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NGOs Unhappy With Kimberley Zimbabwe Deal; Next Chair Under Discussion


Zimbabwean Mines Minister Obert Mpofu, back in Harare on Wednesday, told a news conference that Zimbabwe stands to make at least $2 billion a year from Marange diamonds now that world markets are open

Kimberley Process members on Wednesday continued discussions in Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of Congo, following their agreement on Tuesday allowing Harare to to export diamonds from Zimbabwe's Marange field under Kimberley supervision.

There were expectations that the group today would elect the United States as deputy chair, setting the stage for Washington to take the chair of the watchdog group beginning in January. Sources said South Africa may be named deputy chair in 2012, setting it up to be chair in 2013. But sources said there was a lot of horse-trading going on.

Late Tuesday the U.S. State Department’s special adviser for conflict diamonds, Brad Brooks-Rubin, said the United States was still not happy with the situation in Marange, but did not want to hold up an agreement that might end a long impasse.

Zimbabwean Mines Minister Obert Mpofu, back in Harare on Wednesday, told a news conference that Zimbabwe stands to make at least $2 billion a year from Marange diamonds now that world markets are open to the country's gems.

Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition Director Mcdonald Lewanika said the Kimberley Process should continue to insist on the demilitarization of the Marange zone with local groups allowed to monitor conditions for local residents facing relocation.

Partnership Africa Canada Research Director Allan Martin said civic organizations don’t like the deal because they believe that in clearing the way for exports the group has abandoned its main point of leverage with Harare for further reforms in Marange.

Speaking for the NGOs, including Global Witness and Partnership Africa Canada, Alfred Brownell in a statement said: ''Kimberley Process member governments and the diamond industry seem ready to turn their back on the interests of Zimbabwe's citizens, the public good and the principles on which the Kimberley Process was founded."

A previous agreement between Kimberley and Harare gave local NGO representatives the official status of "local focal points," allowing them to access the Marange field and formally report back to Kimberley Process officials on perceived abuses.

But the new agreement, while maintaining that civil society organizations retain access to the Marange fields, eliminates the local focal point status, the NGO statement said.

''This deal only reinforces the perception that there is no limit to how far the Kimberley Process is prepared to go in lowering the ethical bar on Marange,'' said Zimbabwean Shamiso Mtisi, local focal point for Zimbabwean civil society.

''Given the chance to keep Zimbabwe to its previous commitments, the Kimberley Process has shown itself incapable of doing the right thing.''

Diamond activist Farai Maguwu, in Washington, declared: ''It’s a pure business deal that leaves out key concerns of Zimbabwe’s civil society - that is, protection of the locals from human rights abuses in and around Marange and ensuring that Marange diamonds are properly accounted for, for the benefit of the suffering Zimbabwean people.''

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