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Africa: Dead End for Diamond Monitoring?

AfricaFocus Bulletin
Sep 12, 2011 (110912)
(Reposted from sources cited below)

Editor's Note

According to a new analysis from Partnership Africa Canada, the Kimberley Process, a joint government-industry-civil society group intended to monitor "conflict diamonds" is "unable and unwilling to hold to account participating countries that repeatedly break the rules." Unless governments are willing to support significant reforms, which seems unlikely, activists must seek other mechanisms to prevent diamonds from fueling violence and human rights violations.

Partnership Africa Canada (PAC) has played a leading role in the NGO campaign to counter the impact of diamond sales in fueling wars and human rights abuses, in Sierra Leone, Angola, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and Zimbabwe. In particular it has been a key player in the Kimberley Process, beginning in 2000, which has aimed at providing certification for consumers for diamonds not implicated in conflict. So its sober conclusion about the future of the process is particularly significant.

This AfricaFocus Bulletin contains excerpts from the most recent issue of PAC's "Other Facets," a regular newsletter on the topic, as well as from a recent report by Human Rights Watch on abuses against artisanal miners at the Marange fields in Zimbabwe.

For more background on this issue, see in particular http://www.pacweb.org/programs-resources-e.php and http://www.pacweb.org/pub-diamonds-nr-e.php

For the recent award of the Alison des Forges prize to Zimbabwean human rights campaigner Farai Maguwu, see http://allafrica.com/stories/201108121326.html

An excellent book on the subject is Ian Smillie, Blood on the Stone: Greed, Corruption and War in the Global Diamond Trade, 2010. Portions can be read online at Amazon.com. See http://www.africafocus.org/books/isbn.php?0857289632

Previous AfricaFocus Bulletins with relevant material include
http://www.africafocus.org/docs10/zim1006.php, http://www.africafocus.org/docs00/sl0001.php, http://www.africafocus.org/docs01/sl0101.php, and http://www.africafocus.org/docs00/ang0003a.php

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Many thanks to those readers who have recently sent in voluntary subscription payments to support AfricaFocus Bulletin. If you haven't done so, and are able to, please consider adding your support with a payment by Paypal, Google Checkout, or a check, sent to AfricaFocus Bulletin, PMB 540, 3509 Connecticut Ave. NW, Washington, DC 20008-2470. Links for Paypal and Google Checkout and a form to print out to send with a check, are available at http://www.africafocus.org/support.php

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Other Facets

News and Views on the International Effort to End Conflict Diamonds

Number 35 August 2011

Other Facets, a periodic newsletter about the international effort to end diamond-related conflict, is a publication of Partnership Africa Canada. For more information: info@pacweb.org or http://www.pacweb.org

[Excerpts only. For full text and other resources on the issue, visit http://www.pacweb.org]

The Kimberley Process Derails over Zimbabwe

NGOs Walk out of Kinshasa KP Meeting, Consider Options

A tempest in a tea cup or a harbinger of things to come? For the first time in the Kimberley Process's almost decade-long life span, civil society not only walked out of a meeting, but expressed a unanimous vote of no-confidence in the way the scheme is operating. The move came during the June 20-24, 2011 KP Intersessional meeting in Kinshasa when it became clear that most delegations were more interested in a face saving exit strategy than resolving the myriad problems of Zimbabwe's Marange diamond fields. The position was informed by several hard truths about the current state of the KP:

  • It is unable and unwilling to hold to account participating countries that repeatedly break the rules.
  • It does not prevent diamonds from fuelling violence and human rights violations, and thus cannot provide guarantees to consumers that they are buying 'clean' diamonds.
  • It is unwilling to defend civil society, an integral member of the KP's tripartite structure.

While the walkout may only have covered the last two days of the Kinshasa meeting, it sparked a wider conversation among civil society groups about what, if any, role they will continue to play within the KP. Civil society can no longer accept the pretence that the KP in its current form can stop human rights abuses in diamond fields, or even guarantee the origin of diamonds. It does neither. Nor are most governments willing to strengthen the KP so that it can achieve these goals.

