Conflict Diamonds – From CAR to Cameroon and onwards

Conflict Diamonds
[Image Courtesy: International Business Times, Yahoo News UK]

Partnership Africa Canada (PAC), a non-governmental group recently published a report, called ‘Conflict to Illicit’. The report talks about the illicit trade of diamonds from Central African Republic (CAR) to Cameroon and onwards how it enters the international market. It was published a day before the Kimberley Process (KP) review visit to Cameroon with respect to implementation of its guidelines in the country.

CAR has been under KP ban since 2013, but this year some part of the country was declared compliant and was allowed to ship limited volume of diamonds. United Arab Emirates-based chair of the KP Ahmed Bin Sulayem, said along with PAC, a team is keeping a check on exports from CAR and probing the issues for several months.

PAC claims that blood diamonds are being smuggled across CAR’s 900 km border with Cameroon, where they are getting adjudged conflict free after receiving Kimberly Process Certification. PAC blames corrupt officials for it. Cameroon, the newest member of KP, is failing to put KP guidelines in place.

According to the report, Cameroonian export tax of 24.5 percent, which is eight times greater than that of other African countries, is one factor which is being misused for such illicit trade of conflict diamonds. UN’s group of experts has already revealed the names of individuals involved in the trade of Central African conflict diamonds but ill political will is not helping the situation in Cameroon. Also, KP officials in Cameroon produce inaccurate data on diamond production. They track where the diamonds are purchased and not where they are produced. The actual diamond production in the country is just small fraction of the statistics of legal diamond exports published by the officials, says the report.

Another darker fact unveiled by the report is, many of the over 252,000 Central African refugees in Cameroon are being made to serve in the illegal trade channel.

The report’s author Offah Obale said, “As the Kimberley Process visits Cameroon, it must take action immediately and demonstrate to companies, retailers — and most importantly to consumers—that it is able to stop the flow of conflict diamonds”. The report has some recommendations to the Government of Cameroon and to the diamond industry as a whole, such as placing special measures by KP for Cameroon which are vigilant, stricter and agile.

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