Zimbabwe gets go-ahead to sell diamonds again

Human rights groups yesterday reacted warily to Zimbabwe being given the green light to resume the sale of diamonds from its Marange fields, where soldiers and policeman deployed by President Robert Mugabe have been accused of committing atrocities.

The Zimbabwean government says it holds a stockpile of over 4 million carats from the controversial fields. Valued at an estimated $1.7bn, the diamonds are worth almost as much as Zimbabwe's 2010 budget and could potentially help a country struggling to boost its economy.

The Kimberley Process – the global body set up to shut down the trade of gems that fund conflict, otherwise known as "blood diamonds" – suspended exports in November.

A last-minute deal was reached late on Thursday after marathon talks at a meeting of the watchdog in Russia. Zimbabwe is allowed to sell two batches of Marange gems on the international markets between now and September. Experts will then visit the country and review its progress, potentially paving the way for a full resumption of exports.

Earlier this week, an irate President Mugabe had threatened to sell the gems without the watchdog's seal of approval, and while activists welcomed the fact that a compromise had been formulated and a crisis averted, they warned of more pitfalls ahead.

"The ball is now in Zimbabwe's court to make good on its promises and act to end one of the most egregious cases of diamond-related violence for many years," said Annie Dunnebacke of Global Witness, the pressure group that investigates the exploitation of natural resources.

Zimbabwean security forces are accused of killing hundreds of the 30,000-plus illegal diggers who descended on the fields outside the eastern town of Mutare during the diamond rush that began in 2006. Rights groups say soldiers in Marange are still engaging in forced labour, torture and harassment.

The Marange fields – believed to be the biggest source of diamonds found in Africa since the Kimberley fields in South Africa a century ago – have been a major bone of contention between President Mugabe and his partners in the unity government.

The Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) supports the resumption of diamond sales but wants to ensure proceeds land in state coffers so they can be used to reduce poverty levels. Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai, the former opposition leader, has repeatedly accused President Mugabe of making decisions on the diamond fields without consulting him since the formation of the unity government in February 2009.

His MDC ally, finance minister Tendai Biti, disclosed in Parliament this week that at least $30m from illegal sales of diamonds (mostly to Dubai) which dated from when the army mined the fields, remained unaccounted for. Mr Biti proposed a new Diamonds Mining Act this week to properly manage future proceeds.

Under the power-sharing agreement, it is Mr Mugabe's Zanu-PF party that controls the mines ministry, and his army that provides security for the diamond fields. With such control has come allegations, denied by the 86-year-old, that he is using the gems to line his pockets and those of his cronies.

Carroll Bogert, the associate director of Human Rights Watch said the September review by the Kimberley Process will be a bonus. "If this review mission does its job with the same vigour as the previous one," she told The New York Times, "some of the truths about Zimbabwe diamond mining are going to be exposed. That's a positive."

Suggested Topics
Voices
On the last day of campaigning before the polling booths open, the SNP leader has written to voters in a final attempt to convince them to vote for independence
scotland decidesIs a huge gamble on oil keeping the First Minister up at night?
Arts and Entertainment
Rosalind Buckland, the inspiration for Cider with Rosie died this week
booksBut what is it like to be the person who inspires a classic work of art?
Life and Style
techApple has just launched its latest mobile operating software – so what should you do first?
News
A male driver reverses his Vauxhall Astra from a tow truck
newsThe 'extremely dangerous' attempt to avoid being impounded has been heavily criticised
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Arts and Entertainment
Lionel Messi in action for Barcelona
filmSo what makes the little man tick?
Arts and Entertainment
tvReview: An undercooked end (spoiler alert)
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Pharrell dismissed the controversy surrounding
musicThe singer said 'the last thing I want to do is degrade'
Sport
Cesc Fabregas celebrates his first Chelsea goal
footballChelsea vs Schalke match report
Arts and Entertainment
Toby Jones (left) and Mackenzie Crook in BBC4’s new comedy The Detectorists
tvMackenzie Crook's 'Detectorists' makes the hobby look 'dysfunctional', they say
Life and Style
fashion

Olympic diver has made his modelling debut for Adidas

News
i100
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Maths Teacher

£110 - £200 per day: Randstad Education Leeds: Secondary Maths Teacher for spe...

Maths Teacher

£90 - £160 per day: Randstad Education Leeds: Secondary Science Teacher (mater...

Maths Teacher

£110 - £200 per day: Randstad Education Leeds: Secondary Maths Teacher for an ...

Maths Teacher

£22000 - £37000 per annum: Randstad Education Leeds: A West Yorkshire School i...

Day In a Page

Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam
'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

Exclusive extract from Janis Winehouse's poignant new memoir
Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

The Imitation Game, film review
England and Roy Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption in Basel

England and Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption

Welbeck double puts England on the road to Euro 2016
Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Pictures removed from public view as courts decide ownership
‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

Donatella Versace at New York Fashion Week