Source Confirms UNITA Diamond Sales

January 24, 2000

Source Confirms UNITA Diamond Sales

A United Nations update on Angola on Jan. 18 revealed that an eyewitness confirmed rebel group UNITA's use of diamonds to purchase arms illegally, according to the Panafrican News Agency.

The report may revive consumer consciousness of the topic, which came to light in November after a fall media campaign by a human rights group called Global Witness, which accused Angolan rebels of using diamonds to fund the mayhem. Jewelers preparing to answer questions from reporters about the role diamonds play in such human rights disasters should check Professional Jeweler's Daily News Archive for Nov. 11, 12 and 23 for background.

In a videotaped testimonial shown to UN members, a UNITA defector said the movement sidestepped UN sanctions and bought from international arms brokers. Owing to sanctions freezing UNITA's accounts and banning flights and contacts with the rebel group, UNITA usually paid for arms with diamonds, and suppliers delivered the arms to UNITA-controlled areas in Angola. The Angolan government is now taking over much of the area formerly controlled by UNITA.

The Russian ambassador, Sergey Lavrov, on behalf of a three-member monitoring committee on Angola which includes the United States and Portugal, reaffirmed the UN Security Council's position that UNITA bears primary responsibility for continuation of war. He said the committee demands that both parties immediately comply with the peace accord signed in Lusaka, Zambia, in 1994. The committee condemns human rights violations by UNITA and calls on it lay down its arms. The committee also urged the government to respect human rights and media freedom.

Meanwhile, Global Witness also took De Beers to task on the eve of its big public relations blitz presenting its biannual Diamonds-International Awards in Paris Jan. 20. Global Witness accused De Beers of failing to take enough initiative to ensure that diamonds don't fuel conflicts in Africa. De Beers maintains its cooperation with the UN Sanctions Committee, as well as its ceasing buying operations in Angola and other unstable African countries, prove its dedication to stopping human rights abuses.

- by Peggy Jo Donahue