Zimbabwe Friday hailed the collapse of US efforts to link world diamond trade to human rights, and widen the criteria for marketing the gems.
Strict global diamond marketing rules were introduced several years ago after rebel groups in Africa waged fierce wars against their governments, deriving funding from gems.
This was particularly the case in Angola, DR Congo, Sierra Leone and Liberia which suffered wars that claimed millions of lives.
As a result, the Kimberley Process Certification Scheme (KPCS) – a watchdog group – was formed to ensure conflict diamonds were kept out of the market.
But in recent years, the US had been pushing for the criteria to be widened to include human rights.
The issue topped the agenda of a KPCS meeting in Washington, DC, this week, where African producers rallied behind Zimbabwe in rejecting the US attempt to link diamond trade to human rights.
Washington has slapped bilateral sanctions on Zimbabwe’s diamonds, accusing the country of gross human rights violations, a charge Harare denies.
Zimbabwe’s Mines Minister Obert Mpofu said producers had rejected the US push for the inclusion of human rights in diamond trade because they realised this was a political ploy to control them.
“In the Kimberley Process, we must fight to stop politics from finding expression in the core business of the organisation, which is eliminating trade in blood diamonds,” he said. “The debate on KPCS reform must take the KPCS forward and not reverse the gains and achievements of the organisation which have seen trade in conflict diamonds reducing to below one percent.”
Attorney General Johannes Tomana, who took part in the Washington meeting, said the country’s position had triumphed despite strong US lobbying.
“Zimbabwe continues to register success in its efforts to assert its rights and exercise its responsibilities as an equal member of the KPCS and the wider international community,” he said.
Zimbabwe has discovered huge diamond reserves in the east of the country, but their exploitation has been hampered by Western sanctions on grounds of human rights violations.