DRC Takes Steps to Combat Illicit Diamond Sales

August 4, 2004

DRC Takes Steps to Combat Illicit Diamond Sales

The body in charge of certifying minerals for export from the Democratic Republic of Congo has set up three branches in formerly rebel-held areas to combat the trade in so-called blood diamonds, says Agence France Presse. The Centre for Evaluation, Expert Analysis and Certification of Precious Minerals is establishing offices in Goma, Bukavu and Kisangani in the eastern part of the country, says a government spokesman.

The eastern region was controlled until July by the Congolese Rally for Democracy, a rebel force under Rwandan direction. It and other rebel groups have agreed to a peace deal providing for a post-war transition in the DRC followed by eventual elections. Much of the fighting in the DRC and elsewhere in Africa has been financed by the sale of unregistered minerals, such as diamonds.

CEEC was set up last year to assay and certify precious and semiprecious minerals exported from the DRC, a system that has been supported by diamond community members as a means of protecting their market for legally-produced gems. The DRC is one of the countries participating in the Kimberley Process Certification Scheme and as such must guarantee its gems are not used to finance illegal and conflict activities. The government last month sent an investigative mission to the eastern part of the country to evaluate the extent of unregulated mining activity.

Eugene Diomi Ndongala, DRC minister for mines, recently estimated the nation's treasury loses around $450 million a year because of diamond smuggling. He cited Kisangani in the eastern part of the country and Brazzaville in the neighbouring Republic of Congo as two major centers for the trade in illicit diamonds. Republic of Congo was recently expelled from the Kimberley Process due to diamond smuggling charges.

Ndongala says diamonds produced by the Bakwanga Mining Co., known as MIBA, would be offered at public tender in Kinshasa within the very near future. President Joseph Kabila last year dismissed MIBA's management following the publication of a United Nations report accusing MIBA and senior DRC officials of plundering the country's mineral wealth.

Ndongala said the public tender was aimed at improving transparency and reducing fraud in the buying and selling of diamonds, and would progressively be extended to other precious minerals. The minister said the tendering process attracted a large number of foreign businessmen to Kinshasa.

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