Military ignores threat of diamond trade suspension

The militarization of Zimbabwe's diamond fields is still a fact of life, despite a report by the Kimberley Process Certification Scheme (KPCS) - an international initiative to stem the flow of conflict diamonds - citing the presence of soldiers as a major concern that could lead to the country's suspension from the global diamond trade.



The KPCS interim report recommending Zimbabwe's six-month suspension from importing and exporting rough diamonds was leaked to the media in July 2009, but the suspension is only expected to be enacted in November 2009 at the annual plenary meeting of the organization in the Namibian capital, Windhoek - although this is not a foregone conclusion.



The interim report called for the "immediate demilitarization of the Marange fields [of which Chiadzwa is part] and a comprehensive investigation of the role of the Zimbabwe National Army, Zimbabwe Republic Police, and other officials in abuses in the Marange diamond operation."



An IRIN correspondent who visited the area this week said access to the Chiadzwa diamond fields, in the eastern province of Manicaland, was blocked by armed soldiers and police, and there were frequent roadblocks in the area.



"Armed soldiers and police details, some mounted on horses and others with vicious dogs, continue to terrorise the villagers. They [the security forces] were on their best behaviour during the KPCS visit, but went on to unleash more terror on local people," a teacher who declined to be identified told IRIN.



The IRIN correspondent was subjected to both vehicle and body searches by security personnel at numerous roadblocks in the province, and saw what appeared to be new earthmoving equipment en route to the diamond fields.



"The situation on the ground [in Chiadzwa] is of great concern," said Annie Dunnebacke, a campaigner for Global Witness, a UK-based NGO that seeks to prevent the use of natural resources to fuel conflict, and a prime mover in setting up the KPCS.



It has been ten months since human rights abuses were exposed in the Chiadzwa diamond fields. "In spite of global attention, evidence of human rights abuses and the facilitation of [diamond] smuggling by the [Zimbabwean] military ... the Kimberley process is hiding behind the excuse of procedure."



Dunnebacke told IRIN that Zimbabwe's disregard for the KPCS was "sending a bad message" that "the international agreement has rules, but no consequences for those that don't follow the rules."



Andrew Bone, Director of International Relations at De Beers, told IRIN: "The [diamond] industry is eagerly awaiting the Kimberley Process final report, and just as eagerly the findings and recommendations of it, and that any and all of the recommendations are carried out in a timely fashion."



The KPSC final report on Zimbabwe's diamond trade, although not yet completed, is expected to be presented at the Windhoek plenary meeting, but according to those familiar with the process, the findings in final reports rarely differ from those in interim reports.



The KPCS relies on governments, the diamond industry and concerned NGOs to prevent the trade in conflict diamonds, also known as "blood diamonds", which are often mined with scant regard for the human rights of the miners, and have overwhelmingly been used to fund conflicts, especially in underdeveloped countries.









''The international agreement has rules, but no consequences for those that don't follow the rules''

Politicising the diamond agreement



However, a visit to Zimbabwe by the current KPCS chair, Namibia's Deputy Minister of Mines and Energy, Bernard Esau, under the auspices of the organization but without the consent or prior knowledge of other partners, angered NGOs as well as several governments party to the international agreement.



Esau visited Zimbabwe soon after the KPCS announced it would investigate allegations of human rights abuses in the Chiadzwa diamond fields, which observers said "politicized" the international conflict diamond agreement.



Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe's ZANU-PF party and Namibia's South West African People's Organisation (SWAPO) government forged close ties during their respective struggles for independence, and their armies fought side by side during a recent conflict in the Democratic Republic of Congo.



"Under the Kimberley Process Certification Scheme, conflict diamonds are rough diamonds used by rebel movements or their allies to finance conflict armies at undermining legitimate governments ... There is no armed conflict or any involvement of a rebel army or movement in Zimbabwe; therefore Marange diamonds do not fall within KPCS definition of conflict diamonds," Esau told local media.



Arrests in the wake of the fact finding mission



After publication of the interim report calling for the six-month suspension of Zimbabwe from the world's diamond trade, a local chief in the Chiadzwa diamond fields, who said he had assisted the KPSC fact-finding mission, was arrested.



Chief Newman Chiadzwa was charged with the unlawful possession of 8.61kg of diamonds, under the Precious Stones Trade Act, in the Mutare magistrate's court on 20 August.



According to "investigations" by the Herald, a state-controlled daily newspaper, "Newman Chiadzwa ... is posing as Chief Chiadzwa" and was an "illegal diamond dealer".



The Herald said, "Newman was neither a chief nor a headman of the area in which the diamond fields are situated", and that family members had told the newspaper "he [Newman] was a problem in the family, and was actively working for Zimbabwe's suspension from international diamond trading."



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