Angola Suspends Diamond Contracts

April 18, 2000

Angola Suspends Diamond Contracts

The government of Angola has suspended all contracts on the purchase and sale of diamonds as part of its strategy to correct the irregularities existing in trading the diamonds and control illegal trafficking.

In an interview with the Luanda-based "Ecclesia" Radio, Angolan Deputy Minister of Geology and Mining Carlos Sumbula said that of the more than $400 million annual revenue from the sale of diamonds, only $5 million goes to the state budget. The move was confirmed earlier by the president of the board of managers of the Angolan National Diamonds Co. (Endiama), Agostinho Gaspar.

Gaspar added that, of the four ongoing projects for diamond mining in the country, the most profitable is the "Catoca" project, which is located in the diamond-rich Lunda-Norte province and supported by companies from many countries including Russia, Britain and Brazil.

Yesterday, civil liberties group Human Rights Watch made a number of recommendations to improve the effectiveness of sanctions against the guerrilla group UNITA which has used smuggled diamonds to fund its war against the Angolan government.

Human Rights Watch recommended that "within six months, the Security Council should take specific action against countries, companies and individuals" named in a U.N. report as participating in the smuggling. Human Rights Watch also endorsed recommendations made by the chairman of the U.N.'s Angolan Sanction Committee, Canadian ambassador Robert Fowler.

These include reform of the porous end-user certification system on arms sales; a DNA-type database on fuel available in the southern Africa region; forfeiture penalties against those who cannot prove the legal origin of rough diamonds; a "finders fee" for information that leads to the discovery of UNITA's assets; and a blacklist of sanctions-breaking countries that prevents their nationals from holding office in international organizations.

- by Mark E. Dixon