U.N. Bans Sale of Ivory Coast Diamonds


December 16, 2005

U.N. Bans Sale of Ivory Coast Diamonds

The United Nations Security Council voted unanimously on Dec. 15 to ban diamond exports from the Ivory Coast to stop rebels in the northern part of the war-divided nation from using the gems to purchase a proliferating number of weapons. The U.N. has been reporting for several years on horrific human rights abuses in the Ivory Coast, perpetrated by both government and rebel forces, including summary executions, torture and rape. Its Dec. 15 resolution ordered governments in the West African region to report within 90 days on the steps taken to prevent smuggling of diamonds from the Ivory Coast.

Reports of diamond smuggling from the rebel-held north of Ivory Coast have been numerous. The latest report from human rights group Global Witness, published in November 2005, indicated that diamonds are being smuggled out through Mali and Guinea and likely other neighboring countries in region, such as Sierra Leone and Liberia. The latter two countries were notorious in the conflict-diamond trade during their regional wars over the past 20 years. A year ago, the African Union's Peace and Security Council said restoration of peace in Ivory Coast was paramount since Liberia and Sierra Leone are both in a fragile state of recovery from their long years of war. Guinea, which borders Ivory Coast, is also in a precarious position, having supported thousands of refugees from its neighbors.

In October 2005, the chair of the Kimberley Process Certification Scheme (the closed system that monitors the trade of rough diamonds) warned member countries that smuggled diamonds from the Ivory Coast could be mixed in with legitimate diamonds. Kimberley had told its members to no longer accept diamonds with Ivory Coast certificates in October 2004.

In November 2005, the presidents of the World Federation of Diamond Bourses also reminded members of the Kimberley chair's request that rough diamonds from Ivory Coast not be traded.

Ivory Coast has been divided since rebels launched a 2002 civil war in an attempt to oust President Laurent Gbagbo. Though a ceasefire was declared in 2003, it has been broken several times. French and U.N. troops maintain a buffer zone between the northern and southern parts of the country. Attempts at a peace process have made limited progress, according to the U.N. Its Dec. 15 resolution also renewed the threat of targeted sanctions, including a freeze in assets and a travel ban, against any individual interfering with the peace process in the Ivory Coast.

by Peggy Jo Donahue

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