Zimbabwe's Zanu PF political and military elite are seeking to capture the country's diamond wealth through a combination of state-sponsored violence and the legally questionable introduction of opaque joint-venture companies. The situation in Zimbabwe signals the return of the blood diamond, and threatens to undermine the Kimberley Process Certification Scheme (KPCS), set up to eradicate the trade in conflict diamonds.
Zimbabwe’s Marange diamond fields stretch over 66,000 hectares in the east of the country. Although estimates of the reserves contained in this area vary wildly, some have suggested that it could be home to one of the world’s richest diamond deposits.
Since the discovery of alluvial diamond deposits in 2006 in Marange, people living there have borne the brunt of a series of extreme and brutal measures taken by state authorities to secure control of the resource.
A Kimberley Process official review team sent to the country in June 2009 found evidence of grave human rights abuses, armed soldiers managing syndicates of miners, and cross-border smuggling operations run by officials. The team recommended that Zimbabwe be suspended from the scheme for a period of at least six months. Instead, and despite pressure from civil society and several government participants, a compromise deal was agreed in an attempt to bring the country back into line with KP standards.
A new agreement was reached at an extraordinary meeting in St Petersburg in July 2010. This deal allowed for two shipments of recently mined diamonds to be exported, whilst tying all future exports to clear and measurable progress in Marange.
A follow-up KP review team visited Zimbabwe in August 2010 and is expected to present findings to the scheme’s membership at the Plenary meeting in Jerusalem in November.
The lack of swift response by member states in the face of overwhelming evidence of non-compliance in Zimbabwe points to fundamental weaknesses in the KP’s ability to address cases where countries are not playing by the rules. This has damaged the scheme’s credibility and dented consumer confidence.
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