Category Archives: Angola

The Darkness of Blood Diamonds Fueling Civil Wars

Violence Diamonds are supposed to be symbols of love, commitment, and joyful new beginnings. But for many people in diamond-rich countries, these sparkling stones are more a curse than a blessing. Too often, the world’s diamond mines produce not only diamonds – but also civil wars, violence, human rights abuses, worker exploitation, environmental degradation, and unspeakable human suffering. Not long ago, the public started to become aware that large numbers of diamonds are mined in violent and inhumane settings. Consumers are now demanding, with ever greater urgency, that their diamonds be free from bloodshed and human rights abuses. So far, however, the diamond industry’s response has been woefully inadequate. Diamonds with violent histories are still being mined and allowed to enter the diamond supply, where they become indistinguishable from other gems. Violence, human rights abuses, and other injustices remain an everyday aspect of diamond mining. Fueling Civil Wars In just the past two decades, seven African countries have endured brutal civil conflicts fueled by diamonds: Sierra Leone, Liberia, Angola, the Republic of Congo, Côte d’Ivoire, the Central African Republic, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). Diamonds intensify civil wars by financing militaries and rebel militias. These groups also fight with each other to control diamond-rich territory. The tragic result is bloodshed, loss of life, and shocking human rights abuses – from rape to the use of child soldiers. Diamonds that fuel civil wars are often called “blood” or “conflict” diamonds. Although many diamond-fueled wars have now ended, conflict diamonds remain a serious problem. Civil conflicts in Côte d’Ivoire, the Central African Republic, and the DRC continue to this day. So far, the war in the DRC alone has cost more than 5 million lives. In addition, millions of people are dealing with the long-term consequences of these wars: friends and family members lost, lives shattered, and physical and emotional scars that will last generations. Human Rights Abuses Diamond mining is plagued by shocking violence and human rights abuses. Killings, beatings, rape, torture, child labor, forced labor, and other abuses all too frequently take place in connection with diamond mining. Often, these abuses happen in the midst of civil wars. But human rights violations are also a regular part of diamond mining in countries that are not officially at war. At Brilliant Earth, we believe it is important to break the link between diamonds and all forms of violence. The diamond industry’s attempt to stop violence tied to diamond mining resulted in the establishment of the Kimberley Process, an international diamond certification scheme, in 2003. Unfortunately, the Kimberley Process only places a ban on diamonds that finance rebel movements in war-torn countries. When diamond miners are killed, tortured, raped, or beaten by their own governments – or when children are forced to mine for diamonds – the Kimberley Process does not take action. Instead, it certifies these diamonds as “conflict free” and allows them to be shipped to consumers around the world. Zimbabwe Despite killings, torture, and other outrageous human rights violations in Zimbabwe’s diamond mining operations, the Kimberley Process certifies Zimbabwean diamonds for export and allows them to be sold in jewelry stores worldwide. Human rights abuses in Zimbabwe starkly illustrate how the Kimberley Process is failing to stop the bloodshed that so often accompanies diamond mining. The trigger for these abuses was the discovery of a massive diamond deposit in 2006. The Marange diamond fields in eastern Zimbabwe potentially could produce $2 billion in rough diamonds per year – or over 10% of the global diamond supply. In 2008, the Zimbabwean army decided to seize the Marange diamond fields for itself. In a violent takeover, the army massacred more than 200 local diamond miners, at times shooting live ammunition from helicopters. Since then, the army has forced local adults and children to mine for diamonds on its behalf. Soldiers punish diamond miners who disobey with indiscriminate violence, including killings, beatings, rape, and torture. Profits from this shocking system of mining diamonds are being used to enrich military leaders and help keep President Robert Mugabe, a brutal dictator, in power. In mid 2009, the Kimberley Process finally ordered a review mission to Zimbabwe. The investigation confirmed that Zimbabwe was guilty of serious human rights violations. In response, the Kimberley Process temporarily banned Marange diamond exports. However, the Kimberley Process has since allowed exports to resume. Meanwhile, the army continues to force people to mine for diamonds and even run torture camps for uncooperative diamond miners. Côte d’Ivoire Diamonds are prolonging a bitter civil war in Côte d’Ivoire, also known as the Ivory Coast. Since 2004, the war has been mostly at a stalemate, with the north controlled by rebels and the south by government forces. To prevent diamonds from funding the conflict, the Kimberley Process and the United Nations placed a ban on