Posted in News by AGavin on December 6th, 2007
The Republic of the Congo has been readmitted to the Kimberley Process.
The Republic of the Congo, or Congo-Brazzaville, was expelled from the Kimberley Process in 2004 for exporting diamonds from its war-wracked neighbor, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and falsifying certificates of origin.
“Congo-Brazzaville comes back now after a very serious domestic effort to put its house in order and to get its domestic systems to the level required,” said Karel Kovanda, the head of the Kimberly Process secretariat. “It was quite an emotional moment. We’re always happy to have new people” come on board the Kimberley Process.
Congo-Brazzaville’s fate is just the latest example of the enforcement procedure which gets its name from the South Africa city where one of the first meetings was held on stemming the flow of diamonds used by rebel armies or other groups to pay for their conflicts.
Congo-Brazzaville, which gained its independence from France in 1960, saw a series of coups and assassinations from that time on, erupting into a full-scale civil war in 1997 when forces loyal to current President Denis Sassou Nguesso — who also ruled the country from 1979 to 1992 — ousted President Pascal Lissouba with the support of the Angolan army.
The two-year conflict was estimated to have claimed at least 10,000 lives. A peace agreement signed by the Nguesso government with various rebel factions in March 2003 is still viewed as fragile.
Extending beyond the upheaval in Congo-Brazzaville, an even larger war in the immense Democratic Republic of the Congo also raged, killing at least 3 million as a host of rebel armies attempted to profit from the country’s natural resources, along with armed forces from Angola, Namibia, Rwanda, Uganda and Zimbabwe.
The fact that Congo-Brazzaville was exporting far more diamonds than it could have produced was the first warning sign that something was amiss, according to officials with the Kimberly Process.
Diamonds have also served as a driving force in the funding of Sierra Leone’s 1991-2002 civil war, during which the Revolutionary United Front (RUF) committed many atrocities.
Smuggled diamonds from that country also fostered the long-running conflict in Liberia which, under President Charles Taylor, effectively served as the RUF’s patron state. Taylor is currently awaiting trial in The Hague for war crimes and crimes against humanity.
The Kimberly Process aims to ensure that diamonds do not finance any entity seeking to overthrow a government recognized by the United Nations, that all diamond exports be accompanied by a Kimberley Process certificate proving their origin, and that member states don’t act as third-party brokers for nonmember states.
“Countries must have a legal framework in place that uses necessary import and export controls and controls on issuance of certificates,” said Stephane Chardon, chairman of the Kimberly Process working group responsible for re-admitting Congo. “You must be able to trace the diamonds from the mine to the export points.”
For its part the United States’ Clean Diamond Trade Act, which was implemented in 2003, prohibits “the importation into, or exportation from, the United States of any rough diamond, from whatever source, that has not been controlled through the Kimberley Process Certification Scheme.”
The European Union’s position on conflict diamonds, meanwhile, was articulated in a 2001 position paper that affirmed that the EU and its member states “shall support and contribute to the efforts of the international community to break the link between conflict diamonds and the financing of armed conflict.”
Nevertheless, the struggle against conflict diamonds is far from over.
Even though the guns have fallen silent in Cote d’Ivoire’s civil war, for example, the country remains split in half between a southern region controlled by forces loyal to the government of President Laurent Gbagbo and a northern and western one under the sway of the Forces Nouvelles rebel movement.
In October of this year, the United Nations Security Council renewed diamond sanctions against Cote d’Ivoire due to its concerns about the production and illicit export of the precious stones. The U.N. also requested that the Kimberley Process continue to communicate information to the body regarding the issue.
“The process certainly restricts the trade in blood diamonds, but it hasn’t totally eradicated it,” said Ayesha Kajee, a program director with the International Human Rights Exchange at the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg, South Africa. “But, in itself, this case is an indication that the Kimberley process has succeeded to some extent.”
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