The Liberian Government has conceded that it lacks the capacity to fully monitor diamond mining trade here due to limited financial and human resources.
Acting Lands, Mines and Energy Minister Betty Lamini Blamo told journalists here at a press briefing Thursday that at times its inspectors have to be accompanied by security personnel as a result of threats from miners, something which brings with it much more expenditure that her ministry's limited resources can handle.
In his most recent report to the UN Security Council, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon was quoted as saying that Liberia is showing limited commitment to efforts to stop blood diamond trade.
In a report filed by the British news agency Reuters attributed to the UN report, Reuters reported that Liberia's capacity to control diamond mining and trade a vital part of the global Kimberley Process agreed in 2003 to regulate the $30 billion or 18 billion pounds rough-diamond industry remained weak.
It said a government presidential taskforce on diamonds had not met in a year, while its technical committee met in July for the first time in seven month, noting "Limited commitment to comply with the minimum standards of the Kimberley Process Certificate Scheme for Rough Diamonds remains apparent."
But while accusing Reuters of misrepresenting the facts in the UN report, minister Blamo indeed conceded that government lacks the capacity to fully monitor the process.
She insists that where Reuters missed out was on claims that government lacks the will or showing only limited commitment to efforts aimed at stopping the blood diamond trade.
In what also appear to be a contradiction after conceding that the government lacks the capacity to fully monitor the diamond trade here she contended that Liberia is in full compliance with the Kimberley Process which regulates rough diamond trades.
She said in a bid to address the capacity gap and to ensure full compliance with the Kimberley Process, the Lands, Mines and Energy Ministry has designed several projects, while government has also infused over US$1.4 million into the project budget of the ministry.
"Since the imposition of sanctions on the export of Liberia's rough diamond based on allegations that Liberia was being used as a conduit for the sale of blood diamonds from Sierra Leone, and Liberia which helped fueled the civil wars in both countries, this country [Liberia] has worked assiduously to have those sanctions removed and continues to work in that direction to remain fully Kimberley compliant," said Minister Betty Blamo.
In addition to the UN imposed sanctions, she said the Liberian Government put a self-moratorium on diamond mining here, coupled with the establishment of a Presidential Diamond Task Force (DTF) in 2006 to ensure that the sector satisfies conditions necessary to remove UN sanctions and ensure compliance to the Kimberley Process.
"Sanctions were lifted and Kimberley membership form was attained by June 2007- diamond exports began later that year..."
However, she said there was a short hiatus in the frequency of meetings among the Presidential Diamond Task Force at the beginning of the year on grounds that new appointments were being made in government.
Regarding the United States Agency for International Development's (USAID's) stopping of funding to help Liberia improve with the Kimberley Process, she said USAID reached the decision due to the "budget cuts in Washington DC and a lack of progress on certain activities under the PRADD [Property Rights and Artisanal Diamond Development] project. USAID has announced it will close the PRADD project before the end of the calendar year.