By: Eric C. Sigmund
Impunity Watch Reporter, Africa
HARARE, Zimbabwe – The Partnership Africa Canada (PAC), an international organization seeking to prevent human rights violations in Africa, is in an intense struggle against the government of Zimbabwe to stop human rights abuses in the country’s diamond mines. In its June report entitled “Diamonds and Clubs: The Militarised Control of Diamonds and Power in Zimbabwe,” the organization observed that government sponsored smuggling operations have led to numerous human rights violations in a diamond mine in Chiadzwa. In addition to numerous other claims, Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe is being accused of using his military to intimidate, manipulate and murder citizens.
PAC has taken a more direct and hard-line stance against the government after the recent arrest of Farai Maguwu, a rights activist who is currently facing charges of “communicating falsehoods” about the violence at the Chiadzwa diamond fields. Rights groups including Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights are concerned that Mr. Maguwu is being tortured and that the government will keep him incarcerated indefinitely.
In an attempt to stem the violence, international organizations led by PAC are asking the Kimberly Process Certification Scheme to redefine the scope of the term “blood diamonds” to cover those diamonds and gems mined in Chiadzwa. The Kimberly Process is a joint government, industry and civil society initiative designed to stop the flow of conflict diamonds around the world. The Kimberly Process imposes strict requirements on member states and only certifies for trade those gems which are “conflict-free.” Zimbabwe is one of 49 member nations to the Kimberly Process.
PAC claims that the current definition is outdated and too narrow in scope. Representatives noted that the definition “erroneously assumes all governments are legitimate and does not recognize that such governments in whole or part could engage in acts of terror or criminality as egregious as any rebel movement.” PAC further noted that the Kimberly Process has lost credibility on the world stage and fears continued inaction against the government of Zimbabwe. PAC is also pushing the United Nations to emplace an embargo and all Zimbabwean diamonds until the government can properly control the mining and trade of its diamonds. This seems unlikely however, as a similar attempt to inhibit the trade of Zimbabwean diamonds was rejected last year by China, Russia and South Africa.
The government however, contends that it is being treated unfairly. Government officials have protested that Zimbabwe’s inability to get trade certification has slowed economic growth and has taken power away from the government. In fact, the government’s Mines and Mining Development Minister Obert Mpofu argued that the PAC is simply trying to “demonise their country” and is working against the people of Zimbabwe. Minister Mpofu concluded that the government of Zimbabwe would handle the situation independently and legally.
The United States has also come out against the rights violations however; Secretary of State Hillary Clinton noted that the U.S. is “trying to walk a fine line between supporting the people and keeping the pressure on the Mugabe leadership.” President Obama recently renewed “targeted sanctions” against 220 officials and agencies associated with the Mugabe regime. According to Clinton, the United States recognizes that Zimbabwe’s ruling elite is corrupt and are profiting from the country’s diamond exports at the expense of the poor.
An official review will take place next week in Tel Aviv however the Kimberly Process monitor to Zimbabwe has already recommended that the nation be allowed to sell diamonds mined from Chiadzwa.
For more information, please see:
The Herald (Harare) – Government Mines Prompts ‘Blood Diamond’ Review – 16 June, 2010
SW Radio Africa – No Agreement From KP Monitoring Group on Diamonds – 16 June, 2010
BBC Monitoring Africa – Clinton Says U.S. Renewed Sanctions Imposed Against Zimbabwe to ‘Pressure’ Mugabe – 15 June, 2010
BBC Monitoring Africa – South African Based group Concerned About Possible Torture of Zimbabwean NGO Chief – 15 June, 2010
Global Witness – Mugabe Elite Grab Diamonds, Says NGO – 14 June, 2010
SW Radio Africa – Report Says Diamonds Sustain Mugabe Regime – 14 June, 2010