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22 Mar 2019

Bulawayo News24 (Zimbabwe)

United Nations session to consider whether to classify Zimbabwean diamonds as conflict gems

“Zimbabwe diamonds to be classified as conflict gems” 15 March 2019

THE 69th plenary meeting of the United Nations (UN) has resolved to include a discussion on whether Zimbabwean diamonds should be classified as conflict gems during the inter-governmental organisation's 74th general assembly meeting agenda, it emerged this week. The meeting, which brings together heads of state from the UN's 192 member countries, is scheduled to run from September 17-24 this year in New York, United States. The development follows intense lobbying by a grouping of international civil society organisations affiliated to the Kimberly Process Certification Scheme (KPCS) urging the UN to review its definition of conflict diamonds in order to encompass Zimbabwe's gemstones. The move, if it succeeds, will bar Zimbabwe from trading on the formal international market.

The lobbying intensified following an incident in which gunmen in military gear overpowered security staff of the government-owned Zimbabwe Consolidated Diamond Company (ZCDC) in Chiadzwa, Manicaland, and held them hostage before escaping with valuable gemstones at midnight on January 15 this year. This was at the height of the deadly uprisings which saw at least 17 people killed as the army and police savagely clamped down on protests over the rising cost of living. Under KPCS rules governing the international trade in the precious mineral, diamond mines must have tight security.

… Following the rise in the trade of blood diamonds between 2008 and 2009, Zimbabwe was facing a ban from the KPCS, but a meeting in Namibia in October 2009 recommended against the ban. However, international diamond buyers have had to purchase Zimbabwe's gemstones in secrecy and avoid using the United States dollar in order to by-pass sanctions placed on Zimbabwe by the US. Besides Zimbabwe, other countries which are likely to be affected by the development are Angola, Democratic Republic of Congo and Venezuela.