THE Kimberley Process Civil Society Coalition (CSC), an umbrella organisation that acts as an observer of the Kimberley Process (KP) on behalf of civil society, says trust in the Kimberly Process Certification Scheme is slowly eroding due to the organisation’s failure to deal with conflict in diamond-mining regions across Africa — Zimbabwe included.
Zimbabwe was slammed for failing to fulfill promises made to villagers forcibly moved from the Chiadzwa diamond fields to pave way for mining.
The coalition, which represents communities affected by diamond mining and trade, includes representatives from Cameroon, Central African Republic, Democratic Republic of Congo, Guinea, Ivory Coast, Liberia, Lesotho, and Sierra Leone.
The Kimberley Process, currently chaired by Zimbabwe, is a multilateral trade regime established in 2003 with the goal of preventing the flow of conflict diamonds from the global supply chain.
While the Kimberley Process marks its 20th anniversary this year, the CSC says there is little to celebrate with the process overlooking human rights abuses in diamond mining areas.
“This year is the 20th anniversary of the Kimberley Process (KP) certification scheme. There is, however, little reason for celebration as trust among participants is at an all-time low,” said Dr Michel Yoboue, CSC coordinator in a statement.
“We repeat again how the failure by the KP Certification Scheme to discuss today’s conflicts and violence erodes the credibility of the certification. This includes the aggression of one KP participant by another to which the lucrative diamond trade contributes.
“As we speak, the G7 countries are discussing a common diamond traceability framework to drain this conflict financing,” Dr Yoboue said.
The coalition said the Kimberly Process has been ignoring victims of abuse in diamond mining areas.
“The long overdue expansion of the KP’s conflict diamond definition should include diamonds associated with widespread or systematic violence and serious violations of human rights, regardless of whether they are committed by rebel groups, criminals, terrorists, private or public security forces or any governmental actor.
“Communities affected by diamond mining know very well that conflict is a lot more than just rebels fighting legitimate governments. When things go wrong, it is communities that face violence and human rights violations. The KP should be there for them as well. The diamond sector faces many challenges in living up to its full potential as a driver of peace and of development.
“These include issues of human rights, labour rights, environmental impact, fair distribution of benefits, corruption, money laundering, terrorist financing, and so on. We urge the KP to help the diamond sector to live up to its potential and adopt an ambitious definition that addresses real needs and real-life challenges of communities affected by diamond mining,” Dr Yoboue said.
The organisation also highlighted that the Kimberly Process has been neglecting people, including persons relocated from Chiadzwa.
“The KP needs to put people first, it has the leverage to do that, and it would make diamonds shine brighter. Here in Zimbabwe, 15 years ago families were displaced from their ancestral homeland in Marange to a government farm called Arda Transau.
“The promises that were made for piped water, electricity, land for cultivation, good schools and accommodation for teachers were never lived up to. Today the displaced families are drinking water from an unprotected well.
“The houses they live in are life threatening due to wide cracks that have developed. The families have no alternative livelihoods. The KP Civil Society Coalition (CSC) is deeply concerned with the living conditions of the displaced families and with the lack of development in Marange itself,” read the statement.
The Centre for Natural Resource Governance (CNRG) has also highlighted the plight of people staying at Arda Transau.
For instance, after the relocation, each family was to occupy a three-bedroomed electrified house with clean, treated piped water from taps situated at each house. However, a lack of access to social amenities like water has seen living conditions resembling a concentration camp, according to CNRG.
“School-going children were to benefit from the provision of school fees, uniforms, footwear, and books. Schools were to get furniture from the companies and teachers’ houses were to be built near the school. Fast forward to 2023, Arda Transau resembles a concentration camp, with shocking levels of poverty and an apparent humanitarian crisis unfolding,” reads a report by CNRG.
“One of the major challenges facing the Arda Transau community is access to water. The taps dried up sometime in early 2022. The community has now resorted to fetching water at an unprotected well on the outskirts of the settlement.
“The water slowly springs from the ground, requiring at least 20-30 minutes for one to fill a bucket. In the evening, long queues form at the well where residents, mostly women and children, spend hours awaiting their turn to fetch water for domestic chores,” reads the CNRG report. People in the area have been getting water from unprotected sources, raising fears of waterborne diseases.
“The tiny well is less than five metres from a swamp that has become the source of water for laundry for the community,” the report reads in part.
“CNRG witnessed women washing clothes about five metres from the well where others were gathered to fetch water for domestic consumption. Livestock also drinks from the swamp. The community is in danger of drinking contaminated water as laundry water can easily contaminate the drinking water.”