Writing in yesterday’s New York Times, Celia Dugger provides important details from the findings of the Kimberley Process team’s recent visit to Zimbabwe’s diamond fields. Located in the eastern province of Marange, the fields have been the subject of recent scrutiny in the wake of a damning report from Human Rights Watch narrating abuses that took place in the fields currently controlled by the Zimbabwean army. According to HRW, officials from within Robert Mugabe’s ZANU-PF party have been directly benefiting from diamond mining and trading, which if undertaken legally could provide revenue to a country that is currently telling the world that some $10 billion in direct aid is necessary for the government to function.
A confidential memo obtained by Dugger about the team’s findings substantiates claims of violence and places Zimbabwe in jeopardy of suspension from the Kimberley Process scheme. In a telling quote, A. Kpandal Fayia, the Liberian mining official leading the delegation writes about his reaction to the “horrific violence against civilians” the team determined had taken place:
I am from Liberia, sir; I was in Liberia throughout the 15 years of civil war, and I have experienced too much senseless violence in my lifetime, especially connected to diamonds…The has to be acknowledged and this has to stop.
The memo sheds light on the Zimbabwean government’s seemingly abrupt move over the weekend to announce the removal of the army from the Marange mines. Powerful people in Zimbabwe stand to lose a lot of money if Zimbabwe is booted from the Kimberley Process, which, given the tone of the memo is a distinct possibility. Therefore, it’s logical that they would move to save face. And, as Katherine Carson noted last week, the announcement left open the timetable for withdrawal, leading anyone with any knowledge of previous ZANU-PF antics to strongly question whether the pull-out will occur at all.
Katherine Carson contributed to this post.