musarara, AAG Secretary General said.

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