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Kimberley Process can identify where diamonds originate but it is largely ignored.
In Sierra Leone, the Kimberley Process has helped limit the trade in illegal diamonds. Activists estimate that during the civil war the Revolutionary United Front (RUF) rebels raked in around $125 million a year from smuggled diamonds.
Back then, official exports of diamonds from Sierra Leone were worth a little more than $1 million a year. Although some smuggling still goes on, official exports are now worth well over $100 million a year, providing much-needed funds for the government.
Sierra Leone is something of a success story but elsewhere things have not gone so well. Smillie highlighted Guinea in West Africa, Zimbabwe, Venezuela and Lebanon as the worst examples.
In Guinea diamond production has increased 500 percent in recent years, which is suspicious. “Guinea’s diamonds could be from Sierra Leone or Liberia or Mars for all we know,” said Smillie.
In Zimbabwe, President Robert Mugabe’s regime is accused of massacring informal diamond miners yet Kimberly Process governments have refused to speak out.
For years there have been no official diamond exports from Venezuela despite an active mining sector, meaning that all Venezuelan diamonds are smuggled illegally even though the country remains a Kimberley Process member.
And Lebanon manages to export more of the gems than it imports: In much of West Africa, the diamond traders who buy from men like Sano are Lebanese and the country is a well known transit centre for smuggled diamonds, some of which fund criminal and terrorist groups.
This was made startlingly clear soon after the Sept. 11 attacks when Washington Post journalist Douglas Farah revealed the links between smuggled diamonds and terror networks. He showed how illegally mined West African diamonds helped fund Al Qaeda.
Although the diamond-fueled wars in Sierra Leone, Liberia, Angola and Ivory Coast are now over, the Kimberley Process can play an important role in ensuring that diamonds do not destabilize countries and exacerbate future conflicts.