The Kimberley Process has just blackballed its first member.
The Republic of Congo, also known as Congo-Brazzaville, has received the dubious honor of being the first country suspended from the Kimberley Process Certification Scheme (KPCS). That means it cannot legally ship diamonds to any Kimberley Process participant country.
The decision came after a fact-finding mission discovered that Congo was exporting far more diamonds than it produced or legally imported—leading investigators to conclude that stones were illicitly entering the country.
“The findings of the review mission are clear: The Republic of Congo cannot account for the origin of large quantities of rough diamonds that it is officially exporting,” Kimberley Process chairman Tim Martin said in a statement. “The removal of the Republic of Congo from the list of participants is necessary to safeguard the credibility and integrity of the KPCS.”
World Diamond Council president Eli Izhakoff says he “strongly supports” the decision and says it illustrates the credibility of the Process.
The move also won kudos from the nongovernmental organization Global Witness, in what might be its first press release that didn’t include any sort of complaint.
“Removing the Republic of Congo is a major step toward ensuring that the Kimberley Process is working effectively and has teeth,” said spokeswoman Corinna Gilfillan. “This decision sets an important precedent for how to deal with countries and diamond traders that are not complying with the Kimberley Process.”
A Global Witness statement said the review mission “confirmed well-documented evidence of the ROC’s role as a center for rampant diamond smuggling.”
The Republic of Congo is distinct from the neighboring Democratic Republic of Congo (formerly Zaire), one of the countries whose civil war sparked the conflict diamonds issue.