I am continuously asked about the reality of conflict-free diamonds, the truth is, there is no such thing. Many poor countries have long regarded the Kimberly Process as a plot by Western countries to control the diamond trade — and thereby prices. This could sound its death knell–and help Mugabe keep himself and his party afloat.
The Kimberly Process talks continue to fail and Zimbabwe continues to mirror the developed world’s rape-and-pillage globalization tactics by specializing in human trafficking of children and adults to mine their Marange diamond fields.
Robert Mugabe is being favored once again, to the detriment of his people. The Kimberley Process (KP) is in danger of collapse. Set up in 2003, the system is supposed to end the trade in ‘blood diamonds’ which illicitly finance civil wars. Ever since diamonds were first discovered in Zimbabwe in 2006, reports of killings, torture, corruption, bribery, looting, smuggling and political skulduggery have been rife. The stakes are enormous, the diamond field is described as “the biggest find of alluvial diamonds in the history of mankind.” Potential revenue has been estimated at $1 billion to $2 billion a year. One mining expert involved in the area reckons it is “much, much more.”
Following the announcement of the find by a London-registered company, African Consolidated Resources (ACR), tens of thousands of locals and foreigners rushed to the area to try their luck. Diamonds were being scooped up by the handful. President Robert Mugabe’s ruling Zanu-PF party quickly moved to claim the fields as its own, cancelling ACR’s prospecting rights and sending in the army to oust the panners and local inhabitants and to seal off the area. At least 200 people were killed, many of them by bullets fired from army helicopters. Some evicted civilians were then forced back by soldiers to mine the diamonds for a pittance. In the face of growing reports of human-rights violations, the KP imposed a ban on all further sales of Marange diamonds. But production, mainly by two South African outfits in joint ventures with the Zimbabwean government, continued. By June 2010, 4.6 million carats worth $1.7 billion, had been stockpiled. A month later, following a report by KP’s monitor, Abbey Chikane, a South African, claiming that Zimbabwe was now fully complying with KP rules, permitted two small sales of Marange diamonds.
On June 24, however, at the end of a four-day KP meeting in Congo, the body’s chairman, Mathieu Yamba, announced that the two Zimbabwean-South African joint ventures, Mbada Diamonds and Marange Resources, could resume diamond sales. NGOs, who have continued to monitor the disputed fields, are aghast. They say that human-rights abuses, smuggling and other blatant breaches of KP’s rules are still going on, with most of the proceeds going into the pockets of army leaders and Zanu-PF bigwigs.
Zimbabwe remained a source, transit region, and destination country for men, women, and children subjected to forced labor and sex trafficking this past year, according to the U.S. State Department’s annual ‘Trafficking in Persons Report 2011.’ Zimbabwean men and boys migrate illegally to South Africa, where some are forced to labor for months on farms, in mines, or in construction without pay before their employers report them to authorities for deportation. Women and girls from Zimbabwean towns bordering South Africa and Zambia are subjected to sex trafficking in brothels that cater to long-distance truck drivers. ”Recent reports indicate that young women from rural areas are recruited into forced prostitution through the guise of beauty pageants held in cities. Some victims of forced prostitution are subsequently transported across the border to South Africa where they suffer continued exploitation. Zimbabwean men, women, and children are subjected to forced labor in agriculture and domestic service in rural areas, as well as domestic servitude and sex trafficking in cities and towns. Children are also utilized in the commission of illegal activities, including gambling and drug smuggling.”
Western members of the KP insist that Yamba’s announcement, not having been approved by the required consensus, is invalid. They, together with the World Diamond Council, are asking international diamond traders not to touch Marange diamonds. But they may not be able to stem the flood of illicit gems pouring out of Zimbabwe, to be snapped up in Bahrain, China, India and Lebanon, among others. So how can you avoid conflict diamonds? As clearly illustrated, it’s almost impossible to avoid this plight so you have many options. You can always look to an alternative center stone for your engagement ring, a sapphire, ruby, emerald or perhaps an aquamarine would be a more appropriate alternative? If your heart is still set on a diamond, how about settling for a recycled one? If you want to be sure that your diamond wasn’t mined and sold to support a terrorist organization, how about investing in an old mine-cut, a rose-cut or a European-cut diamond that was both mined and cut a century ago, before we even invented the term ‘terrorism?’ If you are still on the fence, and you have your heart set on a round brilliant-cut diamond, select one from FCI that has already been mounted before, perhaps it started life as an old mine or European-cut diamond that FCI re-cut to remove a century of girdle nicks or abraded surface facets. If you can’t be absolutely certain that your diamond carries a negative energy, at very least, diminish the odds by opting for a recycled ready-mounted FCI diamond.