When compared to initiatives like the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI), the KP has lost any claim it may have once had to being an innovative and dynamic conflict-prevention scheme. To restore its credibility as a regulatory body, governments participating in the KP need to commit to meaningful reforms that address the scheme's manifold shortcomings and loopholes. The necessary reforms are well known to KP participants but are worth repeating: adoption of an independent third-party monitoring system; credible sanctions for non-compliance; updating the definition of "conflict diamonds" to ensure that the KP works to prevent violence from contaminating the diamond supply chain; reforming its decision-making processes; and widening the KP mandate to include the cutting and polishing industry. The KP must also adopt a more proactive, risk-based approach to curbing the illicit diamond trade and the loop-holes that allow diamonds to finance conflict.

NGO's patience is running thin. The longer the KP dithers on embracing these reforms, and the more it whitewashes egregious examples of non-compliance, the more civil society groups will look to other initiatives to achieve its goals of a sustainable, conflict-free diamond supply chain.

Zimbabwe? No Double Standards Here ...

An often heard refrain from African governments and industry is that Zimbabwe is being held to a "different standard" than other KP participants, and that a "political agenda" is behind an "overly onerous" roadmap to bring it back into full compliance with KP minimum standards.

This should come as news to C?te d'Ivoire, Guinea, Republic of Congo, Ghana, Brazil, and Venezuela which have all faced various corrective prescriptions - including suspension - due to incidences of non- compliance. In many examples, regaining their good standing took years; for others the process continues. With the exception of Venezuela, all of them have had to submit to outside scrutiny to prove they have rectified identified shortcomings - mostly related to smuggling and weak internal controls. So, Zimbabwe is not the first, nor will it be the last, country to be singled out for special attention.

But Zimbabwe does stand out as a country where state actors have unleashed murderous violence on their own diamond sector. There is also a significant difference in attitude between officials from Zimbabwe and other countries with weak internal controls. Officials from Guinea and the Democratic Republic of Congo have openly admitted their challenges and sought assistance. Zimbabwe has failed to acknowledge any problems, refusing assistance from many quarters, including South Africa and Ghana.

If anything, Zimbabwe has benefited from a double standard that is not talked about - it is the only country that is not expected to honour agreements it makes. Unlike Ghana or Guinea, each time the KP meets to discuss Zimbabwe, the standards are lowered further and further. This was demonstrated in the text of an agreement circulated in Kinshasa that KP Chair Mathieu Yamba later used to reaffirm his March 2011 decision to unilaterally greenlight exports from Marange (see sidebar "Kinshasa text"). The proposal falls far short of what is acceptable to maintain the credibility of the KP, protect civilians and civil society members living and working in Marange, or prevent substantive quantities of illicit diamonds from infecting the global diamond supply chain.

...

While the August 2010 report of the KP Review Mission to Zimbabwe found some improvements, it still concluded that Marange as a whole was far from compliant. Despite reaching this conclusion, the Kinshasa text makes no reference to the specific actions that Zimbabwe should be taking to bring the region into compliance with KP minimum requirements.

The Kinshasa text is glaringly silent on demilitarizing the diamond fields or tackling cross-border smuggling. It is also silent on Zimbabwe's commitment to de-criminalizing and formalizing small-scale mining.

Artisanal miners in Zimbabwe are driven by poverty to risk injury and death at the hands of security forces. Without dedicated areas where they can mine legally, they will remain vulnerable to violence and Zimbabwe will have difficulty achieving KP compliance.

During the KP Plenary in Jerusalem in November 2010, the mining company Canadile (now operating as Marange Resources) imploded amidst allegations of corruption that personally implicated Zimbabwe's Minister of Mines, Obert Mpofu, and half of the company's board of directors (See Other Facets 34). Yet participants in Kinshasa, led by South Africa and the KP Chair, were prepared to accept an agreement allowing exports from Marange Resources, without requiring evidence that the concession has restored appropriate control systems.

Delegations in Kinshasa also saw fit to remove any mention of the Civil Society Local Focal Point (LFP) from the text. This is a betrayal of the July 2010 St. Petersburg agreement, in which enhanced KP monitoring for Marange (through the work of the LFP) was accepted by Zimbabwe in exchange for KP authorization of two shipments of exports from Marange. Zimbabwe exported its diamonds, but now rejects calls that it honour the second half of that bargain and work with the Local Focal Point in a respectful and responsible manner.