the export of Côte d’Ivoire diamonds in 2005. Rebels, however, have not abided by the ban. The Kimberley Process has been urged to tighten controls, but has done very little. Every year, rebels smuggle about $20 million worth of diamonds into neighboring countries. Rebels exchange these diamonds for weapons and other supplies. Diamond mining is thus helping to strengthen the rebels and extend the conflict. In 2010, a disputed presidential election led to a constitutional crisis. Rebel soldiers swept southward in support of Alassane Ouattara, their preferred candidate and the rightful election winner. In the five months of fighting that followed, at least 3,000 people were killed and atrocities were committed by both government and rebel forces. These atrocities are still being investigated, but diamond-funded weapons likely contributed to the bloodshed. Angola A decade after the end of a brutal diamond-funded civil war, Angola is now a member of the Kimberley Process and the world’s fifth largest diamond exporter. But a flourishing diamond trade has not made Angola a more responsible diamond producer. Angola’s diamond fields are once again the scene of horrific violence. In recent years, diamond miners from the neighboring Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) have been streaming into northeast Angola to mine for diamonds. Most miners cross the border illegally and do not have legal permission to mine. Angolan soldiers, as well as private security guards for mining corporations, have been brutally cracking down on these foreign miners. Thousands of miners and their families have been beaten, tortured, sexually abused, and even killed. Soldiers routinely demand bribes, beating and killing those miners who do not cooperate. In 2009, the Angolan army launched an operation that, over a seven month period, led to the violent expulsion of 115,000 Congolese miners. In 2011, a United Nations monitor documented 21,000 cases of serious human rights violations – including rape, beatings and torture – among miners who recently had been expelled. The monitor also found evidence that Angolan soldiers are systematically raping Congolese women and girls. Central African Republic A toxic mixture of diamonds, corruption, and ethnic tensions is tearing the Central African Republic apart. This small country in the middle of Africa now has two rebel groups using diamonds to finance their insurgent activities. Rebel groups have been violently seizing control of diamond mines and even fighting with each other to control diamond mining territory. In 2011, diamond-fueled violence flared up near the diamond mining town of Bria, in the eastern part of the country. Clashes between rebels led to the deaths of at least 50 people. It is now clear that diamonds from the Central African Republic are contributing to chronic instability. Nevertheless, the Kimberley Process continues to certify diamonds from the Central African Republic as conflict free. Democratic Republic of Congo Of all the conflicts in the world today, the war in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) is the deadliest by far. Since the late 1990s, rebel armies have been exploiting the country’s gem and mineral resources and funneling the profits toward insurgent activities. To date, more than 5 million people have died as a result of the war. Many more people have been raped, terrorized, and uprooted from their homes. Diamonds helped start this conflict, and they continue to fuel the violence. Partnership Africa Canada, a leading human rights organization, has documented how rebel soldiers are exploiting diamond-rich areas in eastern Congo. These diamonds are sustaining a civil war that, well into its second decade, is still tearing lives apart. Army abuses Zimbabweans to control diamond fields-HRW * Police and army use brutal force, rights group says * HRW says income funnelled to Mugabe party officials * Minister says reports of killings false By Tiisetso Motsoeneng JOHANNESBURG, June 26 (Reuters) – Zimbabwean police and army are using brutal methods to control diamond fields, forcing children and adults to work and beating local villagers, Human Rights Watch (HRW) said on Friday. In a report on Zimbabwe’s Marange diamond fields, it said the military, which remains under the control of President Robert Mugabe’s ZANU-PF under a power-sharing deal, killed more than 200 people in a takeover of the fields in late 2008. “The police and army have turned this peaceful area into a nightmare of lawlessness and horrific violence,” said Georgette Gagnon, Africa director at Human Rights Watch. “Zimbabwe’s new government should get the army out of the fields, put a stop to the abuse, and prosecute those responsible.” Mugabe’s unity government with Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai is under pressure to create a democracy and improve Zimbabwe’s human rights record to get billions of dollars from Western donors demanding political and economic reforms. The new administration says it needs $10 billion to rebuild a shattered economy and win the confidence of millions of Zimbabweans who have faced years of bare hospitals, potholed streets and staggering unemployment. But foreign investors and donors