Diamonds Are Mugabe’s Best Friend

Linked to “a decade of disappearing wealth,” top Zimbabwean security and political leaders are covertly profiting from Zimbabwean diamond reserves, according to Global Witness. It appears the term “Blood Diamond” is not a phenomenon reserved for Hollywood blockbusters.

The anti-corruption group released a controversial report last week outlining how Zimbabwe’s Central Intelligence Organisation (CIO) holds a secret stake in two diamond production companies – Kunesa and Ajin Diamonds. The allegations further explained how this involvement has resulted in corruption and violent human rights abuses. The report stated that “companies have concealed their finances and shielded their operations from public scrutiny hiding significant stakes in these companies (mining operations) held by federal CIO, the Zimbabwean military and government.”

Diamonds produced by the CIO linked companies were traded in Antwerp (Belgium) and Dubai (UAE). Both posts are two of the world’s leading stone marketplaces and the report claims that they may have inadvertently “funded repression by supporting Zimbabwe’s highly oppressive and partisan military.” The trade raises further issues as the report claims that diamonds were sold in Antewerp on three separate occasions, likely to have violated European Union (EU) collective sanctions on the diamond producing company in Ajin. However, the Antwerp World Diamond Centre denied such claims. The Zimbabwean officials still have not released an official comment.

In a world of globalisation, complex supply chains and online purchases, transparency regarding the origins of goods is critical. The purchaser must be able to clearly draw linkages between their purchases and wider social issues. Ethical choices are more imperative than ever. The Global Witness report is a key tool in ensuring this is possible and holding those supporting and benefiting from conflict diamonds (or other resources) accountable. Especially if they are public bodies. The actions of the Zimbabwean government, assuming the report is correct, are deplorable. The Kimberly Process Certification Scheme established in 2003 was to prevent the trade in blood diamonds by requiring governments to certify shipments of rough diamonds as conflict-free. However, there is nobody under the scheme that holds governments accountable and it is posited that an independent international body is established to do so.

The linkage between diamond production, corruption, human rights abuses and tension conducive to violence are undeniable. This holds true for Zimbabwe. The nations controversial jewels were discovered in 2000.  As reported by Al Jazeera, the army cleared small-scale miners from the area in 2008, which an operation Human Rights Watch claimed killed more than 200 people. The atrocity resulted in an international embargo on Zimbabwean diamonds, however, it was lifted in 2011.

The propensity for the trade of diamonds to cause conflict and violence is well documented, but should not be ignored.  As Global Watch reports, conflict diamonds are diamonds that are being used by groups to fuel conflict and civil wars. In the continent of Africa, civil wars in Angola, the Democratic Republic of  Congo (DRC), Sierra Leone and Liberia have all been attributed to the desire to control the resource. In the DRC the conflict is estimated to have killed up to three million people, according to Global Watch.

Blood diamonds are still an ongoing issue because they are being used by governments and by terrorist groups. For example, it has allowed Al-Qaeda to finance their activities and is being used for money laundering purposes. Moreover,  in rebel-held Cote d’Ivoire diamonds are being mined and smuggled to Mali where they are illegitimately being certified as conflict-free and entering the global market, according to Global Watch. The Kimberly Process was set up to stop the trade in conflict diamonds but it is still not strong enough to achieve its aim.

Megan Fraser