Zimbabwe Warned Over Conflict Diamonds

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The Kimberley Process recently concluded a fact finding mission on the 16,000 hectare Chiadzwa diamond fields that were discovered at the height of Zimbabwe’s economic and political crisis and its findings put pressure on the coalition government to speed up its reforms.

Desperate villagers and diamond dealers descended on the fields controlled by the Zimbabwe Mining Development Corporation (ZMDC) sometime last year where they were involved in illegal mining activities.

Human rights groups say President Robert Mugabe’s Zanu PF party and the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe were the major players in the illegal trade in the precious stones.

According to an interim report by a KP fact-finding mission led by Liberian Deputy Minister of Planning and Development, Mr Kpandel Fayia, the involvement of Zimbabwe’s army and the police at one of the biggest diamond fields fuelled serious human rights violations and smuggling.

In a report dismissed by the government as false, the United States based Human Rights Watch (HRW) said more than 200 people were killed last year after Mr Mugabe’s previous government deployed soldiers to curb illegal mining and smuggling of diamonds.

The KP dispatched its team last week following sustained allegations that loyalists of Mr Mugabe and his military backers were perpetrating or tolerating human rights abuses and illegal diamond exports.

The team also visited three other diamond mines but their report said the Chiadzwa fields were of major concern.

Zimbabwe was also found wanting on its border controls and security around diamond mining areas. The team said they ought to be stricter border controls to prevent smuggling.

“In the meantime, as a means of facilitating our overall conclusions, we would invite and encourage immediate, positive steps in the coming two to three weeks that would indicate a commitment to compliance by Zimbabwe, reads part of the report.

“For example, the immediate demilitarisation of the Marange fields. There cannot be effective security where diamonds are concerned with the involvement of the military.”

The team said it would release its final report within a month.

Deputy Mining and Development Minister Mr Murisi Zwizwai said the soldiers would be withdrawn in phases while modalities of putting proper security were being worked out.

“There is a lot to be done on the side of this country. We agreed to remove soldiers but it will be done in phases while proper security settings would be put in place,” he told state media after receiving the interim report.

Last week, Mr Zwizwai was publicly criticised by his party after he dismissed reports that victims of the massive army clampdown on the illegal miners were buried in mass graves.

It is estimated that if properly mined diamonds can rake in US$200 million for Zimbabwe’s cash strapped government.

But if the government fails to meet the KP teams recommendations, the country’s diamonds might be blacklisted and this would affect their value on the world market

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