...

Ethical Consumers and Africa - A Growing Disconnect

One thing that has emerged from this long debacle over Zimbabwe is the growing disconnect between the mostly artisanal and alluvial diamond producing countries in Africa and countries that have to retail diamonds to ethically conscious consumers. Many African diamondproducing countries, including some that bore the brunt of the diamond fuelled civil wars of the 1990s, do not seem to realize that consumers will not buy diamonds that are linked to violence, whether this violence comes at the hands of rebel groups or from state security forces.

Countries with a retail jewellery business, however, particularly in North America and Europe, have additional considerations. If the diamond brand gets tarnished, their businesses feel the pinch. Like it or not, 60 percent of the consumer market is still in North America and Europe. Were even a fraction of that market to dry up a ripple effect would be sent down the entire diamond supply chain. Market research cited in a 2009 Lifeworth Consulting report on corporate responsibility also suggests that high networth consumers in India and China (the fastest growing consumer markets for diamonds) are increasingly motivated by ethical considerations. The report can be viewed at: http://tinyurl.com/3bhxlwh

What does this mean for African diamond producing countries? It could have far-reaching economic consequences if retailers lose confidence in the KP and move to develop systems that eliminate artisanal African diamonds from their supply chains.

In the days that followed the Kinshasa Intersessional meeting, PAC received several unsolicited calls from concerned ethical diamantaires in North America. All reaffirmed a growing trend: as ethical jewellers they are making a conscious and principled effort to source rough stones from mines in countries with no taint of violence. This is not good news for African producers, and it underscores a growing trend that countries ignore at their peril.

Some countries, particularly South Africa, should know better. In Kinshasa, South African Minister of Mines Susan Shabangu used her inaugural KP meeting to demonstrate the wrong kind of leadership. By accepting the KP Chair's invalid notice on Marange diamonds, South Africa placed itself as a beachhead for laundering Zimbabwe's dirty diamonds. In doing so, Minister Shabangu placed South African diamonds on par with those from Marange, and undermined the Kimberley Process that South Africa did so much to help create.

Future exports from South Africa are now going to face added scrutiny, and possible sanction, by countries that did not accept the Chair's notice, which to date include India, the United Arab Emirates, Israel, the European Union, Switzerland, Canada and the United States. In other words, the major trading and manufacturing centres have upheld their commitment to the KP, demonstrating commendable support for its rules and procedures.

The Kimberley Process: Necessary, but not Sufficient

Since the Kinshasa June Intersessional meeting, a lot of journalists have been asking questions the diamond industry would rather not hear. What guarantee does anyone have that a diamond they buy is conflict-free? Does a KP certificate count for anything? With diamonds haemorrhaging out of C??te d'Ivoire, Venezuela, and Zimbabwe, and the origin of half of the diamonds coming out of DRC unknown, the answer isn't a happy one for law-abiding diamantaires.

If the KP cannot reform itself and has lost interest in defending human rights, then perhaps it's time for the KP to change its brand and re-think the promise it makes to consumers around the world. Civil society will then turn to other mechanisms to achieve the outcomes we want: a sustainably managed and conflict-free diamond supply chain that actually does benefit local communities, not just corrupt elites.

Whether the KP evolves or not, the diamond sector must not be allowed to return to the free-wheeling criminality with which it was characterized in the 1990s. In a post-911 context, the world cannot allow this high- value, low volume commodity to be unregulated. While the KP is proving itself to be an increasingly inadequate tool, the international community will still need to combat not only conflict diamonds, but also illicit diamonds used to finance terrorism and launder the proceeds of crime.

Looking for a Hero - Will the Diamond Industry Please Stand Up?

The private sector has an important role to play in both shoring up the KP and providing an alternative if the KP cannot meet consumer demands for an ethical jewellery supply chain. Just don't tell that to the World Diamond Council (WDC), which is nervously hoping events in Kinshasa don't bring too much scrutiny to its "system of warranties" (SOW) - their much-heralded, but empty, self-regulatory initiative. Not only are the SOWs shockingly obsolete when compared to similar initiatives that seek to allay consumer demands for social and environmental responsibility in various supply chains, 10 years on they remain largely at the discussion stage. While some movement towards developing a more robust supply chain management system for diamonds and gold is emerging through the efforts of the Responsible Jewellery Council, the Alliance for Responsible Mining and the OECD, more needs to be done.

