Press Release / March 18, 2003

The First Real Test of the Kimberley Process Is In The Central African Republic

Due to the serious political turmoil currently facing the country, Global Witness is calling on the Chair of the Kimberley Process to temporarily suspend the Central African Republic’s participation in the Kimberley Process. The continued participation of the Central African Republic (CAR) in this process will seriously undermine efforts to curb the trade in conflict diamonds, which are used to finance conflicts and civil wars.

In the CAR, rebels supporting Francois Bozize recently took control of the capital Bangui, forcing President Patasse to take refuge in Cameroon. Francois Bozize has declared himself Head of State and suspended the constitution. Rebels will now have control over the CAR’s diamond mines, which can be exploited to finance this coup and maintain control over the country.

“Since rebels have seized power and overthrown a legitimate government, the Central African Republic is now in violation of the Kimberley Process and should be banned from trading in diamonds until constitutional rule is re-established,” said Corinna Gilfillan, Campaigner with Global Witness. “This situation is a real test of whether the Kimberley Process is doing its job effectively or is merely a rubber-stamping exercise.”

The CAR is a participant of the Kimberley Process, an international agreement working to eliminate the trade in conflict diamonds through the establishment of an international diamond certification scheme. As a participant, the CAR is required to create and implement regulations to prevent diamonds from being used by rebel groups to overthrow legitimate governments and fuel conflicts. Participants of the Kimberley Process, consisting of 64 countries, are not allowed to trade in diamonds with non-participants.

The CAR is the 10th largest diamond producing country in the world, generating revenue of about US$100 million per year.(i) There have been numerous coup attempts in the country since 1996 and with its close proximity to rebel-held territory in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, conflict diamond trading occurs through Bangui. (ii)

Several African governments have forcefully spoken out against the coup. The African Union and United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan have strongly condemned the coup. Mr. Annan has called for the "speedy restoration of the constitutional order and for the respect and protection of the human rights and fundamental freedoms of the civilian population."(iii)

Editors Notes
i. Christian Dietrich, “Diamonds in the Central African Republic”,The Diamonds and Human Security Project, Occasional Paper #8, p. 1-2.
ii. Christian Dietrich, “Diamonds in the Central African Republic”, The Diamonds and Human Security Project, Occasional Paper #8, p. 5.
iii. UN News Service, “Annan Strongly Condemns Coup in Central African Republic”, New York, March 17 2003.