By Laura Hirahara
Impunity Watch, Africa
HARARE, Zimbabwe- The Human Rights Watch (HRW) has released a report citing ‘blood’ diamonds as the main source of funding for President Robert Mugabe’s upcoming 2011 election in Zimbabwe. These blood diamonds, also called conflict diamonds, are being mined from the Marange fields in Zimbabwe, a mining cite that lost it’s Kimberly Process (KP) certification last year after reports of forced labor and other human rights violations reached the Israeli Diamond Exchange, the group that leads the KP. The KP is a watchdog group made up of government, diamond industry and civil officials to end the mining, smuggling and sale of blood diamonds. Despite losing its certification, the Marange fields continues to be mined. Last week, David Vardi, an Israeli Diamond Exchange trader, was stopped at the Ben Gurion Internatiol Airport after flying in from Zimbabwe carrying $140,000 in uncut diamonds. While the KP has not classified the diamonds coming from Murange as blood diamonds, they have put a stop to their export and some fear that President Mugabe’s effort to control the fields will increase the number of blood diamonds on the market.
In addition to the HRW report, the Africa Canada Partnership group reported in June that it had investigated the Marange fields and found that the mining cites were under military control yet none of the proceeds were benefiting Zimbabwe’s government. Because the military reports to the President, many fear Mugabe is using these diamonds to ensure his victory in the next elections. Tom Porteous, UK director of HRW, said “Revenue from the mines is serving to prop up Mugabe and his cronies.” The HRW report cites unnamed soldiers, diggers, local and national parliament leaders and others inside Zimbabwe’s government as the source for this information.
Mugabe’s party, Zanu (PF), has denied the existence of any diamond smuggling. “These are just inventions of the western imperialists who are trying to discredit Zanu (PF)[. . . .] There is no corruption at Marange,” said party spokesman Rugare Gumbo earlier this month in Zimbabwe’s capital, Harare. Despite these assertions by the government, these latest HRW allegations follow years of reports citing torture in the mines as well as military slayings of freelance diamond miners and other human rights violations. The Marange feilds remain under a KP enforced embargo until the international community can agree the diamonds being mined there are conflict free. As reported earlier this week on Impunity Watch, Zimbabwe continues to struggle with its next elections. If Mugabe is using the Murange feilds to fund his campaign for 2011, Porteous believes the diamonds will be used to “[. . .] fund political violence and intimidation of Mugabe’s opponents.”
For more information, please see;
VOA News- Human Rights Watch Says Zimbabwe’s Murange Diamonds Funding Mugabe Party– 29 Dec., 2010
Business Day- Diamonds Funding Mugabe’s Election– 30 Dec., 2010
AFP- Blood Diamond Fears in I. Coast Political Duel– 28 Dec., 2010
AFP- Israeli Trader Barred as ‘Blood Diamonds’ Suspect– 29 Dec., 2010
IW- Zimbabwe Delays Elections– 23 Dec., 2010