March 15, 2000
Africans Deny U.N. Allegations
This week African governments denied allegations by the United Nations of illegal trafficking in diamonds, arms and fuel with Angola's UNITA rebels, according to the Associated Press.
A U.N. report detailed how the rebels bought weapons from Eastern Europe, primarily Bulgaria, and had them shipped through African countries in exchange for diamonds.
The U.N. Security Council imposed an arms and fuel embargo on UNITA rebels in 1993, expanding it in 1998 to include a ban on rebel diamond exports which are estimated to have supplied the group with up to $4 billion since 1992.
In a preemptive move March 4, the Belgian Foreign Ministry announced a crackdown on African diamonds in the Antwerp market, which accounts for nearly 80% of the world's rough diamond trade. The move was intended to mollify the sharp criticism in the report that Belgian authorities failed to act against brokers and traders suspected of trafficking in banned gems.
Primarily, the report accuses President Blaise Compaore of Burkina Faso, Togo's President Gnassingbe Eyadema and the late Zairian dictator Mobutu Sese Seko of receiving diamonds or helping UNITA leader Jonas Savimbi with arms and fuel shipments in violation of the sanctions.
The U.N. report also charges Rwanda allowed UNITA officials to operate freely in its capital, Kigali, to conduct guns-for-gems transactions with known arms dealers.
-by Mark E. Dixon