Yaoundé—Cameroon has been allowing conflict diamonds from the neighboring Central African Republic (CAR) to cross over its borders and into the legal supply chain due to poor controls, smuggling and corruption, Partnership Africa Canada (PAC) said in a recent report.
The report, From Conflict to Illicit: Mapping the Diamond Trade from Central African Republic to Cameroon, investigates the failure of Cameroon's implementation of the Kimberley Process—the international diamond certification scheme meant to stop the trade of conflict diamonds.
In 2003, the United Nations General Assembly set up the Kimberley Process—a multinational organization comprising of diamond-producing states, traders and civil society groups to prevent “blood diamonds” sales from being introduced into the mainstream market and proceeds used in financing wars or insurgencies.
The body imposed a ban on the commercialization of CAR’s stones in 2013 when it was found to be funding armed groups in an inter-religious conflict until earlier this year when the embargo was partially lifted on zones it deemed compliant and conflict-free.
Yet, PAC which investigates and reports on the lack of accountability, poor governance, and human rights violations associated with conflict minerals said it found that illicit trade of conflict diamonds was still ongoing.
"While international outcry about 'blood diamonds' financing war in the Central African Republic sparked action to stop the trade, the same spotlight has not been turned on CAR's neighbours, said Joanne Lebert, Partnership Africa Canada's Executive Director. “Our investigation shows the reality on the ground and how conflict diamonds from CAR still have entry points to international markets through Cameroon."
A Kimberley Process Certification Scheme (KPCS) review mission arrived Cameroon on Monday 05 December to evaluate the country's implementation of internal controls that govern diamond production and trade.
"It [KP review mission] must take action immediately and demonstrate to companies, retailers—and most importantly to consumers—that it is able to stop the flow of conflict diamonds," said Offah Obale, Researcher for Partnership Africa Canada, and the report's author.
The government of Cameroon had yet civil society activists in the country were of the opinion that such smuggling could be possible because of the 900km long porous border and the relationship border communities of the two countries share.
“I think there has been a lot of goodwill by the National Permanent Secretariat of the Kimberley Process to monitor the diamond production and export chain in Cameroon, but you cannot overall the challenges that exist,” said Mr Jaff Napoleon Bamenjo coordinator of the Network for the Fight Against Hunger (RELUFA), a civil society organization that promotes improved natural resource governance in Cameroon.
The author of “The Kimberley Process: Responding to challenges and Policy gaps in Cameroon” however predicted more diamond smuggling from Cameroon through the Central African Republic which has a low diamond export tax of 12% as opposed to Cameroon with 24.5%.
“If you want to sell diamond and make more profits, I think it is more important to sell through the Central African Republic than to pass through Cameroon,” the RELUFA coordinator said.
By Ndi Eugene Ndi