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Zimbabwe Rejects Briton As Monitor Amid Deepening Kimberley Divisions

African diamond-producing nations are lined up against Western countries and civic groups over new Kimberley Chairman Mathieu Yamba's unilateral declaration that Harare can freely sell its diamonds internationally

Zimbabwe says it will block attempts by the Kimberley Process to appoint British national Simon Gilberts as the international diamond watchdog’s point person in the controversial Marange field in Manicaland province near the border with Mozambique.

South African Abbey Chikane currently monitors activity in the Marange diamond field. It was not immediately clear whether Chikane himself wants to give up his position or if the Kimberley Process wishes to remove him following incidents such as his surrender of sensitive documents to Harare officials in 2010, leading to an activist’s arrest.

Mines Minister Obert Mpofu told VOA reporter Sandra Nyaira that efforts to replace Chikane are being guided by Western countries which he says are meddling in Zimbabwe’s affairs, especially in the rich Marange alluvial field.

“I know they are circulating some curriculum vitaes of people that are strange to us and [who] we have not taken that seriously,” Mpofu said. “We still regard Chikane as the legitimate monitor because he was appointed at the same time the [Kimberley] joint monitoring work plan was set up. So if there’s no Chikane then there’s no monitoring.”

Executive Director Farai Maguwu of the Center for Research and Development in Mutare said Harare has the right to refuse individuals who are nominated, but added that eventually the government will have to agree with Kimberley on a name.

Meanwhile, controversy over the export sale of Marange diamonds continued with deep divisions among members of the Kimberley Process Certification Scheme.

African producing nations are lined up against Western nations and non-governmental groups over a recent declaration by new Kimberley Chairman Mathieu Yamba of the Democratic Republic of Congo that Harare can freely sell its diamonds globally.

Human rights remained a key sticking point in a deal reached in Dubai last week on the sidelines of the World Diamond Bourse meeting. Some say the provisions on rights are too weak while the Zimbabwean government and others denounced them even though investigation of alleged abuses would be harder to trigger under the agreement.

For a deeper look at the divisions in Kimberley and the rights abuses said to continue in the Marange field, including the displacement of residents, reporter Sandra Nyaira turned to Affirmative Action Group President Supa Mandiwanzira, an advocate of unrestricted diamond exports, and Crisis in Zimbabwe Regional Coordinator Dewa Mavhinga.

Mandiwanzira said Harare has done all it can to meet Kimberley Process requirements, which is why its fellow African diamond producing states back its position.

Mavhinga said the removal of the so-called violence clause from the agreement being circulated for Kimberley member approval is a travesty of justice, particularly as local Marange residents continue to suffer at the hands of state security agents.

He also charged as many others have that Marange diamond riches are being siphoned off by an elite clique with close ties to President Robert Mugabe's ZANU-PF party.