Press Release / Dec. 14, 1998

Is the price of diamonds too high? How Angola’s return to war has been funded by the international diamond trade.

Global Witness1 report, ‘A Rough Trade - The Role of Companies and Governments in the Angolan Conflict’, published today, uncovers the role of diamonds in funding the continuing civil war. “As Angola once again slides into full-scale war the United Nations and the international diamond business must examine their role in the conflict.” Charmian Gooch, Global Witness.

Diamonds have been UNITA’s major source of revenue during the 1990’s - gaining an estimated US$3.7 billion between 1992 and 19982 - which has enabled them to re-arm and maintain supplies despite the UN sponsored peace process. UNITA has sold its diamonds on the unofficial, ‘outside’’ market and has found willing buyers within the diamond industry.

The diamond business is dominated by De Beers and its Central Selling Organisation (CSO), set up 60 years ago to control the international diamond trade and maintain steady prices. De Beers and the CSO sell about 80% of the world market. Angola, as a major producer of high quality unworked diamonds3, the majority originating from UNITA held territory, has been a threat to market stability, and De Beers are clearly involved in this trade. The report includes a detailed analysis of their involvement.

With the tragic return to war, which between 1992 and 1994 cost the lives of an estimated 300,000 Angolans, “There is an urgent need for the diamond business to fundamentally change the way in which it works, because it is clearly unacceptable for diamonds to be used as a major source of revenue in conflict.” Charmian Gooch, Global Witness, “How many people, when buying a diamond for their loved one have any idea of the horrific price that Angolans have had to pay?”

Furthermore the UN has failed to ensure that member states are rigorously implementing the embargo on unofficial diamond exports from Angola, which came into force on 1 July 1998 (UN Security Council Resolution 11734) as part of a series of measures. The EU has also adopted the UNSC embargo, and this too has been a dismal failure. Belgium, one of the key diamond centres, bears a particular responsibility to strive to meet the embargo, yet Global Witness investigations have revealed serious failings, and it is business as usual in Belgium’s diamond capital Antwerp. The failure of the UN member states and the diamond industry to fully implement the embargo has meant that UNITA have been able to restock munitions and supplies and this has fatally undermined the peace process.

Notes to Editor: 1. Global Witness Ltd. is a UK investigative human rights and environment not-for-profit oganisation which has built up a reputation for its investigations and lobby work on the illegal trade in timber in Cambodia and the way in which that has funded the conflict. It is non-partisan.
2. Diamonds have also funded conflict in Sierra Leone and Liberia.
3. Angola’s diamonds are some of the best in the world, and are in demand within the diamond business.
4. The UN embargo: The UN Security Council Resolution 1173 which came into force on1 July 1998 includes the following section “12.(b)to prohibit the direct or indirect import from Angola to their territory of all diamonds that are not controlled through the Certificate of Origin regime of the GURN”.