“’A diamond is forever’ claims the marketing – and yes, this precious stone has come to signify eternal, sparkling romance,” says Redi at the start of the show, which is broadcast from Johannesburg, South Africa. “But diamonds also have a very dark side – as a commodity that warlords and dictators exchange for weapons fuelling civil wars and resulting in human rights abuses. So to what extent is today’s mainstream diamond industry free of ‘conflict diamonds’ and, if you happen to have a diamond glittering on your finger, might it have a blood-stained past?” (Watch The Video after the summary)
Al Jazeera’s talk show South2North, author and media personality Redi Tlhabi discusses conflict diamonds in Africa with journalist Rafael Marques de Morais, author of Blood Diamonds: Torture and Corruption in Angola; Dr Oladiran Bello, a specialist in African resource management at the South African Institute of International Relations; and Farai Maguwu, director of the Center for Applied Research in Zimbabwe.
Rafael explains that the definition of conflict diamonds under The Kimberley Process is too narrow. Oladiran agrees. “This is the question The Kimberley Process needs to address going forward. It’s fairly clear to everyone that it’s not just rebels who are capable of handling conflict gems as it were… Across Africa you’ve seen situations where governments are culpable in massive violations of human rights in areas where diamonds are produced.”
Rafael has investigated how the diamond industry became more violent after the civil war in Angola, as those in power used war tactics to ensure that the revenue from the diamond industry remained in their pockets. He believes The Kimberley Process is a cover used by governments to hide corruption in the diamond trade.
“The process of buying diamonds was centralised in such a way and legitimised by The Kimberley Process and The United Nations, that the president’s daughter took 25% of that business enterprise, and that’s what’s wrong with the diamond industry in Angola,” says Rafael.
Oladiran says conflict diamonds are not a uniquely African problem. “The African context is the one that’s often talked about,” he says, pointing to the world’s awareness of Sierra Leone, Liberia and The Democratic Republic of Congo in particular. “But make no mistake, it is not a uniquely African problem. We’ve seen situations like Venezuela, a country that has for a long time freely absented itself from the Kimberley Certification Process. There are still questions being asked today about where diamonds mined in Venezuela go.”
Redi asks Farai why one of the founding partners of The Kimberley Process, Global Witness, withdrew its support after diamonds from Zimbabwe were declared “conflict free.”
“When The Kimberley Process declared Zimbabwe’s diamonds as ‘conflict-free,’ it appeared there were a lot of issues that were ignored that civil society is passionate about, especially the issues of human rights. I acknowledge that we now have very limited cases of human rights violations in Zimbabwe compared to the past, but what was angering civil society is assertion by The Kimberley Process that human rights are not even a Kimberley Process issue.”
The group discusses how the diamond industry needs to be regulated moving forward, what the responsibility of consumers is, and how African countries can move to utilise these valuable natural resources.
Watch South2North : The dark side of diamonds below
Catch up on last week’s episode, where Redi chatted about Africa with Mary Robinson and Nobel Prize winners Jimmy Carter and Martti Ahtisaar