The Kimberley Process and Zimbabwe: The WFDB Steps In It

It is a sad fact that many association press releases kind
of come and go without a trace. But the WFDB’s release
today
on Zimbabwe and the Kimberley Process seems to have set off a bit of
a furor. 

I have enormous respect for WFDB president Avi Paz and the
hard-working people who donate their time and expertise to the group. But I—and
many others I spoke to today—can’t see the point in today’s WFDB statement.

The statement quotes Paz as saying, “The KP members and
experts need to come and face reality and resolve the Zim issue once and for
all.”

What the statement seems to not be aware of is, in April, members
of the KP’s Working
Group of Monitoring (WGM) met in Dubai to resolve the Zimbabwe impasse
. However,
Zim, for reasons known only to itself, boycotted the meeting.  Those talks in Dubai came months after
Zimbabwe allies rejected an earlier WGM agreement forged at a meeting in
Brussels—which Zim also boycotted.

These agreements all still call for monitoring and for the government to meet certain criteria. But the WFDB release seems to want Zimbabwe to be allowed to export indefinitely, with no strings attached. (I should note that the WFDB is a different entity than the World Diamond Council, which represents the industry in front of the KP. People there could not have been happy about this statement.)

It is worth noting that the anti-Zimbabwe faction made significant concessions in Dubai. One NGO told me the agreement was “awful.” Its final outline resembles pretty closely what KP chairman Matthieu Yamba called for in his famous (or infamous) unilateral “administrative decision” in March. 

So, it is safe to say, the members of the WGM have made considerable efforts to resolve this impasse. This
release seems like something that should have been sent out two months
ago.  At this point, any lecture should
be directed at the Zimbabwe faction. The ball is in that country’s court.

Since Dubai, there has been little word from Zimbabwe on
whether they accept this agreement. And sources say the KP chair feels his decision
should supersede the one negotiated in Dubai, even though there is little
difference between them. (Yes, things are that petty.) The KP Plenary is meeting
in Congo later this year to hash all this out; but as of now, there is still no
consensus agreement on Zimbabwe. 

The talk about this release will come and go, but I do
believe it raises larger issues.  Even
those incensed by the statement today were gratified that the WFDB included this strong statement from Paz: “All members of the WFDB [should] continue to
follow the KP’s and the WFDB’s clear directives not to trade in rough diamonds
without the proper KP certification.”

That is important. There are now rumors that an African
country and Zimbabwe ally is taking in exports from Marange. The country’s
officials will no doubt argue they have “the right” to accept these stones; after
all, the KP chairman has given his okay.

But the rest of the Process hasn’t agreed to that. And the industry should not be trading Marange diamonds until all this is 100 percent settled. De Beers has all but said that it will not look favorably on any sightholder found doing so. If these stories about exports are true, it reinforces the feeling
that some African countries don’t have much interest in continuing the
Kimberley Process, and that this important enterprise is slowly unraveling.

So in a way, the WFDB’s intentions were good. They were right: The KP needs to get beyond Zimbabwe. But their release also
makes the industry appear divided and not fully behind the WGM’s efforts to forge a compromise. And for that reason, it may have made things
worse.

JCK News Director