Less than a week after the Zimbabwean government announced that the army would be removed from the Marange diamond fields, the army has declared that it will not leave. In a statement, released on state television, the senior commanding officer in Maincaland province stated that the “security forces will remain in place to deal with illegal dealers and panners.” According to the report, the Mines Minster, Obert Mpofu was said to be in complete accord with the security forces decision.
The Zimbabwean army and government have always maintained that the army’s presence in Marange is to provide security in a lawless area and to prevent illegal diamond smuggling. However, both Human Rights Watch and the fact-finding team from the Kimberley Process have accused the military of being involved in illegal diamond mining and of committing human rights abuses against the local population. The government’s continued denial of these allegations is one reason their previous announcement to remove the army was such a surprise.
As I noted before, a likely reason for the earlier announcement might have been a desire to prevent Zimbabwe from being suspended from the Kimberley Process. But with the army’s refusal to comply with the Kimberley team’s recommendations, it is unclear what will happen next. Mugabe and the ZANU-PF remain heavily dependant on the army’s support to maintain their positions, so it seems unlikely that they will take any actions that might turn the military against them. But at the same time, is Zimbabwe willing to risk suspension from the Kimberley Process? It will be an interesting balancing act to watch. Stay tuned.
Photo: Soldiers in the Zimbabwean army, 2002, AP