Angola's Deadly Exchange Continues

January 2, 2001

Angola's Deadly Exchange Continues

Diamonds continue to fund the Angolan civil war – $150 million in 1999 – says a United Nations report issued in December. Diamond production by UNITA rebels in 2000 was expected to decrease due to the loss of access to some diamond-producing areas. The report calls for a worldwide certificate-of-origin scheme to be adopted and seeks greater accountability among diamond-importing countries.

The report exposes violators of U.N. sanctions against UNITA rebels, describing the flow of weapons into Angola from Bulgarian, Ukrainian and Romanian sources. It also says sales of illicit diamonds were held in the form of tenders in other nations and notes free-trade zones in Europe, notably Switzerland, provide a conduit for diamonds into cutting centers. "The report shows the unwillingness of the diamond trade to 'name and shame' the members of its respectable trade that are continuing and are known to be trading in these stones of death," says Alex Yearsley of the London-based human rights organization Global Witness.

The U.N. is targeting the link between trade in illicitly mined diamonds and the resulting supply of weapons to UNITA in Angola and RUF rebels in Sierra Leone. It's also considering sanctioning Liberia, considered one of the main conduits for diamonds traded by RUF rebels.

- by Robert Weldon, G.G.