Sanctions on Zimbabwe′s diamonds to stay | Africa | DW | 14.11.2012
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Sanctions on Zimbabwe's diamonds to stay

A US diplomat says sanctions on Zimbabwe will remain until human rights situation is improved. Zimbabwean government officials blame sanctions on Zimbabwe's diamonds as the cause of the country's ailing economy.

Zimbabwe government's international conference on diamond trade has ended on Tuesday with delegates asking western countries to lift sanctions it imposed on the African country's leadership about a decade ago following reports of human rights abuses.

Diamond traders from all over the world and government officials said the sanctions were affecting Zimbabwe's diamond prices on the world market.

The two – day conference was aimed at finding ways in which Zimbabwe's diamonds could improve the country's ailing economy. Speaking at the conference, President Mugabe blamed sanctions imposed on him as the cause of Zimbabwean diamond lower prices.

“Diamonds have been marketed at depressed prices owing to a negative buyer perception resulting from these illegal sanctions… I do not even know why sanctions exist,” said the 88-year-old Zimbabwean leader.

Yianni Melas, an American investor in Zimbawe. Photo, Columbus Mavhunga

Yianni Melas says sanctions are making Zimbabweans lives miserable

On the other hand, delegates at the conference, blamed the Kimberly Process, the world diamond trade watchdog, for not doing enough to persuade the U.S Government to lift sanctions on Zimbabwe's state- owned diamond mining companies.

"The sanctions that are on Zimbabwe should be on other things and not on diamonds. Zimbabwe has proved that they are in compliance. Anything that concern Zimbabwe must be out of the sanctions," said Namibia Mines and energy Minister Isak Katali.

Human rights improvement first

Some diamond traders at the conference attacked the Kimberly Process for not able to solve the problem and blamed Obama's administration for making Zimbabweans lives miserable through the sanctions.

"“I have not earned a single penny since I came to this country. If anything I have spent $50 000 (39,246 euro) of my own money, and I have got nothing to go back home to" said Yianni Melas, an American investor in Zimbabwe.

Trading in Zimbabwe diamonds in the US is being hampered because Washington has imposed sanctions on all Zimbabwe diamond trading companies.

Mike Gonzales, head of political and economic section at the US embassy in Zimbabwe. Photo, Columbus Mavhunga

Mike Gonzales, US diplomat says human rights situation has to be improved first

"I do not know why America has chosen a fight with this country, it has been through enough. This is one of the largest diamond producers yet 50 percent are unemployed. The country has been robbed,” Melas insisted.

But some western diplomats who attended the conference in Victoria Falls ruled out lifting the sanctions unless human rights situation improves in Zimbabwe.

“The restrictions in place are response to the broad environment. They are necessarily a response to individual transactions. But fundamentally the restrictions are in place about unrelated to the diamond sector or any given transaction but what those funds are being used to perpetuate,” said Mike Gonzales, head of political and economic section at the US embassy in Zimbabwe.

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