Press Release / Aug. 5, 1999

Will UN realpolitik handicap the UN Angola Sanctions Committee’s Expert Panels?

The latest report by the Chairman of the UN Angola Sanctions Committee on Angola(1), whilst containing some solid recommendations to improve embargo implementation shows worrying signs that realpolitik within the UN system may already have got to work.

“Ambassador Fowler’s latest report appears to place the burden for success of the sanctions on African states. But what he should be doing is ensuring the Expert Panels focus on the markets involved in buying Unita’s diamonds and on the businesses selling the weapons.” Said Charmian Gooch, a director of Global Witness, a non-governmental investigative organisation (2).

Indeed, even De Beers, in a weak attempt to seek the moral high ground after twelve months of refusing to come clean on exactly how it is implementing the UN embargo, have begun to talk of the role of governments of key importing countries needing to take a lead on the issue (3). “This is pretty disingenuous coming from a company that not only controls approximately 70% of the rough diamond market, but has also spent the 1990’s boasting of its’ prime role in the unofficial diamond market (4).” Said Gooch. “De Beers have admitted that they bought Unita diamonds before the UN embargo of 1 July 1998 (UNSCR1173), and analysts widely agree that diamond revenue helped Unita to re-arm so effectively and to undermine the UN sponsored peace process.”

The fundamental question is whether De Beers should have been buying such diamonds before the embargo and will they undertake not to buy such goods in the future?

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Notes to Editor:
(1) Report on the Chairman’s visit to Europe and participation in the seventieth session of the Council of Ministers of the Organization of African Unity, July 1999”, PAGE 11 “ is African states that will in large part determine, through their actions, whether the Security Council sanctions against Unita succeed or fail.”
(2) 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 a non-partisan organisation. In December 1998 it published the report ‘A Rough Trade - The Role of Companies and Governments in the Angolan Conflict’.
(3) “The Angolan Government, the major cutting centres - Belgium and Israel - and neighbouring states need to apply real political will and say we won’t allow goods to be imported unless there is a proper certificate of origin, it will make it more difficult for Unita to ship goods out.” De Beers spokesman Andy Lamont as reported by Reuters on 3 August 1999.
(4) Many of the goods that have come onto the open market, with the exception of Russia, have come from areas of conflict such as Angola and Sierra Leone.