Zimbabwe Resists Special Monitoring of Diamond Exports

Zimbabwe will resist any “special monitoring” of exports of gems from the Marange diamond fields beyond the Kimberley Process Certification Scheme, said Mines Minister Obert Mpofu.

“Marange is fully compliant and we will resist any attempts to have any special monitoring mechanism for Zimbabwe which is outside the Kimberley Process guidelines,” Mpofu said in an interview today in Kinshasa.

The process was started in 2003 to monitor the trade in so-called “blood diamonds” that funds conflicts. 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.

Zimbabwe was the world’s ninth-largest producer of diamonds in 2009, producing $20.4 million from 1 billion 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.

Politicizing Process

The fields are run by Mbada Mines (Private) Ltd. and Canadile Miners (Private) Ltd. in ventures with the state-owned Zimbabwe Mining Development Corp. The southern African nation will choose a company to further survey the Marange area for diamonds and other minerals “anytime now,” Mpofu said.

On March 19, Kimberley Process Chairman Mathieu Yamba said Zimbabwe could begin shipping gems from Marange “with immediate effect.” The decision was questioned by other members including Canada, the U.K., and the U.S., who called for a consensus agreement before shipments resumed.

Those countries are politicizing the Kimberley Process, said Mpofu, referring to U.S. and European Union sanctions against Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe and senior members of his political party.

“This isn’t about the U.S. versus Zimbabwe, this isn’t about any other country versus Zimbabwe,” said Daniel Baer, the U.S. deputy assistant secretary for democracy, human rights and labor. “This is about a problem that was assessed and trying to figure out a way to move forward so that progress can continue,” he said in an interview in Kinshasa.

Points of Conflict

Who should monitor Marange’s exports and how it should be done remain the main points of conflict, Eli Izhakoff, chairman of the World Diamond Council, said in an interview in Kinshasa, adding that he hopes exports can continue.

Other African producers have been “rallying around Zimbabwe,” said Don Hubert, an independent analyst and professor of public and international relations at the University of Ottawa who attended the meetings with Partnership Africa Canada, one of the body’s civil-society overseers.

“But it seems ludicrous to me that there wouldn’t be at least some kind of monitoring, we have it in every other case in the process where we know there are flagrant problems.”

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