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