WASHINGTON, USA: A UN-mandated global watchdog on Friday (30 November) agreed to end year-long monitoring controls on Zimbabwe's diamond trade, after it found the government had allayed concerns over its Marange mines.
Zimbabwe's diamond mining sector has been tarnished by allegations of human rights abuses since 2008 when Harare deployed security forces to drive away small-scale miners from the Marange fields.
Rights activists said 200 miners were killed in the operation, and the country was suspended from the so-called 80-member Kimberley Process (KP), which certifies global sales of "conflict-free diamonds."
In 2011, Zimbabwe was allowed to start selling diamonds from the Marange mines again but under a strict monitoring process imposed for a year by the global watchdog, set up to combat "blood diamonds."
"Over the course of that year, Zimbabwe put in a significant good faith effort. It did, in the opinion of the monitors who went on repeated visits to Zimbabwe, achieve most of the things that it needed to achieve, and in some cases did better than what one might have hoped," said Gillian Milovanovic, the body's current chairman.
"Based on the monitors' evaluations it was determined that in fact Zimbabwe had complied with that which was expected of it," she told journalists at the end of a four-day meeting in Washington.
"So the sunset clause entered into effect, and the special monitoring regime is no longer in effect," she added.
But the decision is likely to anger rights groups and non-governmental organisations, which are also part of KP and which have been arguing in vain for a broader definition of the term "conflict diamond."
Earlier this month, the non-governmental organisation Partnership Africa Canada (PAC) said a network of ministers and military officials had siphoned about US$2bn worth of diamonds out of Zimbabwe in the past four years.
"We continue to have concerns about revenue transparency related to diamond revenues" in Zimbabwe, PAC's director of research Alan Martin told the press conference in Washington.
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