EU fights Zim diamond trade green light

The European Union (EU) has reportedly called for an urgent meeting to force the Kimberley Process (KP) certification scheme to reverse its recent decision allowing Zimbabwe to resume diamond exports.

Last month, KP chairperson Mathieu Yamba of the Democratic Republic of Congo gave Zimbabwe the green light to export its rough gems from Chiadzwa diamond fields.

However, the decision immediately sparked heated debate after it emerged Yamba had not consulted other key stakeholders.

Last week, Lord Howell Britain’s Minister of State in the Foreign and Commonwealth Office claimed Yamba’s authorisation was invalid because this was outside the mandate of the chairperson and contrary to the core KP principle of consensual decision-making.

He said: “The EU also expressed concerns about the uncertainty it creates for KP participants, the diamond industry and consumers, and urged the chair to clarify the situation as a matter of urgency.

To this end the EU has also contacted the chairs of the other KP working groups and is taking steps to organise an emergency meeting of the working group on monitoring to discuss the issue as a matter of urgency.”

But Yamba has vowed he would not reverse his decision until KP’s next formal meeting.

Zimbabwe’s diamonds have been at the centre of controversy for three years now with African partners accusing their Western counterparts of applying unorthodox means to keep out other players from the lucrative diamond trading business.

The government recently said it had received applications from about 150 companies that wanted to exploit diamonds.

Though Zimbabwe’s Mines and Mining Development minister Obert Mpofu could not be reached for comment, he is on record as saying the protests were politically-motivated.

Mpofu recently told NewsDay: “It is clear that they are no longer pursuing a KP agenda but a political one. We have always suspected that. We have fully complied with the KP requirements and they have now run out of excuses to stop us from selling our diamonds. They are now resorting to flimsy reasons to try and frustrate us.

“We are going to abide by the KP decision. When Israel was chairing, it used to pass decisions, but when an African country is now chairing they do not want it to do the same. It shows they do not respect African countries,” Mpofu said.

The move to certify the diamonds from Chiadzwa has met strong resistance from the diamond industry and several bodies involved in the industry have written to their members urging them not to buy them.

Those who do will be named and shamed on government websites usually reserved for sanctions busters.

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