Making matters worse for industry was a June 2011 report by Fair Jewelry Action and Lifeworth Consulting, which benchmarked ten prestigious jewellery brands on their social and environmental performance, including their ethical sourcing of precious metal and gemstones. With the exceptions of Cartier and Boucheron, most brands failed to meet growing consumer expectations.

As the report stated: "The results of the study suggest that the major reasons for the overall poor performance include an inadequate focus on traceability and pro-poor development issues, insufficient transparency . . . and limited attention to relationships. The reason for this lack of leadership is argued to be the absence of a positive vision for responsible jewellery. Although a decade of effort to reduce conflict and environmental damage from jewellery supply chains has curbed poor practices, it has not yet shaped an aspirational role for jewellery. The focus has been on risk reduction, rather than delivering positive outcomes." The report can be read at: http://tinyurl.com/68yfcfg

...


Zimbabwe: Rampant Abuses in Marange Diamond Fields
Police, Private Security Guards Attacking Miners

Human Rights Watch, August 30, 2011

http://www.hrw.org/africa/zimbabwe

[Excerpts. For testimonies see original at http://www.hrw.org/africa/zimbabwe]

(Johannesburg) - Zimbabwe police and private security guards employed by mining companies in the Marange diamond fields are shooting, beating and unleashing attack dogs on poor, local unlicensed miners.
The evidence gathered by Human Rights Watch contradicts claims that areas controlled by private mining companies, instead of by the Zimbabwe government alone, are relatively free of abuses.

Over the past six months, police and private security personnel have attempted to clear the fields of local miners whom they accuse of illegally mining diamonds. Human Rights Watch research found that in many cases, the police and private security guards used excessive force against the miners. The violence follows claims, in June, by the government and the head of an international industry monitoring body that conditions in the Marange fields are sufficient for it to be allowed to resume exports of diamonds from Marange.

"Shooting defenseless miners and unleashing dogs against them is inhuman, degrading and barbaric," said Tiseke Kasambala, senior Africa researcher at Human Rights Watch. "The diamonds from the Marange fields are tainted with abuse."

Local civil society activists told Human Rights Watch that the government has granted six international mining companies concessions in the Marange fields. The companies' private security guards carry out joint patrols of the mining areas with Zimbabwe police. Local miners said that most of the companies have built electric fences around their mining concessions, while security guards with dogs regularly patrol the concessions. However, local miners are still able to reach the fields and sometimes stray into areas under the companies' control.

Some members of the international diamond monitoring body, known as the Kimberley Process, have tried to argue that conditions in the areas controlled by joint ventures are not abusive, and that those diamonds should be certified and allowed onto international markets. But Human Rights Watch has found, on the contrary, evidence of serious abuse by private security guards patrolling the joint venture territory.

Human Rights Watch researchers interviewed 10 miners in Mutare and towns close to the Marange diamond fields who had been beaten by guards and attacked by their dogs after being caught by mine security in the past six months. During patrols, police would also fire live ammunition at the miners as they fled, the miners said. "I was attacked by all of them," one of the miners told Human Rights Watch. "The dogs were biting me and I was screaming. It was terrible."

Medical personnel who treated the miners at neighboring clinics and the main provincial hospital confirmed that they had treated wounded miners. An official at a local clinic told Human Rights Watch that he had treated between 15 and 20 victims of dog attacks a month since April, many with serious wounds. Clinic officers also reported seeing people with gunshot wounds, including people who had been shot in the head.

Many of the miners were reluctant to report the incidents to the police, miners and local activists said, as they were afraid of being arrested for digging in the fields because they were unlicensed. The government has conducted no investigations into these abuses.
The Ministry of Mines and Development, other relevant Zimbabwe authorities, and the mining industry in Marange need to take immediate measures to stop these abuses and ensure accountability for abuses by members of the police force and the private security guards, Human Rights Watch said. At a minimum, the companies should follow internationally recognized standards on security, such as the Voluntary Principles on Security and Human Rights, investigate any allegations of abuse, and urge investigations of those acts.

