Zimbabwe’s ambassador remains defiant as UN debates Marange diamonds

Zimbabwe’s ambassador to the United Nations Chitsaka Chipaziwa says Zimbabwe will never bow to pressure from the West over its diamonds because what bothered them all was not what Zimbabwe was doing with its diamonds but the fact that the precious stones were not under their control.

Speaking in the General Assembly last week on the resolution the role of diamonds in fuelling conflict: breaking the link between the illicit transaction of rough diamonds and armed conflict as a contribution to prevention and settlement of conflicts, the ambassador said as a founding member of the Kimberley Process Certification Scheme Zimbabwe would never fail to uphold the scheme’s purposes and principles.

He was speaking after the presentation of the resolution by KP chair Boaz Hirsch of Israel on December 16 and contributions from the European Union, the United States, Canada, Russia and South Africa.

Hirsch said Israel’s year as chair had been simultaneously “challenging and rewarding, exhausting and gratifying”.  His biggest regret was that Israel had failed to find a solution to Zimbabwe’s diamonds from Marange. He hoped the incoming chair, the Democratic Republic of Congo, would take all the means to reach a long term solution on the Marange diamonds.

Hirsch, however, said the unfortunate lack of consensus had not prevented his government from taking controversial decisions that had proved of major importance in combating exports of rough diamonds from the Marange fields.  These decisions were vital to maintaining the integrity and credibility of the scheme, he said.

“This should serve as a source of pride to the Kimberley Process and as a notice to its critics,” he said.

Speaking on behalf of the European Union Christophe de Bassompierre of Belgium said Zimbabwe’s diamonds had presented the most complex challenge to the credibility of the Kimberley Process in 2010. He welcomed the “significant progress” that had been made and urged Zimbabwe to continue engaging with the Kimberley Process.

Gilles Rivard of Canada said he was concerned at Zimbabwe’s “piecemeal” implementation of the joint workplan and hoped that ongoing negotiations with Zimbabwe would produce a mutually satisfactory outcome.  He, however, cautioned about taking a short-term view on that issue.

Mikhail Savostianov of Russia said although he welcomed efforts by all parties to exclude conflict diamonds from legitimate trade he was concerned by what his delegation perceived as an apparent shift in the Process’ mandate.  He said the Process and its leadership should stick to the original aims and avoid politicization.

Gregory Nickels of the United States said the Kimberley process was making tangible progress but the United States had serious concerns about Zimbabwe’s lack of progress in establishing minimum requirements in the Marange area, the violence around that area and the government’s willingness to cooperate with the Kimberley Process.

He said there was “some way to go” for Zimbabwe to achieve the establishment of minimum requirements. Zimbabwe’s achievement of full compliance was essential to both the integrity of Kimberley Process and the international commitment to address diamonds and conflict, he said.

 Zimbabwe’s ambassador said his delegation was shocked and dismayed by some of the suggestions made in the assembly. He said the governments represented in the assembly that had condemned Zimbabwe were themselves in thrall to the whims and wills of the diamond industry.

That industry was part of a tribe that had benefited from apartheid, and its friends now stood in judgement of Zimbabwe.  Even so-called civil society, supposedly operating outside the reach of dominating governments, had fallen under the sway of the diamond merchants, he said.

Chipaziwa said what bothered Western countries was not what Zimbabwe was doing with its diamonds, but the fact that those precious gems were not under their control.  “Well, Zimbabwe will never bow to their false allegations,” he said.

The ambassador said that what also bothered those “detractors” was that Zimbabwe was a founding member of the Kimberley Process and would never fail to uphold the scheme’s purposes and principles.

He said delegations in the Assembly had spoken about human rights, but Zimbabwe would remind them that the Human Rights Council was mandated to discuss such issues.  Zimbabwe acknowledged that it had human rights issues that might need to be addressed, but at the same time, it would not preach to others on their human rights records.  Neither would Zimbabwe sneak beyond the limits of the global spotlight and carry out clandestine human rights abuses.

“Indeed, those who point fingers at Zimbabwe have much to run away from.  We in Zimbabwe will address such matters without resorting to vengeance,” he said, adding:  “Latter day colonialists must wake up; the beautiful train laden with glorious stones is leaving without you.  Choo, choo, choo.”

Chipaziwa said Zimbabwe would never surrender its diamonds.  It would put them to use for the betterment of its own people, and those who wished to retard such progress would be shamed.

He stressed that Marange diamonds were not the only diamonds in Zimbabwe, but that they were being singled out because black Zimbabweans controlled them.

Those that were complaining about alleged smuggling were actually pitching tents in Zimbabwe and then chartering lavishly appointed jets and flying off to sell those very diamonds in other countries.

Zimbabwe rejected paternalistic calls that the diamonds should be used for Zimbabweans.  “Who are you to make such calls?  Our diamonds are indeed for our own people,” he said, adding that the howling of the jealous would be dismissed with the contempt it deserved.

He said Zimbabwe would continue to engage constructively in the scheme “despite the accusations of those blinded by racism and brutal power”.

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