are likely to remain cautious for months, if not years, piling pressure on old foes Mugabe and Tsvangirai to work together and enact reforms, including greater government transparency. “Some income from the fields has been funnelled to high-level party members of ZANU-PF, which is now part of a power-sharing government that urgently needs revenue as the country faces a dire economic crisis,” the report said. Zimbabwe’s Deputy Mines and Mining Development Minister Murisi Zwizwai told a business seminar that reports of killings in Marange were false and “contrary to allegations, nobody was killed by security”. Industry experts say legal diamond output and sales account for less than 10 percent of Zimbabwe’s mining earnings, but have potential to join gold and platinum among country’s big earners if the government clamps down on smuggling. Foreign investors are looking anew at mining opportunities mineral-producing Zimbabwe, especially deposits of platinum, gold and diamonds. While some have ventured back, others are waiting for the legal framework to be strengthened. Human Rights Watch said it based its findings on more than 100 one-on-one interviews with witnesses, local miners, police officers, soldiers, local community leaders, victims and relatives, medical staff, human rights lawyers, and activists in Harare, Mutare, and Marange district in eastern Zimbabwe. “Those interviewed said that police officers, who were deployed in the fields from November 2006 to October 2008 to end illicit diamond smuggling, were in fact responsible for serious abuses — killings, torture, beatings, and harassment — often by so-called ‘reaction teams’, which drove out illegal miners,” it said. (Writing by Michael Georgy) REUTERS Blood Diamonds From Zimbabwe Human rights observers agree: diamonds from Zimbabwe are blood diamonds. Zimbabwean diamonds are tainted by human rights violations including torture, forced labor, child labor, sexual violence, and murder. They are also helping to keep a brutal dictator in power. Unfortunately, the discovery of a massive diamond deposit is about to make Zimbabwe the world’s leading diamond producer. Unless something is done, blood diamonds from Zimbabwe will soon flood the market. Sadly, the Kimberley Process (KP), the international diamond certification scheme created to halt the blood diamond trade, has failed to put a stop to Zimbabwe’s horrendous mining practices. The KP certifies Zimbabwean diamonds as “conflict free,” allowing human rights abuses to continue and giving its stamp of approval to torture, rape, and murder. As a result, consumers are at a greater risk than ever of buying a blood diamond. 1. Diamond fields in Zimbabwe could be the most valuable ever discovered. In 2006, villagers in the Marange district of eastern Zimbabwe discovered a massive diamond deposit. By some estimates, the Marange diamond fields could produce as much as 40 million carats a year—worth about $2 billion, or over 10% of the global diamond supply. The total value of Marange gems may be as high as $800 billion, making the Marange diamond fields the richest ever found. If predictions are correct, Zimbabwe will become the world’s leading diamond exporter within a few years. Zimbabwe’s astonishing diamond resources could help lift millions of people out of poverty and transform Zimbabwe’s economy. But in Zimbabwe’s case, such vast diamond wealth has led to human misery on an equally grand scale. 2. Zimbabwe’s diamonds are linked to grave human rights abuses including torture, forced labor, sexual violence, and murder. In 2008, the Zimbabwean army seized control of the Marange diamond fields, at times shooting live ammunition from helicopters. More than 200 local miners were massacred. After the takeover, the army began running mining operations itself. Local residents, including children, were forced to mine for diamonds in slave-like conditions. Killings, beatings, torture, and sexual violence were used by the army to keep local residents working and maintain a climate of fear. Despite widespread international attention, little has changed. The military has not withdrawn from the Marange diamond fields. Serious human rights abuses continue, including forced labor, torture, beatings, and harassment. In October 2011, the BBC confirmed that the Zimbabwean military runs secret camps where diamond miners who fail to hand over their earnings are tortured, beaten, and raped. 3. Zimbabwean diamonds are helping to sustain a brutal dictator. Top military officials and political allies of President Robert Mugabe, Zimbabwe’s despotic leader, are smuggling Marange diamonds out of the country and keeping the profits for themselves. Mugabe is depending on diamond revenues to fill the coffers of his political party, ZANU-PF, as national elections near. In power since 1980, Mugabe has used his office to torture, harass, and kill his political opponents. His wrongheaded policies have led to mass impoverishment, the outbreak of epidemics, and the death of thousands of people. In 2010, the United Nations rated Zimbabwe last on its index of human development. Mugabe is considered a target for prosecution for crimes against humanity before the International Criminal Court. 