Conflict Diamonds Are Crossing Into Cameroon, Report Says

SourcingDec 07, 2016

Conflict Diamonds Are Crossing Into Cameroon, Report Says

Partnership Africa Canada alleges in a new report that conflict diamonds from the Central African Republic are reaching international markets via Cameroon.

Ottawa--Partnership Africa Canada just came out with a new report in which the organization calls attention to the trade in conflict diamonds between the Central African Republic and the neighboring nation of Cameroon.

Authored by Offah Obale, PAC’s Ottawa-based conflict minerals researcher who traveled to Cameroon in the spring, the report states that conflict diamonds from the Central African Republic, or CAR, are being either smuggled through Cameroon and exported through other African countries, or being given fake Kimberley Process certificates in Cameroon.

This map, provided by Partnership Africa Canada, outlines the alleged flow of conflict diamonds from the Central Africa Republic into Cameroon.
The report also alleges that the KP focal point in Cameroon, Safana Mbita, is implicit in helping to move these diamonds from CAR through the country, though PAC noted that he denied all allegations when confronted.

The CAR diamonds are then shipped to the world’s main trading and manufacturing hubs, namely India, the United Arab Emirates--which is the nation heading the Kimberley Process for 2016--and Belgium, PAC said in its report.

PAC based its reports on its conversations with individuals, more than 40 in total, on the ground in Cameroon as well as what it says are inaccurate production statistics reported by Cameroonian officials--what the country reports as production to the KP is well above its capacity, meaning that many of the diamonds being exported with Cameroonian KP certificates are actually being mined elsewhere.

In light of the report, PAC is calling upon the KP to place Cameroon under special measures and require it to tighten its internal controls within a three-month period, with no rough diamonds leaving the country during the time period without expert, external oversight.

The organization also is calling for the KP to blacklist individuals and companies that are part of the alleged illicit trade of CAR conflict diamonds in Cameroon.

CAR is the only source of traditionally defined conflict, or “blood,” diamonds in the world today--diamonds that originate from areas controlled by forces opposed to legitimate governments and are used to fund military action against those governments.

CAR was banned from exporting rough diamonds entirely for the last several years before the Kimberley Process reinstated exports from certain regions of the country this year.

When asked about the PAC’s report, KP Chair Ahmed Bin Sulayem responded with a letter in which he said that the KP’s monitoring team in CAR is aware that
there are conflict diamonds crossing into Cameroon, and that they have been investigating it for several months, noting that the team has an upcoming review visit to the nation.

He also said they are in “full agreement” with PAC’s recommendation that the governments of CAR and Cameroon revoke the trading licenses of individuals and companies that engage in illicit trade and hold them accountable.

When questioned about specifics in the report--including a shipment of 359 carats of what were possibly conflict diamonds to the UAE in March and the accusation that the KP focal point on the ground in Cameroon is implicit in illicit trade--officials from the UAE told National Jeweler via email that they have alerted members of the Cameroon review team to identify “possible wrongdoing” around this particular shipment, and said that its call for accountability includes any KP officials caught in illicit trade.

In his letter, Bin Sulayem also reiterated the UAE’s call for a permanent secretariat under the United Nations to address situations like those the KP is currently facing in CAR.

This issue of a permanent secretariat is one that was addressed at the KP’s recent plenary meeting, though its passage remains a subject of debate.

In its email exchange with National Jeweler on Wednesday, the UAE strongly reaffirmed its stance that the KP did indeed approve a permanent secretariat at the plenary, while other KP member nations and the KP’s Civil Society Coalition maintain that the KP merely recognized the UAE’s efforts on this front and tabled further discussion until next year.

Those on both sides of the issue do acknowledge, however, that the details of the permanent secretariat still have to be worked out under the incoming chair nation, Australia. Bin Sulayem stated as much in his letter: “As KP chair, we hope that the first steps toward implementation of the KP permanent secretariat can be carried out under our successor.”

This means that the permanent secretariat is not a function that’s going to be immediately available to address the current situation between CAR and Cameroon and that, PAC Executive Director Joanne Lebert said, is what is needed.

“We don’t have to wait for a secretariat,” she said, while noting that PAC is in favor of its establishment. “These are traditional blood diamonds. The KP should be taking active measures now.”

PAC’s entire report, “From Conflict to Illicit,” is available on
Michelle Graffis the editor-in-chief at National Jeweler, directing the publication’s coverage both online and in print.

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