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Mozambique tries to clean up illicit diamond trade

 SW Radio Africa 20 June 2019

Mozambique is said to be in the process of trying to clean up its illicit diamond trade, amid ongoing reports that the country is the central hub of smuggling from Zimbabwe. (421 Words) - By Alex Bell

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According to the country's Noticias newspaper, Mines Minister Esperanca Bias said Mozambique, which hopes to start mining its own diamonds soon, wants to join the international diamond trade watchdog, the Kimberley Process (KP) by December.

"Government's idea is that we shouldn't lose time. We are in the prospecting phase, yes, but we have to join the Kimberley Process already, so that we are familiar with it when we start mining activities," Bias said.

Mozambique's current exclusion from KP regulations has led to it being the main corridor for trade in Zimbabwe's diamonds, the export of which remains clouded by confusion. The KP's current chairman, Mathieu Yamba earlier this year gave Zimbabwe the green light to resume exporting, despite ongoing reports of human rights abuses and smuggling at the Chiadzwa diamond fields. Western member states of the trade watchdog have since raised their concerns about this unilateral decision and it's expected that the next KP plenary session will resolve the impasse.

Reports of smuggling meanwhile are continuing and Finance Minister Tendai Biti has recently said that close to US$300 million worth of diamonds have disappeared. At the same time, investigations have revealed that the Robert Mugabe loyal security forces, who maintain tight control of mining at Chiadzwa, are leading smuggling syndicates, with the destination being neighbouring Mozambique.

It's widely believed that Mozambique's intentions to join the KP are aimed at improving its credibility before it starts mining its own diamonds. But some skeptical observers have said the country doesn't want to miss out on the chance to benefit from the favourable trade that comes with KP approval.

The KP is coming under intense pressure to allow Zimbabwe to resume export operations, despite concerns that mining at Chiadzwa does not meet international standards. Leading diamond groups, including the World Federation of Diamond Bourses, have blamed the KP impasse on Zimbabwe for 'threatening' the diamond trade. Observers have told SW Radio Africa that the KP will likely cave in to pressure over Zimbabwe, regardless of the human rights situation at Chiadzwa.

One observer said: "It will be better for Mozambique to join the legal trade in Chiadzwa diamonds once they are certified by the KP. Once Zimbabwe gets certification, everyone will be buying and Mozambique's black market trade will be nullified."

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