Zimbabwe and KP: The Mess Gets Even Messier

More thoughts on the Kimberley Process/Zimbabwe situation:

– First off, despite what the media reports imply, the official export
of diamonds from Zimbabwe’s Marange fields is not a given. The KP Monitor has issued a report
recommending that exports be re-allowed (they’ve been on hold since last year). That report
has been leaked to the media, and can be seen here.
 But that recommendation has to be
okayed by the KP’s Working Group of Monitoring, which includes NGOs. The Kimberley
Process, as we all know, works by consensus — and this may be an instance
where consensus works to the advantage of people who want harsher action.

– The official KP monitor for Zimbabwe, former
KP chairman Abbey Chikane, was asked to look at the controls for two particular
regions. Even if he’s right that those areas are now compliant – and there is disagreement
on that point – no one denies there are still substantial problems in the Zimbabwe
diamond sector, including uncontrolled smuggling and human rights abuses in its
diamond fields. So the Monitor may be right from a narrow legal standpoint, but
from a larger perspective, the Zimbabwe government has acted so abysmally here it
is hard to justify full re-admission. 

– Caught in the middle is Chikane, one of the true
heroes of the KP’s early days. But now, in addition to issuing this
not-very-well-received report, he was arguably complicit in the
arrest of Farai Maguwu
, a local NGO researcher accused of possessing confidential
state documents. One thing that has been a secret of the KP’s success is the cordial
behind-the-scenes relationships between NGOs, the industry and governments. But
here we have an ugly situation where an NGO met with a KP official on business,
and, as a result, now faces years in a Zimbabwe prison.  Granted, this is a complicated
matter, but any time a government arrests an internal critic it sends a
horrible message. It is no wonder that Global Witness’ Elly Harrowell calls the
Maguwu case “make or break” for the NGOs. 
(Chikane, who also claims the Zimbabwe government rifled through his briefcase,
wrote his version of events in the above linked report.)

As an aside, one puzzling thing here is that Chikane’s
appointment as KP Monitor had to be approved by the Zimbabwe government, which rejected
at least one other candidate. And that is another strange quirk of the KP
bylaws. Why should the country being examined get to choose who looks at it? When
someone commits a crime, they don’t get to choose the judge.

– And so where are we? No one really knows. But the
Kimberley Process may be bumping up against its limits. It has been relatively
effective at stopping conflict diamonds. But with Zimbabwe, we are dealing with
“blood” diamonds that aren’t necessarily “conflict” ones. And there is no clear
path where to go.

The industry isn’t ready to give up on the KP just yet, and
it shouldn’t. The World Diamond Council has been careful to stay on the side of
the “angels” in this debate; it even issued a statement condemning the NGO
arrest.

But ten years after it was first proposed, the industry may
have to either rethink the KP, or find a way to go “beyond” or supplement it.  Already, entities ranging from De Beers
to the State
Department
are providing advice on how to avoid Marange goods.  People who care about human rights will
do well to not have them in their stock, whatever the KP finds.  

There are no easy answers here.  One could even argue the continued attention on Zimbabwe has
stood in the way of real reforms. Just about everyone who cares about the KP agrees it needs some serious change, and yet it’s hard to
accomplish anything with so much focus on Zimbabwe.

“Last year’s [KP meeting] was entirely hijacked by the
Zimbabwe issue,” says Harrowell. “And it looks like it will again this year too.
And that’s a real tragedy.”

JCK News Director