Human Rights Watch urged the Kimberley Process Certification Scheme (KP), an international body that oversees the diamond trade, to suspend all exports of diamonds from the Marange fields and asked retailers to refuse explicitly to buy Marange diamonds. The KP has not adequately addressed the abuses in Marange.

"The ongoing abuses at Marange underscore the need for the Kimberley Process to address human rights instead of capitulating to abusive governments and irresponsible companies," Kasambala said.

On June 23, Mathieu Yamba, the KP chairman, announced that he had made a unilateral decision to lift the KP ban on exports of diamonds from the Marange fields. He took the decision even though independent monitoring, including the organization's own investigation, had confirmed serious human rights abuses and rampant smuggling at the Marange fields. This decision, if implemented, would mean that the export of Marange diamonds is now permitted, without any monitoring for human rights abuses or credible evidence that Zimbabwe is complying with the Kimberley Process standards.

However, the Kimberley Process operates by consensus, and members such as the European Union, the United States, Israel and Canada criticized Yamba's position. Others, such as South Africa, supported it. As a result, the organization remains deadlocked over whether to allow exports of diamonds from Marange.

"The Kimberley Process appears to have lost touch with its mission to ensure that blood diamonds don't make their way to consumers," Kasambala said. "By ignoring the serious abuses taking place in Marange, it is losing credibility as a global diamond regulating body and risks misleading consumers too."

Abuses by Police and Security Guards

Human Rights Watch interviewed 10 miners in July, 2011, who were mauled by dogs and beaten by private security guards. They reported that the majority of incidents involved security guards working for Mbada Mining, a South African and Zimbabwean owned joint venture. The guards were identifiable by their black uniform. One miner said: "The Mbada guards are the worst. They don't hesitate to set the dogs upon you and they also beat you up." Human Rights Watch was unable to interview Mbada Mining officials during the mission, because they were not reachable by phone.

In one incident, private security guards working for Mbada set four dogs on a handcuffed artisanal miner caught digging for diamonds close to the fields mined by Mbada. "I was attacked by all of them," said the man, who is in his 20s. "The dogs were biting me and I was screaming. It was terrible."

A clinical officer in the town close to the fields told Human Rights Watch: "We have so many people coming to the clinic with dog attacks. It's easy to tell they've been bitten by dogs. You see the marks. During the week we treat around five or more miners with dog bites. They tell us that private security guards are the ones who set the dogs upon them. They say that it's guards working for Mbada."

Human Rights Watch's research found that in many cases dogs were used not just to restrain the victims, but apparently deliberately to inflict as much injury as possible. One miner told Human Rights Watch that security guards would shout at the dogs to "attack" even if the miners had surrendered or stopped running.

A provincial hospital clinical officer told Human Rights Watch that he had seen at least 15 victims of dog attacks since April. In one case, the victim died from his injuries. Local miners and civil society activists reported that the numbers of dog attack victims could be much higher, but that the majority of the victims chose not to go to the hospital to receive treatment as hospitals often required a police report. Most victims preferred to recover at home without medical treatment, increasing the risk that their wounds would become infected.

Local civil society activists reported that police often carry out joint operations with private security guards in advance of visits to the fields by senior government officials or foreign delegations. For example, police and private security guards carried out operations to clear the fields of diggers in advance of visits to the fields by President Robert Mugabe in March and delegates from the African Diamond Producers Association in April. Some of the worst incidents occurred in the days before these visits.

A clinical officer at the main provincial hospital told Human Rights Watch:
"From March to June we have had many people coming to the hospital with gunshot wounds. They get shot at. Some of them have head injuries, some shot in the legs, arms, shoulders. We have one man who is in a coma. He was shot in the head about three weeks ago. There were four of them who were shot but one of them was serious because of the head injury. He was brought in by the police from Chiadzwa. They didn't explain who he was."
...


AfricaFocus Bulletin is an independent electronic publication providing reposted commentary and analysis on African issues, with a particular focus on U.S. and international policies. AfricaFocus Bulletin is edited by William Minter.

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