As I type this, there is no deal between the KP and Zimbabwe, and it is quite likely there won’t be one. Here’s what is going on:
Once again, the deal is being negotiated between two “sides,” which boil down to the United States, Canada, and the NGOs, on one hand, facing off against Zimbabwe. Interestingly, for all the back-and-forth, there is broad consensus about what a final agreement will look like:
– The two mines currently producing, Mbada and Canadille, have been judged compliant with Kimberley. They will continue to export.
– There are still problems in the rest of Marange, including smuggling, military control, and, by some accounts, forced labor (as seen on a recent documentary from British TV). So further monitoring will be needed before the rest of the area can be judged compliant.
As one negotiator put it, “In St. Petersburg, the question was: If Zimbabwe could export. Now, it’s just how.”
Seems like an easy deal to work out, right? But the details have proved devilish. The NGOs and allied governments want to use the country’s diamond stockpile as leverage to insure future good behavior, a “carrot and stick” approach. But the more stipulations that are added, the more Zim has bristled. And of course, when you get down to it, the two sides don’t like or trust each other. On Wednesday night, at the hotel bar (where much negotiating occurred), I watched the mood ricochet from hopeful to despondent back to hopeful again.
The NGO’s position is that Zimbabwe will eventually have to give in to its demands because the country will never leave the KP, as it will make a lot less money by selling on the black market. But industry leaders, nervous by nature, aren’t so sure. As one speculated, “Zimbabwe must have a Plan B.” And they worry that, if Zim did leave, it would be very tough to keep those diamonds out of the system, because A) Zimbabwe is a very large producer, and B) many countries have expressed sympathy toward it, and might just defy the KP themselves. Zimbabwe has also threatened to “dump” its entire stockpile at low prices, possibly crashing the diamond market. And, finally, there might be antitrust-driven legal challenges to the KP, and Zimbabwe’s case could come before the World Trade Organization (which has previously given the KP a waiver.) Zimbabwe clearly is going to the mat here.
So, while the World Diamond Council has tried to stay out of things and “just let the two sides fight,” its leaders are also aware that the entire system is flirting with the abyss. There is not-so-idle talk of a KP “implosion.” Which would be sad, considering most of the issues being squabbled over are pretty minor, such as the start date of Zimbabwe’s stockpile sales.
One interesting factor in this, brought up over and over, is “African pride.” Zimbabwe is not pleased about having to apply for permission to export what are, after all, its own diamonds. Many other African governments have rallied behind the nation, viewing the issue as a ginned-up controversy led by Western governments, who are trying to use the KP to bring Mugabe down. There are, again, threats that certain African countries will walk out of the KP en masse if there is no deal (because no deal means Zim’s exports remains blocked.)
Now personally, I think this “Africa vs. the West” view misses a lot of things—namely, the very real human rights abuses which got us in this situation in the first place. And no other African country has currently been targeted like Zim has. But there clearly needs to be a way that the KP can force change without turning every incident into a politicized struggle that continually pushes the entire system to the brink.
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