Kimberley Process Faces First Test

The Kimberley Process is supposed to eliminate conflict diamonds by keeping countries without proper rough import and export controls from importing stones into the legitimate stream of commerce. Now, the process faces its first real test in the case of the Central African Republic.

Rebels there recently staged a coup and won control of the country’s diamond mines. Because of this, the nongovernmental organization Global Witness has asked that the Central African Republic be ejected from Kimberley.

“Since rebels have seized power and overthrown a legitimate government, the Central African Republic is now in violation of the Kimberley Process,” Corinna Gilfillan, a Global Witness campaigner, said in a statement. “This situation is a real test of whether the Kimberley Process is doing its job effectively or is merely a rubber-stamping exercise.”

The Global Witness release was followed by one from the World Diamond Council, the industry group managing the conflict diamond issue. The WDC didn’t go as far as Global Witness, asking only that the Central African Republic’s participation be “reviewed,” but it did charge that the country is no longer capable of issuing Kimberley Process certificates.

“Reports of lawlessness in the country are widespread following the rebel takeover, with serious abuses of human rights documented,” said WDC chairman Eli Izhakoff in a letter to Kimberley Process chairman Abbey Chikane. “The expatriate diamond community has been the target of selective plundering and looting expeditions by uniformed gangs… We must assume that this situation will continue until law and order has been restored.”