Zimbabwe gets go-ahead to sell some diamonds

Last Updated 17 July 2010, 08:29 IST

Global Witness and Partnership Africa Canada said in a statement yesterday they welcome the agreement's condition that Zimbabwe make "measurable improvements" in its diamond- mining practises if it wants to sell more than the two batches allowed by Thursday's agreement.

But the rights groups called for more controls in the months ahead. They said the deal averted a crisis over international sales of Zimbabwean diamonds but the "biggest test" of the credibility of the agreement still lay 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.

A last-minute deal at a meeting of the Kimberley Process certification scheme in Russia authorised Zimbabwe to sell two batches of diamonds under strict monitoring and regulation through September 1.

Dunnebacke said violations and disputes over Zimbabwe had battered the integrity of Kimberley certification scheme comprising 75 national, industry and lobby groups.
"Ultimately, the success or otherwise of this agreement will be determined by what the main players do next. We fervently hope that the governments in the Kimberley Process will, for their part, hold Zimbabwe to its commitments," she said.

Nadim Kara, of Partnership Africa Canada, described the agreement as "far from perfect."
"The crisis in Zimbabwe's diamond sector should act as a wake-up call to governments and the diamond industry ... The system needs urgent and far-reaching reform at a time when consumers are demanding action on blood diamonds," Kara said.
Mining experts estimate that Zimbabwe's diamond fields, sealed off by police and troops in the districts of Marange and Chiadzwa near the eastern city of Mutare after a diamond rush began in 2006, are likely the biggest deposits found in Africa since the Kimberley fields were discovered in neighbouring South Africa a century ago.

The mines ministry says it already has about USD 1.7 billion of diamonds in storage ready to be sold. Zimbabwe's total international debt is estimated at around USD5.5billion
The mines ministry, controlled by President Robert Mugabe's party in the coalition with Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai, the former opposition leader, denies wrongdoing and accuses human rights groups of "peddling falsehoods" over rights violations and top level corruption by politicians and police and military chiefs.

(Published 17 July 2010, 08:29 IST)

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