(Corrects amount of carats in sixth paragraph.)
The Kimberley Process’s decision to allow Zimbabwe to export diamonds under certain conditions “falls far short” of what is needed to protect civilians in the country, said Partnership Africa Canada, an advocacy group.
Exports from Zimbabwe’s Marange fields will be monitored by two representatives of the Kimberley Process until the organization’s next meeting, the process announced yesterday in Kinshasa, the capital of the Democratic Republic of Congo.
Civil society representatives who oversee the group, which was created to stop the trade in so-called blood diamonds that fund conflict, walked out of the meeting in protest and Canada and the U.S. said the decision broke procedural rules and was made “without consensus.”
In 2009, restrictions were placed on the export of gems from the Marange field, which is near Zimbabwe’s border with Mozambique, after a review mission found human-rights violations and smuggling at the site. In 2008, more than 200 people were killed when Zimbabwean security forces took over the concessions, according to a report by New York-based advocacy group Human Rights Watch.
Yesterday’s decision “does not contain sufficient checks and balances to prevent substantial volumes of illicit diamonds from entering the global diamond supply chain, and further undermines the credibility of the Kimberley Process,” Ottawa- based Partnership Africa Canada said in an e-mailed statement.
Zimbabwe was the world’s ninth-largest producer of diamonds in 2009, producing $20.4 million from 1 million carats, according to the most recent data from the Kimberley Process website. Production from the Marange diamond fields is about 1 million carats a month, Chaim Evan-Zohar, president of industry consultant Tacy Ltd., said in February, citing government information.
The fields are run by Mbada Mines Ltd. and Canadile Miners Ltd. in ventures with the state-owned Zimbabwe Mining Development Corp.
Zimbabwe is complying with the organization’s rules and would submit to special monitoring to assure continued compliance at least until the group’s next meeting, Kimberley Process President Mathieu Yamba told reporters after the conference. The southern African country has also guaranteed civil-society participation in monitoring exports, he said.
Zimbabwe’s Mines Minister Obert Mpofu said he was “not 100 percent happy” about the monitoring by Kimberley Process representatives.
“It was a compromise outcome and we had no choice but to accept because this is what the conference has agreed to,” Mpofu said in an interview after the conference.
The Kimberley Process Certification Scheme is made up of countries that produce, process and purchase diamonds, as well as industry and civil society representatives.
“The decision is a disaster for the Kimberley Process,” Alfred Lahai Brownell, a member of the process’ civil society coalition, said after leading the walkout at the organization’s mid-year meeting. “It shows the weaknesses in the process and that the countries aren’t serious.”
The U.S. objected to the decision to allow export of diamonds from Marange with Kimberley certification without a consensus agreement, Daniel Baer, the U.S. deputy assistant secretary for democracy, human rights and labor, said in an interview after the meetings.
“We remain committed to finding a consensus text that delivers both benefits to the people of Zimbabwe and credibility in the eyes of the international community,” he said.
To contact the reporter on this story: Michael J. Kavanagh in Kinshasa at firstname.lastname@example.org.