(NewsWatch Cameroon)--In May 2013, the Central African Republic was temporarily suspended from the Kimberley Process, a certification scheme run by a coalition of producing and consuming countries, mining companies and rights groups to prevent the trade of so-called conflict diamonds, due to the military clashes in the country.
Following a military takeover in March same year, the rebel group, known as Seleka, was suspected of using diamonds to fund illegal activities including arms sales and human rights abuses.
The Kimberley Process suspended the country's exports weeks after saying it was concerned the trade of diamonds was funding the armed conflict in the country.
CAR has since the suspension pressed for a lift. And according to experts, for the suspension to be lifted, they need to concert with the other members of the KP in the sub region.
A consultation meeting to that effect regrouping experts from the central African sub region took place in Yaounde recently aimed at getting the suspended country to present a work plan and prove that diamond is not being used to fuel the conflict in the country.
The Yaounde meeting follows a recommendation that was given to CAR in South Africa during the plenary session of the KP. They had the same meeting in Brazzaville and Kinshasha
According to Jaff Napoleon Bamenjo, representative of the civil society in the Kimberley Process in Cameroon, such money from diamonds was used in the wars in Liberia, Sierra Leone and Angola leading to untold human suffering. Given the situation in CAR, the Kimberly Process wants to avoid such sufferings. “How do we make sure that what happened in Sierra Leon, in Liberia and Angola does not happen in Central Africa”.
Given the porous borders it shares with the Central African Republic, it is a challenge to Cameroon who is also member of the Kimberly Process.
Cameroon’s Minister of Mines, Industries and Technological Development, Emmanuel Bonde Minister who chaired the opening ceremony of the consultation meeting in Yaounde said Cameroon is tightening controls and security in the eastern border with the Central African Republic to ensure that illegal diamonds from the war-torn country do not enter Cameroon.
The Deputy Secretary General of the Kimberly Process in Central Africa holds that his country conforms to the process and thus should enjoy the benefits of belonging. Maxime Kazagui described the suspension as unwarranted arguing that despite the crisis in the country, the country stills maintains a grid on the circuit of mineral trade.
Experts say such a suspension has serious effects on the socioeconomic life of the suspended country. “If you consider that every country uses it natural resources for its development, natural resources - in this case diamonds - bring some revenue to the state and with the CAR suspended, it deprives them of that revenue”, says Jaff Napoleon. With 98% of the diamond trade taking place within the Kimberly Process, the civil society representative in the KP in Cameroon says “Central Africa cannot sell its diamonds on the international market, so it has a negative impact on the state budget, likewise social and economic development”.
Diamonds are known to be a main source of income for the CAR government. The Central African Republic produces more diamonds than Cameroon.
The Kimberly Process was established in 2003 to prevent the international sale of conflict diamonds, which the process defines as gems used by rebel movements to finance conflicts aimed at undermining legitimate governments.
By Ndi Eugene Ndi in Yaounde