As Ivory Coast's Gbagbo holds firm, 'blood diamonds' flow for export
As Ivory Coast's renegade President Laurent Gbagbo shrugs off international attempts to isolate his regime, smugglers continue to export 'blood diamonds' in contravention of a United Nations ban.
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The relatively low figure is a reflection of the small scale of Ivorian diamond mining. Artisanal miners who use hand-held sieves to pan for the stones in rivers and streams are responsible for most production. Richer deposits lie in kimberlite pipes deep below the surface, but the miners lack technology to access them.Skip to next paragraph
"The money from those exports could buy a lot of guns," she says.
How to stem the trade
Other West African nations have proved that it is possible to curtail the flow of illicit diamonds, but the process takes time – and the cooperation of government officials.
Sierra Leone, whose diamond-funded civil war officially ended in January 2002, was one of the founding members of the Kimberley Process the following year. Liberian diamonds were under UN sanctions for six years, but the country was admitted into the Kimberley Process and began to export diamonds legally in 2007.
Both countries were able to make huge strides in regulating their diamond industries through the help of experts sponsored by the Kimberley Process.
Government officials in Liberia and Sierra Leone worked with Kimberley experts to design and implement new legislation and other controls on diamond production and trade. The results, though not perfect, have been impressive.
Registering miners and traders
Similar work needs to be done in Ivory Coast, but the fiery political climate in Abidjan makes it nearly impossible for outsiders to work directly with the Ivorian government. Despite the tension, steps can be taken outside the country to stem the flow of Ivorian diamonds, says Chardon, the chair of the Kimberley monitoring group.
The Kimberley Process should continue helping West African nations boost their internal controls on the diamond industry, Chardon says, to help prevent Ivorian stones from leaking into their systems. Production and sales books need to be kept up to date, he says, and all miners and traders should be registered all the way up the supply chain. Such efforts are already under way in Ghana, Liberia, and Guinea, thanks to funding from Kimberley Process members.
Meanwhile, the world's major diamond trading centers – namely the European Union, Israel, and the United Arab Emirates – should be more vigilant about Ivorian diamonds, Chardon adds. This could mean instructing customs officials to be on the lookout for diamonds of dubious origin, and creating new rules to regulate flights arriving from Ivory Coast.