Central African Republic's Kimberley Participation Questioned

March 25, 2003

Central African Republic's Kimberley Participation Questioned

The World Diamond Congress is asking the Kimberley Process to review the membership status of the Central African Republic following a coup there on March 15. "Reports of lawlessness in CAR are widespread following the rebel takeover, with serious abuses of human rights documented," Eli Ishakoff, WDC chairman and CEO said in a letter to Abbe Chikane, chairman of the Kimberley Process.

"More specifically, the expatriate diamond community has been the target of selective plundering and looting expeditions by uniformed gangs. Further we believe the government-appointed Kimberley Process exporting authority responsible for issuing and validating CAR's certificates is no longer capable of performing its duly authorized function," Izhakoff wrote.

The Kimberley Process is an international entity comprised of government exporters, importers, non-governmental organizations and others, formed to control legal exports and imports of diamonds. Its goal is to stop the trade in diamonds that fund conflicts.

Since CAR's coup, looting and smuggling have been documented, and the United Nations withdrew its staff from the country over security concerns. A paper by Partnership Africa Canada, a non-governmental organization, written in Jan. 2003, said diamonds constitute CAR's second biggest earner after timber, and suggests CAR's capital city of Bangui potentially serves as a conduit for conflict diamonds originating in neighboring Democratic Republic of Congo. "Belgian imports declared as originating in the CAR, surpass CAR's official exports by a factor of three in the last few years," the report said. This calls the integrity of CAR's certification system into question. The report goes on to say that neighboring DRC releases some $50-60 million worth of diamonds into the global pipeline every year.

by Robert Weldon, G.G.

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