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Kimberly Process Officials Meet Under Pressure to Ban Zimbabwe Diamond Sales

Officials of the Kimberly Process Certification Scheme opened a four-day meeting in Windhoek, Namibia on Monday to decide among other matters whether to bar the sale of Zimbabwean diamonds on world markets due to alleged human rights violations.

The Kimberly Process was under intense pressure from non-governmental organizations in Southern Africa and elsewhere who were urging the international organization to halt diamond exports charging rights abuses in the eastern Marange diamond fields.

Harare’s star witness in Windhoek was to be Chief Norman Chiadzwa of the diamond-bearing area, said to have recanted earlier testimony saying the government destroyed his property after he spoke out against brutality in local diamond fields. Sources said Chiadzwa would apologize to the Kimberly Process for “lying” to its investigators in July.

Advocacy groups were divided as to whether a ban on exports should be imposed, some arguing that such a move would only funnel diamonds into illegal smuggling channels to the world market. They said Kimberly's job is to ensure that diamonds do not fund conflicts.

From Johannesburg, Human Rights Watch Senior Researcher Tiseke Kasambala told VOA Studio 7 reporter Sandra Nyaira that the campaign to ban Zimbabwean diamonds from the international marketplace is gathering momentum in Windhoek.

Human Rights Watch said last week that the Zimbabwean government has not responded to Kimberly Process recommendations which include the demilitarization of the Marange diamond fields, now under the control of the Zimbabwean Defense Forces.

More reports from VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe...