Global Policy Forum

Diamond Exports to Resume

Agence France-Presse
October 4, 2000

Exports of diamonds from Sierra Leone could resume next week following the introduction of certificates guaranteeing the origin of the gems, Mineral Resources Minister Mohammed Swarray Deen told AFP Tuesday. Sierra Leone, a diamond-rich country torn by civil war, would first resume trade in the stones with Belgium, where a large percentage of the world's diamonds are marketed, he said in an interview.

"The certificates arrived yesterday and have been secured in the vaults in the Bank of Sierra Leone," the country's central bank, he said. "We need to finalise some things, then by next week the ban will be lifted for exports." He said a ban would also be lifted on the importation of diamonds by other countries. "The Diamond High Council will come next week to put in some communication equipment, and by next week, the certification process will start as soon as the installation is over."

Swarray Deen explained that the Council would be installing an "electronic database system which will emphasise the security system" in the Government Gold and Diamond Office (GGDO). "It will initially link up with Belgium as a first step, and then the communication will be extended worldwide," he added. The minister said Sierra Leone has been losing an estimated 1.5 million dollars every month since the United Nations imposed a ban on diamond exports at the end of July.

The ban has also caused the buying price of diamonds locally to fall considerably as buyers used the opportunity to undercut the sellers by paying a lesser price while claiming that they will have to keep the diamonds on ice until the ban is lifted. The UN halted trade in diamonds involving Sierra Leone because it believed rebel groups in the war-torn country were using them to purchase weapons.

The US representative to the United Nations, Richard Holbrooke, has said that the rebel Revolutionary United Front (RUF) earned between 30 million and 50 million dollars from diamond smuggling in an average year, and up to 120 million in a good year.

More Information on Sierra Leone
More Information on Diamonds in Conflict


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