Global Policy Forum

UNITA Defy Diamond Ban


By Lara Pawson

October 27, 2000

Angolan rebel group, Unita, says it still has access to any diamond producing areas in the country, contrary to government claims. The government had said that military gains against Unita and the new system of certificate of origins had put an end to the rebels' trade in diamonds.

A senior Unita official told the BBC that the group is still mining and selling diamonds from Angola. The official insisted that it was not possible to stop Unita selling diamonds.

His statement comes on the heels of a declaration made by the ministry of geology and mines that Angola is no longer a country that produces conflict or blood diamonds. The international system of certification was adopted to ensure that no diamonds on the international market were used to fund wars. The rebels' military capacity has for nearly a decade been funded largely by diamonds, despite UN sanctions to curb Unita's capacity to sell precious stones.

The Unita official dismissed the government's claims of victory against illicit diamond trade saying whether by air or land, whether cheaper or more expensive, diamonds are passing out of Angola. He told the BBC that diamonds can be found throughout the country and that the rebels are not confined to limited areas.

There is wide agreement among foreign diamond producers in Luanda that it is impossible to end illicit trading in Angola which shares a notoriously porous border with the Democratic Republic of Congo. Although Unita's military capacity has been reduced, the rebels continue to use this border as an entry and exit point for diamonds and arms.

Meanwhile the Angolan Government is also seeking to end illicit diamond digging by encouraging the unofficial mining sector to register with local authorities. The government says official buying offices will pay illicit diggers or "garimperos" higher prices for diamonds than illegal traders. However many garimperos say the official offices have cut prices by 30% this year which had increased the level of diamond smuggling.

More Information on Diamonds in Conflict
More Information on Angola


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