Non-governmental organizations associated with the Kimberley Process Certification Scheme say they will boycott a meeting this month in the Democratic Republic of Congo to protest what they say is the failure by the Kimberley Process to end diamond-related human rights violations, in particular in Zimbabwe's Marange field.
Activists say the watchdog group has lost touch with its founding principles and has not been able to halt a booming illegal trade in diamonds from Marange.
Following unilateral declarations by Kimberly Chairman Mathieu Yamba of the DRC that such Zimbabwean diamonds are cleared for trade, South Africa and other countries have approved transactions in the gems though most Western nations still bar them.
Zimbabwe and other African countries say Kimberley has no mandate to deal with rights abuses as its original mandate was to ban conflict-fueling “blood diamonds.”
Now Kimberley's civil society wing, including Partnership Africa Canada and Global Witness, is distancing itself from the organization. Non-governmental organizations walked out of a June meeting in Kinshasa on Zimbabwe diamonds.
Partnership Africa Canada Research Director Alan Martin told VOA that civil society is concerned the next plenary session will end all meaningful oversight of Marange despite on-going and credible concerns about compliance by the Zimbabwean government and cooperation in meeting the Kimberley Process's minimum standards.
The so-called local focal point for civil society in Zimbabwe on Kimberly issues, Shamiso Mtisi, said the boycott should spur the Kimberley Process into re-examining its purpose and going back to protecting human rights in diamond areas.
Mtisi said Zimbabwean activists are feeling somewhat more optimistic following a first stakeholders meeting involving the Ministry of Mines, the Zimbabwe Mining Development Corporation, the Center for Research and Development of diamond activist Farai Maguwu, and other non-governmental organizations.
He said was a first step towards making sure Marange diamonds benefit the many.
Mines Minister Obert Mpofu said he learned much from the meeting in Mutare, capital of Manicaland province and the city closest to the Marange field. He said it marked the beginning of a new open relationship between his ministry and civic groups.