Preventing Diamond Conflict in Zimbabwe: The People in the ConflictJamie Norton James Long Smriti Chaudry Alex Hanno Jess Byrnes
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Diamonds were discovered in Zimbabwe’s Marange fields in 2006. Unemployed citizens flocked to the region seeking work. Overcrowding transformed the area into one of lawlessness and impunity. In an attempt to curtail the situation, President Robert Mugabe deployed police and military forces. His aim was not only to restore order but also to control and exploit the Zimbabwean diamond industry.
The police and military intervention resulted in human rights abuses and smuggling by Mugabe’s regime and local crime syndicates. The current situation in Zimbabwe is a manifestation of Sierra Leone’s diamond conflict nearly two decades ago.
In 1992 civil war broke out between the Revolutionary United Front and the Sierra Leonean government over control of diamond mining and trade. Spanning over 11 years, diamond conflict in Sierra Leone resulted in the deaths of over 50,000 people and the displacement of more than 1 million.
In an effort to stop the violence, the government of Sierra Leone placed stricter regulations on their borders to prevent smuggling, joined the Kimberley Process Certification Scheme, and provided protection and support to combatants and the mining industry. To begin this process those involved in the conflict must pressure the Zimbabwean government to take the following actions:
To stop smuggling, borders must be better regulated. As an individual involved in the conflict pressure your government to strengthen border security and ensure that your trading deals directly with the regulated government trade channels rather than illegal syndicates.
Although a member of the Kimberley Process, Zimbabwe has failed to adhere to the Process’s guidelines allowing human rights abuses to continue and limiting potential diamond revenue. Zimbabwean citizens must insist on greater government support and protection.
If human rights abuses are ever to cease and profits maximized the government needs to develop safer and more profitable mining practices and needs to make training programs available to miners. Furthermore, Zimbabweans must take into account that diamonds are only a contributing factor to the overall conflict.
Broader social concerns like inflation, massive unemployment, political instability, and resource management must also be addressed. Zimbabwe is at a crossroads. Its diamond profits could be used to foster peace and economic prosperity or to fuel further resource conflict. The local people play a vital role in determining the future of their country.