Amid intensifying violence, Central African Republic wants to lift ban on diamond exports
A road outside the Central African Republic’s capital city of Bangui, which rebels seized in March. Photo by Flickr user John Friel.
The Central African Republic is calling for an end to the ban on their export of diamonds. The diamond trade, the transitional government’s mines minister says, has nothing to do with the conflict that has left 2.3 million people in need of assistance, according to UN figures.
The Seleka rebels who seized the government last spring are accused of widespread rape and burning villages, according to Human Rights Watch. Amid intensifying violence, France has sent a warship to neighboring Cameroon carrying troops and combat vehicles.
The Kimberley Process, an international watchdog conglomerate of civil society organizations, governments and industry trying to stop the trade of so-called “blood diamonds,” suspended certified diamond trading with Central African Republic in May. Two months earlier, the Seleka rebel alliance marched from the mostly Muslim north of the predominantly Christian country to the capital city of Bangui where they deposed President François Bozizé. Seizing the capital, rebel leader Michel Djotodia declared himself president.
“Our country was suspended based on risks but there was no proof that diamonds financed the war,” mines minister Herbert Goyan Djono-Ahaba told Reuters in an interview on Thursday.
The new government claims they need the tax revenue from the diamond exports. Diamond revenues support a quarter of the population, Agence France Press reported.
But lifting the ban isn’t likely to happen anytime soon, said Alan Martin, research director for Partnership Africa Canada (PAC), one of the civil society organizations that is a party to the Kimberley Process. Central African Republic’s government claims they’ve complied with all requirements for the ban to be lifted, but the government, the Kimberley Process says, has not been able to guarantee safe passage for a verification mission — or for the diamonds.
Last week, the Kimberley Process endorsed lifting UN sanctions from 2005 on the sale of diamonds from Ivory Coast.