Marange diamonds: Global Witness crying more than the bereaved?

Mathew Nyaungwa

Belgium irked the hell out of Global Witness, a world monitoring group on conflict diamonds, when it said last week that the European Union (EU) should lift sanctions imposed on the Zimbabwe Mining Development Corporation (ZMDC), which mines diamonds in Marange.
European Union foreign ministers are scheduled to meet today to review the bloc’s economic restrictions on Zimbabwe after years of alleged human rights violations, political and economic turmoil.

Belgium, home to the world’s largest diamond trading hub, Antwerp, said that the situation in Marange had changed and sanctions on ZMDC were no longer justified, Reuters reported.

The country’s Foreign Ministry also said that the Kimberley Process had certified Marange gems as compliant.

Experience has shown that, in this particular case, sanctions are counter-productive by diverting diamonds to less transparent markets,” it said in a statement.

However, the Global Witness was peeved by the suggestion.

Releasing its statement on Valentine Day, the group warned against what it called “a love triangle” between Belgium, its diamond dealers and Zimbabwe.

European Union members seeking to promote democracy and stability in Zimbabwe should avoid a menage-a-trois with Belgium and its diamond dealers this Valentine’s Day,” it said.

Global Witness said any easing of curbs on Zimbabwe’s diamond industry would likely mean more cash for Mugabe’s loyalist police and military just months before 2013 elections.

The European Union should hold a steady course and restrict trade with diamond mining operations in Marange until free and fair elections have taken place,” it said.

It was rather convenient for them to make such hypothetical conclusions which were in no way supported by empirical evidence, given the seriousness of their claims.

We never heard from Mugabe’s opponents saying the EU should not lift the sanctions.

So why is the Global Witness crying more than the bereaved?

Perceived victims of Mugabe’s violence are stone silent over the issue.

Reuters quoted unnamed EU diplomats as saying that other EU countries wanted a consideration of lifting sanctions on ZMDC to wait until after elections expected in the country next June or July.

Global diamond industry leaders said last November during a conference in Zimbabwe’s Victoria Falls that sanctions on diamond mining companies were counterproductive as they encouraged the very same purpose they were intended for.

They said that if the sanctions were lifted then Zimbabwe’s justification to conceal its diamond trade activities in fear of reprisals would fall away.

The World Diamond Council (WDC) also said then that it would engage the United States Treasury and the European Union to lift sanctions imposed on diamond companies operating in Marange.

WDC president Eli Izhakoff said there was consensus that the diamond industry wanted sanctions on Marange gems go as the country had satisfied all the requirements needed to trade the precious stones.

Although, it was highly unlikely that the EU would heed to Belgium’s request, the question that begs for an answer was: Is the Global Witness on the wrong side of history?

It continues calling for the world to ostracize Zimbabwe’s diamonds at a time the industry leaders and consumers are saying let the sanctions be lifted.

There is no doubt that sanctions on diamond mining companies operating in Marange are promoting mid-night trading at the expense, which is somewhat difficult to account for.

Global Witness should end its obsession with Marange diamonds and campaign for accountability, not exclusion of the gems.

It’s high time the world focused on seeing a Zimbabwean government that is open with its diamond operations and revenue not one that camouflages everything in fear of sanctions.

Source Rough and Polished