Sierra Leone Begins Certificate Program

October 16, 2000

Sierra Leone Begins Certificate Program

Sierra Leone instituted its new diamond certification program on Thursday as expected, opening the door for legal export of the country's gems, the Associated Press reports. Under the program, all diamond exports will be accompanied by a certificate of origin, made with forgery-resistant security paper. Each parcel of rough diamonds will be sealed and labeled with a number matching the certificate number and with a warning that any tampering is a violation of the United Nations Security Council sanctions. The recipient of each parcel must return the numbered label to ensure the parcel was traded through legitimate channels.

The certificate of origin program was developed to restrict the trade of conflict diamonds by rebels, but Sierra Leone diamond traders are skeptical of its potential effectiveness. They say the program will not work because rebels can easily smuggle diamonds with the help of corrupt government officials and through neighboring states such as Liberia, AP reports.

The certificates of origin were developed with the assistance of the United States, Britain, Belgium and Israel. In addition, the Diamond High Council in Antwerp has offered to design a database for better tracking of Sierra Leone diamond exports.

In related news, the United Nations sharply criticized Liberia President Charles Taylor Saturday for continuing to create instability in neighboring Sierra Leone. According to AP, Britain's U.N. Ambassador Jeremy Greenstock, who led the mission, said Liberia has not worked for peace and risked further alienating nations in Africa and the West. Taylor continued to deny any involvement with the rebels in Sierra Leone, but the U.N. still decided to continue the weapons embargo which was placed on Liberia as a result of its own civil war, AP reports. Also last week, the U.S. banned Taylor and other top government officials in Liberia from entering the U.S. because of their support of rebels in Sierra Leone. The ban will not be reviewed until Liberia ends its involvement with the rebels.

- by Julia M. Duncan