'Blood Diamonds' Are Back

This time, the problem isn't rebels, it's corrupt governments
By John Johnson,  Newser Staff
Posted Jun 19, 2010 9:55 AM CDT
A 2006 file photo of a diamond mine in Zimbabwe.   (AP Photo/Tsvangirayi Mukwazhi-File)

(Newser) – The diamond industry says 99% of its gems for sale these days are "conflict-free," meaning it has wiped out the so-called "blood diamond" trade. A visit to Angola by Michael Allen of the Wall Street Journal knocks a big hole in that claim. "A violent economy prevails in which thousands of peasant miners eke out a living searching for diamonds with shovels and sieves," he writes. "Because they lack government permits, miners and their families say they are routinely beaten and shaken down for bribes by soldiers and private security guards—and, in extreme cases, killed."

Similar trouble is occurring in Zimbabwe. The problem threatens to unravel the 75-nation Kimberley Process, in which diamond companies agreed to freeze out rebel groups by buying only government-certified stones. As one human rights activist tells Allen, "The Kimberley Process cut the financial lifeline of rebels, but at the same time it gave legitimacy to corrupt governments that abuse their own people."

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