De Beers Won't Buy Diamonds from Angola

October 8, 1999

De Beers Won't Buy Diamonds from Angola

Showing strong support for an intensified campaign by human rights organizations against violence in Angola, De Beers announced this week it will no longer buy diamonds from Angola and will review its buying operations in other West and Central African countries.

De Beers has never bought diamonds directly from UNITA and pulled its diamond buyers out of Angola a year ago when the political situation became unsafe. But the Angolan rebel group has continued to raise money, about $3.7 billion since 1992, for its cause by selling diamonds through other channels. This summer, the United Nations and International Diamond Manufacturers Association announced all diamonds leaving Angola should be sold with a certificate. (Read related story.)

The only exemption will from the embargo will be the diamonds De Beers is obligated to buy under a contract with SDM, the joint venture controlled by the Angolan government and operated by Ashton, an Australian mining company.

The move comes on the heels of a major human rights campaign to stop the funding of Angolan rebels. "Most people would be horrified to learn that their diamond jewelry had financed the purchase of landmines or guns in one of Africa's brutal conflicts," Alex Yearsley of Global Witness, a British human rights group, told Financial Times. Since rebels began attacking the diamond mines, many companies have pulled out of the war-torn country. More than 1 million people have died in the civil war, and more than 2 million have been forced from their homes since December 1998, when a peace accord collapsed.

- by Stacey King