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Kimberly Process Meeting Over Zimbabwe's Marange Diamonds Opens In Russia

The Crisis in Zimbabwe coalition issued a statement saying that Harare must put in place measures to ensure transparency and accountability in the exploitation of the Marange diamond resource to fund economic reconstruction

The leading members of the Kimberly Process Certification Scheme met on Wednesday in St. Petersburg to take up the vexed question of whether to issue certification to diamonds from Zimbabwe's controversial Marange field, but by late in the evening had announced no decision despite heavy pressure from Harare this week.

President Robert Mugabe in reopening Parliament on Tuesday accused the West of meddling in the Kimberly process to prevent Zimbabwe from bringing Marange diamonds to market to generate revenues needed to reconstruct the economy. Human rights activists say the Marange field has seen serious human rights abuses while others have charged that a clique of politicians and present and former military officers are looting the resource.

Mines Minister Obert Mpofu told the Bloomberg news service that Zimbabwe expects Kimberly to certify Marange diamonds. He said Zimbabwe has more than six million carats of rough diamonds stockpiled and ready to sell.

World Diamond Council President Eli Izhakoff hailed the release on bail this week of imprisoned Mutare rights activist Farai Maguwu, a leading critic of Harare's management of Marange. Maguwu was arrested June 3 and charged with publishing and circulating false reports after giving Kimberly monitor Abbey Chikane copies of official documents on alleged human rights abuses by the military controlling Marange, which Chikane handed over to authorities.

Commenting on the meeting, the Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition issued a statement saying the Kimberly Process should replace Chikane as its point man in Zimbabwe, charging that he has lost all credibility.

The group urged Harare to “urgently put in place the necessary measures to ensure transparency and accountability to the people of Zimbabwe on the extraction of diamonds and how their sale will benefit ordinary Zimbabweans."

“Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition firmly believes that with the necessary structures in place to end rights abuses, channel diamond revenue transparently and inform accountability mechanisms, minerals can potentially play a crucial role in reviving Zimbabwe’s ailing economy," the organization said. "However, to unlock this wealth, the government of Zimbabwe must fully comply with the Kimberley Process minimum standards before trading diamonds."

Political analyst Paul Rumema-Chimhosva told VOA Studio 7 reporter Sandra Nyaira that if the Kimberly Process certifies the Marange diamonds, it should do so under strict conditions akin to those imposed on the sale of oil from Iraq following the first Gulf war, so funds from such sales are sure to benefit the Zimbabwean people.