African Countries Propose Strategies To Regulate Diamond Exports

August 2, 2000

African Countries Propose Strategies To Regulate Diamond Exports

The Democratic Republic of Congo and Sierra Leone proposed plans this week to legitimize exports of their rough diamonds and stop the trade in conflict diamonds.

The Congolese government has made IDI Diamonds, an Israeli rough diamond trading group, the sole purchaser of all uncut diamonds worth between $600 million and $700 million from the DRC, the Financial Times reports. The government plans to revoke all existing export and buying licenses within 30 days.

Certificates of origin will be issued by the government for all rough diamonds to guarantee conflict diamonds do not end up in any official channels. According to the Financial Times, plans also include IDI spreading its representatives throughout the diamond areas of the Congo to verify the source of the diamonds.

The government of Sierra Leone announced Tuesday its plan to create a forgery-proof system to certify exported diamonds are legal. The Financial Times reports Sierra Leone said the Diamond High Council of Belgium offered to provide the hardware, software and the trained personnel to start operating the system immediately.

The plan, however, was greeted with skepticism from all sides. Monie Captan, foreign minister of Liberia, mocked the plan, asking which diamonds the government would be certifying since most of the mines are under rebel control. Sir Jeremy Greenstock, a United Kingdom delegate, said there was still potential for including conflict diamonds in a mixture of stones from different sources offered for sale. Peter Takirambudde, a diamond expert from Human Rights Watch, agreed and said there was no guarantee the plan would work. He suggested an independent auditor be appointed to oversee certification. The U.N. Security Council's committee monitoring sanctions on Sierra Leone is set to evaluate Sierra Leone's plan next week.

- by Julia M. Duncan