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Lack Of Consensus on Zimbabwe Diamonds Fractures Kimberley Membership

Highlighting tensions inside the Kimberley Process, African diamond producers led by South Africa boycotted a recent Kimberley working group on monitoring in Dubai

The Kimberley Process Certification Scheme for supervision of diamond markets faces mounting internal divisions following the recent pronouncement by new chairman Mathieu Yamba of the Democratic Republic of Congo authorizing Zimbabwe to sell all the diamonds from Marange it wishes without Kimberley supervision.

Western members of the watchdog group dismissed the decision as illegitimate as there was no consensus on the question among Kimberley members. But a fissure has opened with African members - including most significantly South Africa - backing Yamba.

Highlighting Kimberley internal tensions, African producers led by South Africa boycotted a Kimberley working group on monitoring in Dubai last Thursday. The working group met to draft an agreement now being circulated among Kimberley members for approval.

But Zimbabwean Mines Minister Obert Mpofu said any new agreement authorizing Harare to sell is moot and unnecessary as Yamba has already given Harare a green light to sell.

The draft proposes Harare be allowed to export diamonds from Marange. Though major diamond importing countries like the United States, China and India attended the meeting, sources suggest Washington is not happy with the draft.

Sources say controversy deepened as members haggled over country compliance as opposed to mine site compliance, which would ensure more scrutiny over new mining concerns.

Five companies from South Africa, the United Arab Emirates and China – all members of the working group on monitoring – now operate in Marange in joint ventures with Harare.

Kimberly sources said the draft is confidential, but indicated that a controversial clause on the handling of complaints relating to violence, which Mpofu had previously dismissed as ‘nonsensical,’ has been dropped from the latest draft.

This has incensed Western human rights groups. But despite the concession, Mpofu says Harare will not bother to look at the new agreement.

The absence of the violence clause is of special concern to Kimberly non-governmental organization observers.

Executive Director Farai Maguwu of the Center for Research and Development in Mutare, a prominent critic of the government's Marange policies, was in Dubai for the meetings. He says civic groups may not back the agreement without the violence clause.

Though represented in Dubai, the United States has threatened to veto the agreement even if Harare eventually signs off on it. The Kimberly Process in theory works on a consensus basis, so such turmoil threatens to continue and potentially paralyze the group.

Cecilia Gardner, general counsel of the U.S. Kimberley Process Authority, says the Marange issue has been “taking up a lot of our time” which she says could be put to better use to deal with more pressing Kimberley matters.

Maguwu says that if Harare does not accept the new proposal, this would send things back to the drawing board meaning more disarray within the organization.

Mpofu dismisses the entire process saying Harare will remain a member but will not endure further scrutiny by the working group on monitoring.

Sources say participant countries will vote soon on the new agreement. Lack of consensus could leave Zimbabwe on the agenda at the next Kimberley plenary meeting in June.

Meanwhile the clashes within the respected organization seem to be much to the satisfaction of some in Harare.