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United Nations places Zimbabwe on blood diamonds list

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An incident in which gunmen in military gear overpowered security staff of the government-owned Zimbabwe Consolidated Diamond Company (ZCDC) in Chiadzwa, Manicaland, and held them hostage before escaping with valuable gemstones at midnight on January 15 this year during the #ShutDownProtests has led to Zimbabwean diamonds being classified as conflict diamonds by the United Nations.

As a result, the 69th plenary meeting of the United Nations (UN) has resolved to include a discussion on whether Zimbabwean diamonds should be classified as conflict gems during the inter-governmental organisation’s 74th general assembly meeting agenda.

The development follows intense lobbying by a grouping of international civil society organisations affiliated to the Kimberly Process Certification Scheme (KPCS) urging the UN to review its definition of conflict diamonds in order to encompass Zimbabwe’s gemstones.

The move, if it succeeds, will bar Zimbabwe from trading on the formal international market. This could deal a huge blow to the Zimbabwe government’s plan which is already in motion, where it selected Russian diamond miner Alrosa and China’s Anjin Investments to partner with the state diamond company ZCDC in exploiting the diamonds.

London-listed Vast Resources and Botswana Diamonds have said they are planning to mine diamonds in Marange in partnership with a local community trust.

The Independent newspaper reports that Zimbabwean Centre for Natural Resource Governance (ZCNRG) director Farai Maguwu, who presented the case for Zimbabwe at the plenary meeting in New York last week, urged the UN to classify Zimbabwean gemstones as conflict diamonds on the basis that they were being used to fund military operations in the country.

Farai Maguwu

In a circular to member states last week, the plenary said it noted with concern the continuation of trade in conflict diamonds or blood diamonds on the international market, with serious impact on peace and the safety and security of people in affected countries as well as the systematic and gross human rights violations that have been perpetrated in such conflicts.

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“The plenary acknowledges with great appreciation the important contribution that the European Union, as Chair of the Kimberley Process in 2018, has made towards curbing the trade in conflict diamonds, and welcomes the selection of India as the Chair of the Kimberley Process for 2019, the Russian Federation as the vice-chair for 2019 and the chair for 2020 and Botswana as the vice-chair for 2020 and the chair for 2021. The plenary requests the chair of the Kimberley Process to submit to the General Assembly at its seventy-fourth session a report on the implementation of the Kimberley Process. The session also decides to include in the provisional agenda of its seventy-fourth session the item entitled: The role of diamonds in fueling conflict,” the circular reads.

The KPCS was founded when southern African diamond-producing states met in Kimberley, South Africa, in May 2000, to discuss ways of stopping the trade in conflict diamonds and ensure that diamond purchases were not funding violence.

The result was an agreement by the UN, European Union, the governments of 74 countries, the World Diamond Council representing the industry and a number of interest groups such as Global Witness.

They established the KPCS, whereby members are required to certify that all rough diamond exports are produced through legitimate mining and sales activities and are conflict-free.

This is not the first time Zimbabwe finds itself at the centre of a diamond ban lobby.

Following the rise in the trade of blood diamonds between 2008 and 2009, Zimbabwe was facing a ban from the KPCS, but a meeting in Namibia in October 2009 recommended against the ban. However, international diamond buyers have had to purchase Zimbabwe’s gemstones in secrecy and avoid using the United States dollar in order to by-pass sanctions placed on Zimbabwe by the US.

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Besides Zimbabwe, other countries which are likely to be affected by the development are Angola, Democratic Republic of Congo and Venezuela. — Read original story in The Independent

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