Tags: Migabe | diamond | pact | africa

Mugabe Threatens to Defy Diamond Pact

Wednesday, 17 Feb 2010 11:37 AM

HARARE – Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe on Wednesday threatened to defy the Kimberley Process to sell diamonds from a field where the global regulator accuses the military of forced labour and other abuses.

The Kimberley Process (KP) has given Zimbabwe until June to rectify abuses of civilians by its army at the eastern Marange diamond fields, but Mugabe threatened to sell the diamonds without clearance from the watchdog.

"We are trying to play it their own way, that is following the KP, but we can do it otherwise," Mugabe told reporters in Harare.

"We can sell our own diamonds elsewhere," he said.

The Kimberley Process covers about 99.8 percent of the world's production of rough diamonds, with 49 members representing 75 countries working within the scheme.

Major diamond bourses already refuse to sell diamonds from Marange, and an auction of 300,000 carats in Harare last month was cancelled at the last minute because the sale had not won Kimberley approval. Selling diamonds outside the scheme would essentially mean turning to the black market.

Mines minister Obert Mpofu says Zimbabwe has already met key Kimberley requirements by withdrawing the police and army from Marange. The government says two South African firms now run Marange.

But the British-based watchdog Global Witness, which is a member of the Kimberley Process, said last month that the military still appears to controls large swaths of the diamond field.

The eastern Marange diamond fields cover some 66,000 hectares (163,000 acres), but the gems were only discovered there in 2006.

Global Witness had pushed for a ban on Zimbabwe's international sales over the abuses at Marange, after a Kimberley investigation documented "unacceptable and horrific violence against civilians by authorities," including forced labour, torture and beatings by soldiers against villagers.

Instead, Zimbabwe was given until June to comply with Kimberley's regulations.

The diamond field is also tied up in a separate legal battle in Harare between the government and the British firm African Consolidated Resources, which says it has the license to exploit the gems in Marange.

All foreign firms in Zimbabwe are under pressure after the government last week unveiled regulations that would require locals to take up 51 percent stakes in major businesses.

The controversial law would affect key companies in banking and mining.

Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai, Mugabe's partner in a fragile unity government, has dismissed the regulations as void, saying they were improperly drafted.

Mugabe defended the new rules, saying foreign firms would be "foolish" not to comply.

"Forty nine percent (foreign shareholding), it's a hell lot of equity. It's only foolish ones who will say so, wise ones will take it up. It's foolish and selfish," Mugabe said.

Mugabe's comments underscored tensions within the unity government, but he insisted that he and Tsvangirai were united on the need for western countries to lift sanctions on him and about 100 of his allies.

"We are in agreement," Mugabe told reporters after a tourism conference in Harare. "We are all agreed that the sanctions must go."

EU leaders on Tuesday cited a lack of progress in implementing Zimbabwe's power-sharing agreement, extending travel bans and asset freezes for another 12 months.

Copyright © 2010 AFP. All rights reserved.



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HARARE – Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe on Wednesday threatened to defy the Kimberley Process to sell diamonds from a field where the global regulator accuses the military of forced labour and other abuses.
Migabe,diamond,pact,africa
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2010-37-17
Wednesday, 17 Feb 2010 11:37 AM
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