Zimbabwe to defy West on diamond sales

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    Mines minister Obert Mpofu said the southern African nation must be allowed to export gems without any monitoring, insisting Zimbabwe has met the minimum requirements of the Kimberly Process Certification Scheme (KPCS), which seeks to prevent diamond sales from financing conflicts, state media reported .

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    “Zimbabwe met the KPCS minimum requirements and this was confirmed by the last plenary” of the Kimberley Process, Mpofu said on the sidelines of the meeting in Kinshasa, according to the state-run Herald newspaper.

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    “Tell me of any country in Africa that has invested as we have done in the Marange area,” he said. “Any other outstanding issues must be regarded as work in progress, but must not stop our full diamond export right.”

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    Mpofu said Zimbabwe has for two years invested “in attempting to rectify all KPCS issues in Marange area without any external financial assistance,” adding that “Zimbabwe is not being treated fairly.”

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    The Marange fields, touted as Africa’s richest diamond find of the decade, have been at the centre of a years-long controversy over reported abuses by Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe’s military.

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    Monitors say the military seized control of the fields in late 2008, violently evicting tens of thousands of small miners and then beating and raping civilians to force them to mine the gems.

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    Human rights groups say about 200 people were killed, and Kimberley Process investigators later documented “unacceptable and horrific violence against civilians by authorities”, prompting a ban on exports of the gems.

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    In March, the Democratic Republic of Congo — which has close ties to Mugabe and is the current chairman of the Kimberley Process — made a unilateral decision to allow Zimbabwe to sell diamonds from Marange.

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    The decision sparked an outcry among other members of the Kimberley Process, which is supposed to reach decisions by consensus at its regular meetings. The decision was put on hold and no sales have taken place.