4. The Kimberley Process certifies blood diamonds from Zimbabwe as “conflict free.” In November 2009, the KP placed a temporary ban on the export of Marange diamonds. Zimbabwe was asked to withdraw its army from the Marange diamond fields, end human rights abuses, and curb smuggling. Zimbabwe clearly has not complied with KP demands. To add further insult, in June 2010, Zimbabwean police raided the offices of an organization working directly with the KP to document human rights abuses in the Marange diamond fields. Farai Maguwu, the organization’s director, was arrested and jailed. He was later released, but only after his designation as a “prisoner of conscience” by Amnesty International. Despite Zimbabwe’s complete lack of compliance, the KP has bowed to political pressure. In November 2011, it lifted the ban on Marange diamonds. Zimbabwe is now permitted to export these blood diamonds with “conflict free” certification. As diamond industry veteran Martin Rapaport notes, “Instead of eliminating blood diamonds, the KP has become a process for the systematic legalization and legitimization of blood diamonds.” 5. Zimbabwean diamonds are about to flood jewelers’ inventories. The KP’s decision in 2011 opens the floodgates to blood diamonds from Zimbabwe. Since 2006, Zimbabwe has stockpiled an estimated $1.7 billion in Marange diamonds. These diamonds are now being released into the international diamond supply. In future years, as production ramps up, more blood diamonds worth billions of dollars will be entering the diamond supply chain. Safeguards to prevent U.S. consumers from purchasing blood diamonds remain inadequate. A study of jewelry retailers found that 56% of jewelers do not even have an auditing procedure in place to prevent the retail of conflict diamonds. Those jewelers claiming to sell “conflict free” diamonds almost always rely on the faulty KP certification. In fact, KP certification provides no protection against the purchase of a blood diamond from Zimbabwe. Financial Overhaul Bill Takes Aim at Dirty Gold The financial regulatory bill signed into law by President Obama last month primarily aims to overhaul the guidelines that govern Wall Street. While we will leave it to the political pundits and the economists to provide commentary on the bill’s implications for the U.S. financial system, we would like to highlight a little-noted provision in the bill that affects the market for luxury jewelry. Hidden away in a section entitled “Miscellaneous Provisions” is a measure requiring large, publicly-traded companies to report to the federal government whether certain “conflict minerals” in their products come from the Democratic Republic of Congo or the surrounding region. Since 1998, a civil war in Congo has claimed more than 5 million lives, making it one of the deadliest wars in history. As we wrote in our blog last December, the conflict has been fueled, in large part, by contestation over mineral resources. The goal of the provision is to create a degree of transparency and accountability surrounding minerals in these regions. The provision in the financial bill targets several minerals—including tin, tantalum, tungsten, and gold—that are mined in Congo and that have been contributing to the bloodshed. Many of these minerals are typical components of products such as laptops and cell phones. Gold, of course, is a major component of jewelry. However, most major jewelry retailers in the United States are presently unable to say with any certainty whether the gold in their jewelry comes from Congo. We attribute this untenable situation to indifference and lack of initiative, as well as to the difficulties inherent in tracing a fungible metal like gold back to the source. At Brilliant Earth, we use only recycled gold and fair trade gold in our jewelry, allowing us to be certain that none of our gold originates in Congo and that it meets the highest of ethical standards. We, at Brilliant Earth, hope this bill will use government leverage to speed up the process of creating a more transparent and accountable gold supply chain. Although the bill does not ban the sale of gold from Congo, it should give consumers and jewelry retailers the information they need to avoid buying and selling such gold. Potentially just as important, the bill may spur reforms that will make all gold, not just gold from Congo, more easily traceable. In many places, although gold is not contributing to civil wars, it is not being mined in a way that is ethical or environmentally responsible. Jewelry buyers deserve to know where their gold comes from and the conditions under which it is mined so that they can make informed decisions. The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) has until April 17, 2011 to promulgate regulations that will clarify the meaning of the bill’s measures against Congo gold. Much of the effectiveness of the law will depend on the regulations that the SEC adopts. As the law is implemented, Brilliant Earth will continue to fight for increased transparency in the gold supply chain and to support efforts to develop responsible sources of gold. READ MORE AT:http://www.brilliantearth.com/confict-diamond-trade/


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