The Kimberley Process (KP) [official website] on Thursday approved the limited sale of diamonds from the controversial Marange mines after reaching an agreement with the Zimbabwean government. The agreement, reached in a meeting of the international diamond monitoring body, comes after the KP was unable to reach a consensus [AFP report] on Zimbabwe in its June meeting in Tel Aviv. Under the agreement, the KP will allow Zimbabwe to sell [NYT report] a portion of its estimated USD $1.7 billion worth of mined diamonds before September, and the Zimbabwean government will allow KP experts to enter the country to certify that the diamond mines meet international standards. Diamonds sales after September will be contingent upon this certification. Civil society groups Global Watch and Partnership Africa Canada [advocacy websites], which have been critical of the Zimbabwean government's actions in the Marange mines, expressed cautious optimism [press release] following the deal, stating that it may help increase international oversight of the Zimbabwe diamond trade, but qualifying:
Ultimately the success or otherwise of this agreement will be determined by what the main players do next. The ball is now in Zimbabwe's court to make good on its promises and act to end one of the most egregious cases of diamond-related violence for many years. We fervently hope that the governments in the Kimberley Process will, for their part, hold Zimbabwe to its commitments in order to begin to restore the battered integrity of the scheme.Zimbabwean Finance Minister Tendai Biti [BBC profile] said Tuesday that although the KP has indicated that USD $30 million has been generated by the sale of Marange diamonds, the government has no record of it [New Zimbabwe report], suggesting the revenue may of have been diverted. Biti is a member of the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) [party website], which is currently in a power-sharing agreement with President Robert Mugabe [PBS profile; JURIST news archive] after the disputed 2008 elections [JURIST news archive].
The agreement comes the same week as human rights activist Farai Maguwu was granted bail [JURIST report] by a Zimbabwean court. Maguwu was being held for allegedly supplying false information about Zimbabwe's diamond mining practices to the KP. In June, Human Rights Watch (HRW) [advocacy website] urged the body to remove Zimbabwe [JURIST report] from its membership. According to HRW, human rights abuses by the Zimbabwean government have persisted since the discovery of diamonds in the Marange fields. Global Witness and Partnership Africa Canada have also called for the suspension of Zimbabwe's international diamond trade due to the human rights violations [Telegraph report] allegedly committed by the Zimbabwean army against civilians and illegal workers in the Marange diamond fields.